The Man From Bulgaria Who Changed the Concept of Speed

His ideas have been used by the world's biggest car companies. The dashing Bulgarian inventor and entrepreneur Roumen Antonov made waves in the automotive world with his avant-garde ideas and daring technical solutions.

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Rumen prototype by Roumen Antonov from 2005
Rumen prototype by Roumen Antonov at the IAA 2005. Photo: LSDSL, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Roumen Antonov was born in 1944 in Sofia, Bulgaria. There he began his engineering studies, after which he studied industrial design. And if that wasn’t enough, he also did a little nuclear physics. A man of many talents, as you can see.

However, it took many years before he fully spread his wings in the field of invention. It wasn’t until the age of 44 that he left Bulgaria and settled in France in 1988. This is where his career as a scientist, inventor, and engineer gained momentum.

He began working on a new type of automatic transmission that would require less hydraulics to operate, which meant a loss of power in the case of conventional car transmissions.

Better, faster, simpler

The new type of automatic transmission he developed, although unusual, was smaller, lighter, and more economical. It was ideally suited to the small engines that powered cars on the European market. Thanks to the use of helical gears (which support the work of the hydraulics responsible for gear settings), together with the abandonment of the torque converter, which limited power, the new gearbox ensured better acceleration, a higher top speed, and 20% lower fuel consumption than conventional solutions. At least, that is what its designer claims.

In 1991 Roumen Antonov founded Antonov Automotive Technologies to further develop his AAD (Antonov Automatic Drive) project. International car manufacturing giants like Honda, BMW, Ford, Peugeot, and probably Suzuki and Toyota expressed interest in this new automatic transmission.

Rouman Antonov’s Four Stroke

Then in 1998, Antonov founded a company called 4 Stroke, which designed a vehicle with strong styling references to the 1930s, powered by an unconventional, valveless, four-stroke engine connected to the Antonov Automatic Drive transmission.

At some point, the inventor decided to design and produce luxury sports cars and wanted to do it in his native Bulgaria. Unfortunately, the idea never came to fruition due to the refusal of banks to finance the business. It’s a pity because who knows what automotive wonders and unconventional technical solutions would have come out of his hands.

Jakub Warzecha

Creative copywriter, archaeologist. Interested in history, technology and military matters. Specializes in marketing communications and application architecture design.

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