The story of Jean Calcianu- a Romanian Grand Prix pilot who contributed to the invention of the tank

Every nation has its inventors and Romania makes no exception. We’ve written before about Romanian inventors and we’ve revealed how some of them have saved people’s lives or have helped us travel faster.

Maybe it is also less known that one of the inventors of the classic tank machine was a Romanian. This special tank was first used by the French in 1916. Jean Calcianu, who was only 21 years old at the time, was the engineer who created this unusual car machine which was presented as a car with steel shields. Calcianu has modified the car many times until it became the one that we know today. Reportedly, the Germans were not impressed by the car and they were slightly amused. That was until they had to fight the tanks on the battle field.


Who was Calcianu?

 Jean Calcianu was born in 1893 and he emigrated to France in 1914 where he worked for the Renault factories. After the war he worked for the Maitre Corniot workshops in Grenoble. There he met the Dubonnet drinks manufactorers who asked him to maintain his luxurious collection of cars. As a thank you for his work, Dubonnet gave him a Bugatti as a present.

Calcianu proved to be not only good at maintaining cars but also at inventing and creating cars. He started to work on the Bugatti and has modified and improved it managing to modifiy the engine in such a way that it was able to reach 173,6 km/hour which was a great achievement at that time.

Bugatti’s owner, Ettore Bugatti was very impressed with the invention and hired Calcianu as a testing maestro in Alsacia. At the same time while working there for six years, Calcianu has also become a testing pilot. Meanwhile he has attended the Superior Techinical School, thus becoming an engineer.

He has established several records, one of them was given for the fact that he has managed to drive a car he invented from Bucharest to Paris in only 44 hours.

He has also managed to get a very good time at the Feleac circuit in 1936. His performance is still yet to be beaten as he had obtained a time of 3:28 with a Duesenberg car.

During the First World War Calcianu has worked on creating the first tank. The German spies have found out about the secret plans of the French and they have stolen the plans. Reportedly the Germans laughed when finding out about the invention as they thought the car would be too heavy for an engine to run it, especially having a Renault engine.

Once on the fighting battle the tank had a new improved Renault engine which was not only extremely powerful but it also used little petrol. The British were quick to acquire the tank which was produced in Renault factories.

Later after the war Calcianu returned to Romania and opened a small car repair shop. As well, he continued to participate in several competitions. He has won the Grand prize of the Lvov competition in Poland and he has also won the first place at the Lemberg Grand Prix in 1934.  He has also organized the first racing competition in Romania: the Grand Prix of Brasov.








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