Editor: Jaap Horst
The drawing showed side view and plan sketches of a Land Speed Record car that appeared to have three engines within a dramatically streamlined body.
I knew nothing about this proposed French competitor to the Auto Union that was driven to a record speed of 400 km/h (248mph) by Bernd Rosemeyer on the Frankfurt-Darmstadt autobahn in October 1937, but thought it would be interesting to imagine how this remarkable project might have looked.
The Bugatti Trust has some basic information about the proposed record-breaker. The single-seater was to have used three 4.9-litre supercharged Type 50B engines, and power was expected to be about 1000bhp. The drive was taken by a short prop-shaft through a double step-up gearset to a rear-mounted gearbox integral with the rear axle casing.
The chassis would have been enormous: the wheelbase was no less than 5.0m (more than 16ft) with a track width of 2.3m (seven and a half feet). Weight was estimated at between 1800 and 2000 kg.
The Jean Bugatti sketch appears to date from early 1937 and it is thought that it was part of a submission to the French government for funding for three record-breaking projects: the rail world speed record (ultimately raised to 196km/h by the Bugatti Royale-engined railcar); the P100 record attempt aircraft; and the one-kilometre and one-mile public road automobile records. While funding for the aircraft project was forthcoming the French government was not convinced by the "cultural" benefits of the car, causing Jean Bugatti to abandon the idea.
This all suggests that although the original Jean Bugatti sketch was little more than a "back of an envelope" doodle, he had an excellent grasp of the size and proportion of the mechanical elements of Bugatti cars.
Sadly money was not made available to Ettore Bugatti and his highly creative son Jean and we therefore can only imagine how thrilling this 450km/h Bugatti would have been.
First Published in FortyOneSix.com