Renault buys Caudron racer replica

Reproduction 1930s Rafale promotes launch of new car sharing its name

The Caudron C460 Rafale reproduction built by Mark Lightsey/Aerocraftsmen for Tom Wathen’s flying racer replica collection at Flabob, southern California, has been bought by the French car manufacturer Renault to support promotion of its new SUV, which is named after the 1930s type and not the modern-day Dassault fighter. The original manufacturing company, Caudron, become part of the Renault aviation division in 1933.

Constructed in 2008 and first flown at Flabob during January 2009, after initial proving flights the replica was shipped to France and made its public debut at the 100th anniversary Paris Air Show at Le Bourget that June.  Lacking access to original drawings, Lightsey built the aircraft from plans provided by the American Air Racing Society. His skills filled the gaps and the replica was powered by a 260hp supercharged LOM engine, versus the original’s 220hp Renault 456.

Renault Rafale launch
The launch of the Renault Rafale, with Caudron namesake in attendance. RENAULT

Renault is displaying the replica Rafale at Le Bourget this year, where it was the first aircraft to arrive for the 2023 Salon, albeit on a flat-bed. As shipped from Flabob, it had a long-expired airworthiness certificate, though it is hoped it will return to the air.

The original C460 participated in the 1936 National Air Races held in Los Angeles. Flown by Michel Detroyat, the Rafale won the Thompson Trophy as well as every other race in which it flew that year.

The reproduction Caudron Rafale during its previous Paris Salon appearance in 2009.
The reproduction Caudron Rafale during its previous Paris Salon appearance in 2009. GEORGES SEGUIN/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS