Bucky’s Dymaxion

by Wikimedia Commons

Buckminster Fuller only made three Dymaxion cars. In 1933, one car survived a spectacular crash in which its driver died.  A second enjoyed brief glory when it ferried H.G. Wells around Manhattan before it too crashed.  A third car was driven around the United States to promote the Allied cause during World War II and then was sold for scrap to a Kansas junkyard.  Such was the fate of the three prototype Dymaxion cars, the brainchild of the Legendary R. Buckminster Fuller.  Who?

“Bucky” as he preferred to be called was one of the era’s most original thinkers. Billing himself as “a a loveable genius, a maverick thinker, an anti-academician, doctor of science, doctor of design,” among many other things, Bucky aimed to build the most fuel-efficient and practical car on the road. He used the word Dymaxion to describe not just his automobiles but to identify many of his creations which were part of his more general philosophy of “improving humanity’s living conditions”.  Accordingly Bucky had designs for Dymaxion houses and appliances.  Today he is regarded as a brilliantly original thinker.

Bucky’s Dymaxion cars were built in Bridgeport, CT in 1932.  The chassis for all three utilized frames, gearboxes, suspensions and V8 engines from early 30s Ford Sedans.  They had two front wheels but just one in the rear.  The body was aluminum and built with internal wooden framework.  Fuller claimed that the Dymaxion was capable of 120 MPH, a speed that was only obtainable in dedicated racecars in that era.

A fortnight before Car #1 was finished, Fuller, who was known for his considerable hyperbole, told a journalist that it had already “travelled over 100,000 miles” and that 100 more were scheduled to be made. This was nonsense, of course, but Car #1 did make a triumphant journey to Manhattan before its fateful crash a few months later just outside Chicago.  Pitre Buick/GMC  tells us that Dymaxion Number 2 survives in the Harrah Collection of the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.  Bucky never did change the face of the automotive industry with his Dymaxion cars but his legacy lives on.

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