Caudron C-460
Flight Reinactment

1936 National Air Races

On a hot sultry day in mid July 1936, two impeccably dressed gentlemen stepped from an American Airlines DC-3 at the Los Angeles Municipal Airport. They were Michel Detroyat and Renee Caudron, representing Les Avions Caudron, an airplane manufacturing firm in France. After a short conversation, they hailed a cab and were whisked away to a swank hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The following day Monsieur Caudron and Monsieur Detroyat returned to the airport for a meeting with Harry Johns the manager of the Los Angeles Municipal Airport. Renee Caudron introduced himself as the owner of Les Avions Caudron and introduced Michel Detroyat, his Chief Engineer and Test Pilot. This time the two were more comfortably and casually dressed to withstand the unbearable July heat.

Later Mr. Johns drove the two French visitors to several vacant hangers around the airport. One hanger in particular interested Monsieur Detroyat. There was an old "tin goose," a name given to the Ford Trimotor, stored on one side of the hanger. Mr. Johns indicated that he would have it removed. After a bit of handshaking, indicating an agreement was reached, the three returned to the Administration Building.

In the late afternoon, Monsieur Caudron and Monsieur Detroyat boarded an American Airlines DC-3 and departed. The visit by the two French men who represented Les Avion Caudron didn't attract much attention, but that was about to change.

Exactly two weeks later three trucks arrived at the Los Angeles Municipal Airport, each with large crates on the back. The unloading of the crates was carefully supervised by Michel Detroyat who was now dressed in dark blue coveralls with Les Avions Caudron embroidered on the back. Once the crates were placed inside the now vacant hanger, the hanger doors were closed and the trucks departed.

Rumors were already spreading around the airport, especially when one of the airport employees said he saw the blue wing of an airplane inside one of the crates.

A week later the Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers and radio stations in the area received a wire from the French airplane company Les Avions Caudron. The wire stated that there would be a news release and press conference at the Los Angeles Airport in front of the hanger, recently rented by that firm. The wire indicated the time would be announced later.

When the newspaper reporters and radio commentators arrived they were greeted by Monsieur Detroyat who was standing beside the dark blue Caudron C-460 racing airplane, which was parked in front of the hanger. When asked if he had any comments, he said simply that they were here to win the Greve Trophy race at the National Air Races to be held here the first week in September. As it turned out, this was not brag, but fact! After the picture taking and technical questions were answered, the reporters left and the Caudron C-460 was wheeled back into the hanger and the hanger doors were closed.

Caudron C-460
The French Caudron C-460 was the most highly advanced lightplane in the world, in the mid 1930s. It held many world speed records and won the 1936 Thompson Trophy Race with ease.

The next day the Los Angeles Times had photos and news spread across the front page. Even the San Francisco Courier carried the story with photos of Monsieur Detroyat standing by the racer, smiling. The local radio stations were buzzing with the story. The Aero Digest described the Caudron C-460, a racing airplane like no other. The writer said the Caudron C-460 was way ahead of its time, based on the mechanical inovations and design.

The L.A.Times gossip columnist even had a write up on Michel Detroyat and the Caudron airplane in her column. Monsieur Detroyat always made an impression on the ladies that he met. She said that Monsieur Detroyat could be a movie star. In her column she described the Caudron airplane, as beautiful and breathtaking. Some of the other reporters wondered if she was describing the airplane or Michel Detroyat.

The performance of the Caudron C-460 with Michel Detroyat as pilot is history. He swept the Greve Trophy Race in 1936, with a speed of 247 miles per hour. This was twenty five miles per hour faster than any other entry. After the Greve race, Michel Detroyat sent a wire to Renee Caudron, suggesting that the Caudron should be entered in the Thompson Trophy Race, to be held the next day. Monsieur Caudron sent his approval. The next day the Caudron C-460 won the Thompson Trophy Race, with Michel Detroyat as pilot, with an average speed of 264 miles per hour. This was sixteen miles per hour faster than second place winner, Earl Ortman, piloting the Kieth Rider R-3 racer.

When the Caudron C-460 flew in the Greve Trophy Race the displacement of the engine was limited to 500 cubic inches. When the Caudron arrived in the USA it was accompanied by another Renault engine of larger displacement. History buffs dispute that this engine was ever installed in the Caudron for the Thompson race, where unlimited engine displacement was allowed. After the Thompson race several pilots, including Col. Roscoe Turner said the Caudron C-460, was factory sponsored and should have been banned from competing in the National Air Races. There was such a controversy, that Michel Detroyat stated in a news conference that he would never return to the United States. As history proves out. all these allocations were unfounded. The Caudron racer was funded from private backers, recruited by Renee Caudron.

The Caudron C-460 was returned to France and was not entered in the 1937 National Air Races. There is no dispute, that the Caudron would have won both the 1937 Greve and Thompson races. Not until 1938, were speeds of American built racers equal to the Caudron C-460.

Bob Paty

The Caudron C-460 Model

The Caudron C-460 is the ninth racing airplane model that I have build. It is a 1/12 scale replica of the actual airplane. I did not keep an accurate record of the time to build this model, but it was over one hundred hours. The plans were obtained from Cleveland Model Supply. This is an old firm that used to sell model airplane kits, and still has plans for these vintage model airplanes.

Click On Image To Enlarge


Caudron C-460 Model


Caudron C-460 Restoration


Caudron C-460 Model

Return To Golden Age Of Air Racing Page