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Classic Car Cultist: Dymaxion

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On: Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 5:12PM | By: Chris Salamone

Classic Car Cultist: Dymaxion

The year is 1933. An egg-shaped oddity rolls out during the Chicago World’s Fair. It has eleven seats, three wheels—using the rear wheel for steering—and a canvas roof. After stunning the world with the vehicle’s bizarre looks, an accident occurs which remains shrouded in mystery to this day. The Dymaxion car rolls over, executing the driver and seriously injuring the other two passengers.

One can only imagine how a three-wheel, rear-steering, oval-shaped vehicle might roll over.

In so doing, the Dymaxion car lost its principle investors and Chrysler refused to go into final production. The Dymaxion never made it to market, but the car’s legacy lives on for all to behold: influencing the first VW Transporter vans of the 1950s, the Fiat 600 Multipla, and scores of future automobiles with rear-mounted engines and high-and-tight front-axle driver seating. Lest we forget, the Dymaxion also maintained an average fuel economy of 30 mpg, and the vehicle’s eccentric inventor claimed it could reach speeds up to 120 mph—both stats we strive to produce today which are even more impressive when noted that the Dymaxion was powered by a Ford V8.

Invented by Buckminster Fuller, a self-claimed architect, the Dymaxion was all part of Fuller’s future vision of the world to improve humanity and living conditions. Fuller first coined the term ‘Dymaxion’, as a scrambling of the words “dynamic”, “maximum”, and “tension”, to properly describe his plan to create homes, vehicles, maps, and most bizarrely… a sleep schedule known as polyphasic sleep which required four 30-minute naps throughout the day as an alternative to the straight 7-8 hours most humans aspire to today.

Although strange, the Dymaxion car was revolutionary in a number ways. The vehicle could do a complete 360-degree spin in a mere car length, thanks largely to a rear steering platform. Second, the Dymaxion’s practicality was evident with seating for up to eleven passengers, great gas mileage, and the ability to reach highway speeds. Perhaps most interestingly, at a time when automakers were looking to make rear-engine rear-drive or, alternatively, front-engine front-drive cars, the Dymaxion counterintuitively utilized rear-engine and front-wheel drive—thus challenging the status quo.

While Fuller’s attempt to change the world didn’t go exactly to plan—we haven’t yet popularized disassemble-reassemble homes or three-wheel vehicles or crazy sleep cycles—the Dymaxion car did influence generations of automakers and filled an interesting role in the years following the accident of the 1933 World’s Fair.

The Dymaxion went on tour to raise funds for the Allied war effort, finding the spotlight with the likes of Amelia Earhart. Over the years, the Dymaxion car became something much more than a simple concept car. It became a vehicle with lasting repercussions on the market and inspired a nation in desperate need for positive thinking—England.

Four attempts have been made to create concept versions of the Dymaxion, most recently by Lord Norman Foster in 2010. The video below showcases Lord Foster’s tributary efforts.

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)



dwalter | 5:16PM (Fri, Aug 26, 2011)

I'd never heard of this thing before. One of a kind, for sure. I love how simple it is to parallel park.


RoadKill | 5:25PM (Fri, Aug 26, 2011)

30 MPG on average with a Ford V-8...Ford should look at what they did to improve gas mileage...


AutoHistory | 8:16AM (Sat, Aug 27, 2011)

Probably a total lack of standard safety features which are required nowadays. Those pesky lawyers...thinking we'd rather be safe than fast.

  • AutoHistory

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