The 85th anniversary of the Dymaxion car

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Imagine attending the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago in 1933 and coming across the revolutionary Dymaxion car. This spacious, aerodynamic, front-wheel drive car was shown at a time in automotive history when the Citroën Traction Avant was just being introduced and before the DeSoto Airflow ushered in streamlined styling that was quickly adopted by domestic and foreign automakers alike. The blimp-like creation was the brainchild of Buckminster Fuller, the visionary architect and designer who later popularized the architectural use of the geodesic dome.

Fuller called upon yacht engineer Starling Burgess and artist Isamu Noguchi to bring his concept to fruition. The goal was a car capable of sustained high-speed travel in the neighborhood of 100 mph while returning 28 mpg. The powertrain was Ford’s then-new flathead V-8, mounted just ahead of the single rear wheel and sending power up front to the front wheels. The first of three prototypes was completed on July 12 in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, factory formerly used by steam car manufacturer Locomobile.

Dymaxion car
Dymaxion car

If Buckminster Fuller ever had his way, the 20-foot-long Dymaxion would eventually be capable of flight, putting air travel in the hands of the masses. Instead, the jittery handling brought on by the rear-steering chassis lead to the death of a test driver in one of the three prototypes built. That didn’t impress investors, and the car would ultimately die on the vine, forever remembered as a concept of stunning imagination. The performance and technological capabilities of modern vehicles would have probably blown Fuller’s mind, but there’s something a little disappointing about the fact that his wild vision never quite came to fruition.

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