Dymaxion No.3 somewhere in the America during World War II
Architect, author and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller’s name is probably one of the most recognized in both the field of design and the popular culture. Starting with the widespread publicity surrounding his geodesic domes in the 1960’s, and continuing to the appellation of a newly discovered form of carbon (Buckminsterfullerenes or “buckyballs”), few advanced thinkers have maintained such high visibility over the years. But while some his unique ideas about static structures and systems gained widespread acceptance, his solo venture into automotive design didn’t fare as well.
Fuller coined the word “Dymaxion” to describe a global concept of design by combining the words dynamic, maximum, and tension. When he applied the concept to the “modern” motorcar, the result is seen here. Visitors to the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago (thumbnails, left and center, above) were undoubtedly very impressed, but Fuller was not alone in exploring aerodynamics as means of increasing automotive efficiency. The (third thumbnail above) shows his second design which was never built. Indeed, there was a mini-movement of teardroppers and streamliners at the time, but his was, without a doubt, the most radical. Patent drawings (thumbnails, below) show the unusual rear engine-front wheel drive arrangement.
Three were eventually built, beginning in 1932, with a fourth one planned (see right thumbnail, above). But the very radicalism that drew fair goer’s (and later War Bond buyer’s) attention proved to be it’s downfall. Virtually all the others used conventional front wheel steering. The Dymaxion steered from the single rear wheel, and while it’s close to 180 degree rotation made it very maneuverable (watch the video below), as you might expect it became increasingly unstable and difficult to drive as speed increased and thus impractical for use as daily transportation.
Many more photos of this very famous automobile can be found at Future Car, along with another short film. You can read about and also see the patents in more detail and learn more about this man himself at the Buckminster Fuller Institute.