Race planes of the 1930s' - The Caudron C.460

By Willie Bodenstein


Developed from the Caudron C.362 designed by Marcel Riffard, the Caudron C.450 and C.460 had their first flights in 1934. They were French racing aircraft built by Caudron specifically to participate in the Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe race.

The Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe was an international aeronautical speed competition instituted on 25 August 1909 by the French oil magnate Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe. The race was reinstated three times through the years at the initiative of the Aéro-Club de France and later by Deutsch de la Meurthe's widow Suzanne.

The trial was to be run in two 1,000 km stages separated by a 90 minute refuelling stop and was limited to aircraft with an engine capacity of less than eight litres. The starting point of the race was still at Étampes. Suzanne Deutsch de la Meurthe was offering one million Francs and the Ministère de l'Air (Air Ministry) offered another three million in prize money.

A single C.450 and three C.460s were built to partake in the 1934 event. The principal difference between the types was that the C.450 had a fixed spatted undercarriage, while the C.460 had a retractable undercarriage. All were powered by a supercharged Renault 456 six-cylinder inverted air-cooled engine driving a Ratier two-position variable-pitch propeller enabling the aircraft to achieve a maximum speed of 500 km/h (310 mph).

The airframe construction was primarily built of spruce and birch plywood, with steel and alloy engine bearers and magnesium cowling and fuel tanks. The wings were fitted with split flaps and the angle of incidence of the tailplane could be varied while in flight.

In the 1934, Coupe de la Meurthe the C.450 took first place and one of the C.460s took third. The only C.460s entered had been handicapped by problems with its retractable undercarriage forcing it to fly with the undercarriage extended.

Caudrons went on to dominate not only racing events, but almost all speed challenges and records for the next two years. On 22 May 1934, flying the C.450, Raymond Delmotte set a world record for light aircraft over 100 km of 431.65 km/h (268.21 mph). In August that year, Hélène Boucher set an airspeed record for aircraft in its class with the C.450, of 455 km/h (284 mph) and on Christmas Day 1934, Delmotte set a new airspeed record for light aircraft over a 3 km course of 505.85 km/h (314.32 mph) in a C.460.

In 1935, Caudron again took the laurels in the Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe when a C.460 finished the race with an average speed of 443.96 km/h (277.5 mph). The following year, a C.460 finished first in the Greve Trophy and Thompson Trophy competing in the National Air Races in the United States.

Later in 1936, Caudron showed its complete dominance of Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe when a C.450 again won the race with a speed of 389.462 km/h (242.000 mph). A C.461 that had to retire after losing an exhaust, achieved the fastest single lap at a speed of 432.175 km/h (268.541 mph).

In January 2009 a Fairchild Ranger-powered A replica of the C.460 was built by Tom Wathen, Mark Lightsey, Aerocraftsman Inc. and students of the Wathen Aviation High School. The aircraft was displayed at the Paris Air Show in 2009.

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