Fortuitous Happenstance

Angry Old Man

1933 Dymaxion

The 1933 Dymaxion Car, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller, was intended to fly, jump-jet style, when suitable alloys and engines became available. Meantime, it did pretty well on the ground: It got about 30 miles per gallon, and could smoothly carry eleven passengers at 120 miles per hour.

Conceived in 1927 as an “omnimedium, wingless transport” for ground, air and water travel. The upward tilt of the cabin was designed to direct the impact of any head-on accident away from the passenger compartment and towards the engine sub-frame at the rear. The enormous front overhang was designed to bring forward the centre of gravity, thereby negating the likelihood of the solo rear wheel skidding whilst turning or braking. Rear vision was provided by a periscope arrangement. A warning buzzer was installed to alert the driver when the rear wheel was likely to travel outside the tracks of the forward wheels, so that sideswiping other vehicles or the curb could be avoided. Braking could be installed on all three wheels, but it was found that brakes applied to the two front wheels alone was generally sufficient.

Though not much heavier that a VW Beetle, the Dymaxion was nearly 20 feet long. That was too big for urban traffic, despite extraordinary manoeuvrability: it could U-turn in its own length. The rear-wheel steering also proved tricky, especially in a crosswind. The car made a successful debut in July 1933, but crashed at 70mph on a Chicago road later that year when its driver rashly became involved in a high speed race with another car. Even another Dymaxion, completed in 1934, could not counter the unfavourable publicity, and the project died.

Specs: 3 wheels, rear (single) wheel steering, aluminium body, 20’ long, 120mph, rear-engine front-wheel drive.

Photos: bottom, a surviving Dymaxion, apparently used as a chicken shed for years [hence the opaque window treatment]. Above that: a comparison with a contemporary Ford.

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    I want one
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    Fun fact!
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