R. (Richard) Buckminster Fuller 1895-1983


    The 1933 Dymaxion Car 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 hurtle eleven passengers at 120 miles per hour--far better performance than a 1996 minivan.

Though not much heavier that a VW Beetle, the Dymaxion was nearly 20 feet long. That was too big for urban traffic, despite extraordinary maneuverability--it could U-turn in its own length.(qt movie, 2.7mb) The adroit rear-wheel steering also proved counterintuitively tricky, especially in a crosswind. A fatal crash, wrongly blamed on the steering instead of the other car involved, was also fatal to investors, and the project failed.(qt movie, 2.3mb)

Ten years later, Bucky put what he'd learned to work in a much handier five-seater with a tiny engine at each wheel. This time, the front wheels steered, but all three could be steered for tight city turns and crabbing sideways into parking spaces. High speed stability was enhanced by extending the rear wheel on a boom to lengthen the wheelbase.

With only one engine needed for cruising, gasoline mileage would have been extraordinary. The design obsoletes most current eco-car proposals; only Amory Lovins "Hypercar" comes close. He and Bucky independently concluded that a safe, efficient, high-performance car could be economically built to weigh about a half-ton.

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Richard Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller was recognized as a poet, engineer, architect, cartographer, mathemetician, sailor and philosopher. Many believe his invention of the geodesic dome is as architecturally important as the Roman arch. Fuller's far ranging interests also included automobiles and he designed (with the help of Starling Burgess and Anna Biddle) the Dymaxion, one of the most significant and progressive cars ever built on the 1930's. Burgess, a famous naval architect and aircraft builder, was hired to engineer the car and direct its construction. Biddle, a wealthy Philadelphia socialite and longtime friend of Fuller, agreed to financially back the project. The three-wheeled cars were built in the old Locomobile factory in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Fuller coined the word Dymaxion from dynamic, maximum, and ion. To Fuller, a three-wheeler wasn't radical, it was simply logical. He didn't care about marketing statistis, buyer profiles, or luxury styling cues. This highly streamlined car used a Ford V-8 engine at the rear to drive the two front wheels. The single rear wheel steered like the rudder of a ship. Since the rear wheel could pivot 90 degrees, the car could easily turn on its own axis, giveing the driver the sensation of meeting himself coming.

One of the most radical features of the Dymaxion design was that it was mounted on two frames, hinged at the front, with one frame carrying the engine and drive chain while the the other carried the rear wheel mount, suspension and steering. There were no rear windows, just a periscope. Top speed was about 120 mph with fuel economy between 25 and 30 mpg. During 1933 and 1934, three Dymaxions were built before Fuller ran out of cash. #1 and #3 have disappeared. #2 is displayed here.

I would add a few things that I learned: for instance, this vehicle #2 was found serving as a chicken coop, and naturally the interior was in very bad shape. This is why the windows are, at the time of this writing, painted opaque from the inside. A difficulty the good people at the National Auto Museum face in restoring the interior is the paucity of photos and plans of the interior.

USED AS A CHICKEN COOP somewhere in the Midwest. This completely rotten the wood, vinyl, and formica interior. This, as you may have guessed, explains why the interior of the car is not viewable at the museum! No pictures were ever found showing the interior of the car, so the museum had no guide by which to reconstruct it. (Baldwin says he looked through thousands of pictures in Fuller's archive looking for a shot of the interior, but couldn't find one.) Eventually it was found and sold to Harrah's for $90,000."

Another important item: Bucky Fuller's car lost some credibility with the public when it was involved in a fatal crash. At first it seemd it was a rollover, all by itself. Later investigation, however, found that a second car of sightseers was involved in a high-speed collision on the highway.

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In the late 1920's experiments were being undertaken to test aerodynamics. One result of these test was three prototype Dymaxion 3-wheelers built by the 4D company in the USA.  Richard Buckminster Fuller conducted wind-tunnel test on three-wheeled teardrop shapes with a V shaped groove running under the vehicle. A rudder was also added to the vehicles and Fuller intended that this would unfold from the upper side of the tail and provide stability. In 1933 Fuller hired Starling Burgess, an naval architect and a crew of expert sheetmetal workers, woodworkers, former coach builders and machinist and they designed and built Dymaxion Car Number One which was shown publicly in July 1933. As a result of enclosing all the chassis and wheels in a streamlined shape Fuller is reported to have driven at 120 mph with a 90 hp engine.  A conventional 1933 car would have required, Fuller estimated, at least a 300 hp engine. Fuller also claimed that fuel consumption of the Dymaxion car Number One was 30% less than a conventional car at 30mph and 50% less at 50mph.

The two front wheels of the Dymaxion Car One were driven by a Ford V-8 engine.  The single wheel at the rear was steerable

On Dymaxion Cars Number Two and Three an angled periscope was provided to help compensate for the lack of a rear window. Initially the car created vast attention where ever it went. However a British auto enthusiast flew to Chicargo to examine the Dymaxion car and when he was injured and his driver killed after the Dymaxion collided with another car the headlines in the press referred to the vehicle as a "freak car" and undermined its 3-wheeled design.  Although an investigation exonerated the Dymaxion car the car received a bad reputation and the British group cancelled their order for Dymaxion Car Two.  The Dymaxion Car Three was featured in the finale of Edward Hungerford's "Wings of a Century" pageant at the 1934 Century of Progress Exposition.

The design of the Dymaxion cars was one of the biggest break throughs in automobile design since the car had originated some fifty years earlier. Only one car (Car Two) now remains and is kept at the National Auto Museum, Reno NV.

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Model: "2" 4D Transport

Built by: 4D Company, Bridgeport, Connecticut
 

The 4D company of Bridgeport Connecticut built three prototype Dymaxion Cars, or "Omni-Medium Transport" vehicles.

 

A patent for the vehicle was applied for in 1933, and granted in 1937. Here's more about the patent.

I went to Reno in the summer of 2000, where I visited the most excellent collection at the National Automobile Museum. They have the only known remaining Dymaxion Car, vehicle #2.

DYMAXION CAR

U.S. PATENT - 2,101,057
APPLICATION - OCTOBER 18, 1933
SERIAL NO. - 694,068
IN GREAT BRITAIN - SEPTEMBER 8, 1933
PATENTED - DECEMBER 7, 1937

UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE

Buckminster Fuller, Bridgeport, Conn., assignor to the Dymaxion Corporation, Bridgeport, Conn., a corporation of Connecticut

MOTOR VEHICLE

The invention relates to the construction of motor road vehicles whereby they are adapted to the economical op- eration resulting from full streamline formation and whereby other and independent advantages are obtained as will be apparent to those skilled in this art from this disclosure. The principles of the invention are exem- plified by the vehicle illustrated in the accompanying drawings, but without limitation to such particular form.

Fig. 1 is a side view of the vehicle.
Fig. 2, a top plan.
Fig. 3, a longitudinal vertical section.
Fig. 4, a horizontal section on line IV—IV.
Fig. 5, a cross section on line V—V.
Fig. 6, a cross section on line VI—VI.
Fig. 7, a cross section on line VII—VII.
Fig. 8, an end view at line VIII—VIII with bussle removed.
Fig. 9, a detail section on line IX—IX.

 

The streamline body covers or encloses all of the chas- sis including all the wheels. For best economy it should be so designed that every axial section has a full stream- line contour, which is to say that the body should be con- tinuously curved from a round or blunt front to a tapered tail and that all its transverse maximum diameters should occur at a point about one-third of the length from the front end with no substantial interruption to the curva- ture and with no more excrescencies exposed to the rela- tive wind than necessary for operation. The front wheels 2 are the driven or traction wheels and are located at the widest part of the streamline body, that is, at a point about one-third of its length from the front end. They are journalled at the ends of an axle structure or housing 3 and driven through differential gearing indicated at 4 by a propeller shaft S or in any equivalent differential manner. The axle structure may be the same as the rear axle struc- ture of standard automobiles.

The forward wheels can be organized as the steering wheels within the broader aspect of this invention, but it is preferred that the steering is done by a rear wheel or wheels such as indicated at 6 which is central of the two forward wheels, being journalled on a stub shaft 7 rigidly fixed in the end of a single-tined steering fork 8, the head 9 of which is swiveled to turn on an upright axis. This wheel is preferably of the same size as the forward wheels and interchangeable therewith as in standard auto- mobiles, being readily removed from its stub shaft on the single-tined fork. It may however be dual-tired if desired, or may consist of twin wheels turning together as a unit or like a single wheel and such variants are to be under- stood as included within the term single steering wheel as used herein.

The steering head 9 is journalled on vertically spaced bearings in a deep barrel socket 10 formed in the rear apical end of a generally triangular or A-shaped frame 11 herein termed the sub-frame, and is slightly castored therein as shown in Fig. 3, to facilitate steering. The for- wardly extending legs of this frame 11 are supported on the forward axle housing 3 close to the front wheels 2, thus to provide a wide bearing for the sub-frame on the forward wheels and it has deep web sections with liberal flanging and gusseting and is reinforced by an arched cross-brace 12, all for the purpose of producing a max- imum degree of rigidity in the torsional sense between the steering head and axle housing. Such rigidity is im- portant in three-wheeled vehicles intended for passenger car speeds because, if the steering axis is not kept to a plane parallel with the planes of the front wheels (or if these are canted, then to an intermediate plane bisecting the angle between them) the steering becomes unsteady and dangerous. On this account the sub-frame 11 is spe- cially stiffened as stated and no spring intervenes be- tween it and the wheels such as might permit the steering axis to change its lateral position in relation to the for- ward wheels. In this sense the sub-frame is an unsprung frame. It may however be connected to the axle by a This frame extends from a rear point just forward of the rear wheel to a forward point well beyond the forward wheels and has a kickup over the forward axle. Its rear part lies in substantially the same level as the legs of the sub-frame and between them and about one-third of its length overhangs the forward axle. Cross bracing, not shown, may be provided to give it requisite stiffness. Its forward point of support is by a cross bolster 16 and a transverse spring 17 which is shackled at its ends to ap- propriate brackets on the axle structure; see Fig. 5. At its rear end it is flexibly connected to the sub-frame in such manner as to accommodate the action of the forward spring and preferably the connection includes a spring such as cross-spring 18 which is centrally fastened to the cross-bolster 19 of the main frame and suspended at its ends by a pair of hanger-links 20 depending from the high joint, if the joint axis is horizontal and such joint is pref- erably used and appears at 13, where the ends of the frame legs are attached to the axle housing. It does not impair the rigidity of the frame against torsion. Prefera- bly also the sub-frame is dropped or formed with an an- gle at or near the cross brace so that its forwardly extending leg members are substantially horizontal and at about the level of the wheel hubs and only the pointed rear part rises above the hub level.

The propelling engine 14 occupies the space within and below the narrow part of the sub-frame and under the arched cross-brace 12. It may be mounted on that frame with appropriate cushionings, if desired, but is preferably mounted on a second frame 15, herein called the main frame, which carries the body 1 and is spring-supported. part of the sub-frame. These links include turn-buckles as indicated, which can be adjusted to raise or lower the main frame. By reason of their substantial parallelism they permit a certain amount of side sway to the main frame relatively to the sub-frame but tending at the same time to restrain careening of the body.

The chassis of the illustrated vehicle thus includes the sub-frame which as stated is unsprung, and the main frame which is sprung both front and rear. It is desirable that the normal amplitude of the rear spring action be relatively less than that of the front spring. This can be done by loading it with a resistance of some sort, such as provided by connecting ordinary hydraulic shock absorbers 21 between the two frames at this point. If absorbers are also associated with the front spring, as indicated at 22, the resistance of the rear absorbers is made to exceed materially that of the front absorbers, so that the action of the rear spring is relatively stiff or sluggish. The throw of the rear spring is limited by a check rod 23 which is connected at its foot with the end of the main frame or with the cross bolster 19 thereof or otherwise and plays in a hole in a cross flange 24 (Fig. 3) of the sub-frame 11 with rubber-backed collars 25 fixed on the rod above and below such flange. These collars co-act with the flange as spring-bumpers, in both directions, and in addition the upper collar serves also as a safety support to hold the main frame in the event of failure of its rear spring or support. The engine is mounted with the end of its crank- shaft accessible to the rear through a hole marked 26 and the check rod is attached to the frame by a connection above this hole, as indicated in Figs. 3 and 7 so that by turning the steering wheel to a transverse position room is available to introduce a hand crank in the hole when the engine requires to be hand cranked.

The transmission case is on the forward end of the engine and connected to drive the forwardly extending propeller shafts through an appropriate universal joint or joints and with or without a torque tube as preferred. The transmission mechanism is controlled by a selector rod 27 extending forwardly to the gear shift lever 28 at the operator's station. The usual engine controls, though not shown in the drawings, will be understood to be arranged in any suitable way.

In the case of a watercooled engine, the radiator 29 is preferably located directly over the transmission or flywheel case and just abaft the after bulkhead wall 30 of the cabin compartment, and suitable partitions 31 and 32 (Fig. 6) are provided to form an air channel for con- ducting air to it from an air scoop slot 33 which extends across the roof part of the body. A fan 34 is located in the air channel, being driven by the engine in any suit- able manner, as for example, by the belt-driven shaft 35, which is journaled on the engine and extends through the radiator. The cooling air passing the radiator flows over the engine and out around the rear wheel.

While the body 1 can be variously constructed and wholly of metal, if desired, it is shown as built of wood framing with a light metal covering. Its main sills 36 are carried on brackets 37 which project laterally from the main frame, some of them extending over and some under the legs of the sub-frame and all shaped or located to afford the necessary clearance for the relative movement of the unsprung sub-frame and the sprung main frame. These sills extend aft of the main frame as cantilevers to support the tail part of the body. Doors and windows are provided and also a number of removable panels, those marked 38 being for providing access to the forward wheels and those marked 39 to afford access to the engine while the rear end or bussle 40 is removable to afford access not only to the rear wheel but also to the crankshaft of the engine for hand-cranking it. The for- ward windows 41 are either curved to the streamline con- tour or composed of smaller flat sections collectively approximating such contour.

The bottom of the body is preferably closed by a belly wall in one or more sections which are longitudinally and transversely curved to conform to the streamline contour. To this end the metal body covering below the sills 36 is inwardly curved at the sides, as indicated at 42 and the middle space is closed in by a curved belly wall section marked 43 in Figs. 1 and 3. This section 43 of the belly wall is a part of the body proper. Next in the rear of the belly wall section 43 comes a continuation section 44 which is removably fastened to the unsprung parts of the chassis, that is, to the differential casing and the legs of the sub-frame, the forward attachment points being marked 45 and the rear points 46 (Fig. 3). Aft of this section and extending to the end of the tail, the belly wall section 47 is fastened to the incurved sides 42 of the body in some removable manner and this section is cut with a circular hole 48A (Fig. 4) to accommodate the rear steering wheel. As thus organized the belly wall is formed of three sections of which two are carried by the body proper and the other intermediate section by the running gear. The sections meet without contact in normally flush relation so as to provide a substantially smooth belly from front to rear but it will be apparent that the edges will play past each other according to the action of the springs. The gap may be covered or faired over if desired to exclude entrance of air. While shown as made of metal the belly wall may be made of fabric, if desired, in which case it may be continuous from end to end.

By thus enclosing the whole running gear, including as much of the wheels as consistent with road clearance in a properly streamline external contour, the advantage is gained that the rate of fuel consumption, as compared with conventional cars of equivalent size and weight, falls off rapidly as the speed is increased above about 10 m.p.h. being some 30% less at 30 miles and 50% less at about 50 miles, while within the overall dimensions of such conventional cars the volume of useful cabin space inside the streamline body is much increased, being practically doubled. All of the interior of the body forward of the drop-angle or bulkhead wall 30 constitutes the useful space for passenger or cargo, and due to the drop-angle the rear seat can extend the full width of the body over the sub-frame 11, as well as over the main frame 15 and with cars of standard tread gauge this provides a seat some 6 feet wide, long enough to serve as a bunk for sleeping purposes.

The forward overhang of the main frame 15 pitches up- wards from the forward wheels and terminates at about the bumper level of conventional cars or slightly higher, the purpose of which, among other things, is to take any collision impact in the event of accident at a point well in advance of the front seat and to receive it on the main frame, so that the inertia of the engine fixed on the rear of that frame will be available to absorb the impact, as is the case in conventional cars having the engine in front.

Steering is done by a hand-wheel 48 mounted at a convenient angle in front of one of the forward seats and according to this invention its connections to the steering head 9 provide for a maximum variation of steering angle of at least about 160° and in any event over 100°. With the traction wheels located at one third the body length abaft the front end, such range of steering angle affords a degree of maneuverability not heretofore attained in automobiles. In the present case the steering system includes a windlass contained in a case 50 with cables 51 trained over sheaves on the chassis or sub-frame and attached to the ends of the sprocket chain 52 of a full circular sprocket wheel 53 which is fixed to and below the steering head 9. By the use of a full circular sprocket wheel the same constant degree of tautness is kept in the cables for every steering angle, without which the steering would be erratic and unsatisfactory. A keeper or guard 54 is provided about the sprocket wheel rim to guide and retain the chain thereon. This keeper is fixed by rigid bracket arms to the steering head barrel 10 of the sub-frame 11, directly over the steering-wheel mudguard 55 which turns with the steering head 9. The lugs 56 (Fig. 4) on the ends of the sprocket chain serve to limit the steering angle by their abutment against the ends of the keeper 54. They limit the steering range to something less than 180° of arc. The gear ratio of the steering system is about 30 to 1 and in order to make quick changes through large angles, the hand-wheel 48 is provided with a crank knob 57 by which it may be easily spun.

While rear-steering greatly improves maneuverability as compared to conventional cars, and particularly with the traction wheels in the position described, it is apt to give rise to a tendency to skid when braking or rounding corners. This however is eliminated according to this invention by the distribution of the weight and the location of the center of gravity of the vehicle. It is found that such center should be forward of the mid-point of the wheel base and must not in fact be located further aft from the forward wheel axis than a distance equal to about 40% of the wheel base length. The importance of the pronounced forward body overhang will now be apparent, since even with the engine in the rear it brings the center of gravity to the position of maximum safety against skidding. In the car taken for illustration, the center of gravity is about 20% aft of the front axle, some 75% of the total weight being on the two forward wheels, and this location of the gravity center is preferred. The normal loading of the vehicle will not appreciably shift it. Also specially contributing to the maneuverability and ease of handling generally is the fact that the traction center as well as the gravity center are both located in the same general position, forward of the center point of the wheel base and that this position also substantially coincides with what may be called the streamline center of the body which may be taken as its center of volume or the center of area of its axial section. This center is indicated roughly in Fig. 3 by the small circle 58; the gravity center is lower down and the traction center of course coincides with the axis of the front wheels. The con- sequences of the grouping of these important centers in the same general forward location are reflected in the structural economy of the vehicle and become obvious on comparison with the action of conventional cars and especially those which have their fraction center rearward of the mid-point of the wheel base.

A view to the rear is afforded to the driver through a water-tight roof window 59 and an exterior inclined mirror 60 mounted on the roof at its highest point and within a rearward open hood or fairing 61 to avoid wind resistance and also shelter the mirror from the weather. The mirror may be viewed through the window and by reason of its position at the highest point gives unobstructed vision to the rear through a wide arc. This makes it easy for the driver to avoid swinging the tail of the vehicle so far to the outside when turning a corner, as to collide with adjacent cars or objects. To the same end the invention contemplates as an additional safeguard, useful in the case of drivers unaccustomed to rear-steered vehicles, a warning device of some kind which will announce the fact whenever the driver turns the rear wheel to such an angle as might be likely to result in a sideswipe. This may take any suitable form and as shown herein consists of a wiper button 63 (Fig. 4) fastened to the steel steering cable 51 and adapted to contact with either of two electrically insulated terminal plates 64 mounted on a cross bar 65 and connected in circuit with a buzzer or the like 66. Whenever the rear wheel reaches or passes the angle which will run it outside of the tracks of the forward wheels, the signal is given and the driver's attention is thereby called to the need of caution in the event there should be an adjacent object in position to be sideswiped. When operating within the limits represented by the two terminal plates, the driver may handle the car without concern for side collisions more than with ordinary automobiles. Instead of an audible signal any other device may be employed which will guard against involuntarily exceeding the normal range of steering angle.

A brake pedal is indicated at 62 but the braking system has been omitted; it may be applied to all three wheels, if desired, but braking on the two forward wheels alone has been found sufficient with the weight distribution as described.

While the various features of this invention have been above described as mutually combined and cooperating in a single structure which is rear-steered, it is to be understood and will be apparent that there is no intention to limit this patent to such single combination inasmuch as certain subcombinations set forth in the claims obviously have important uses in independent relations.

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The Chicago World's Fair of 1933-4 exerted a powerful fascination on R. Buckminster Fuller. His first Dymaxion car crashed just outside the grounds of the fair in October 1933.

The third and final Dymaxion car, an extremely heavy emerald-green vehicle with a fin (intended to stop the tail from wandering in cross-winds) and a rear-view periscope built for conductor Leopold Stokowski, was exhibited outside the Crystal House at the fair in 1934 (pictured on the left)

In addition to the Dymaxion car, the Chicago Fair boasted a great number of attractions, contrasting "quaint", primitive theme villages, such as the "Midget Village" and "Merrie England" with futuristic experiences like the "Skyride" in which rocket cars whisked passengers between two 628 foot towers. Streamlined design dominated the production automobiles on exhibition, which included a gold-plated Packard, and the Lincoln Zephyr.

The highlight of the 1933 World's Fair was the arrival of the Graf Zeppelin, with its cargo of illustrious passengers. On October 26, 1933 Commander Hugo Eckener brought the Zeppelin to Chicago. Although the Zeppelin remained on the ground only twenty minutes, its arrival sparked a wave of controversy amongst Germans present at a banquet held in its honour that evening. At the banquet, the German ambassador, Hans Luther, insisted that "only a madman could believe in the possibility of war" between France and Germany. On the same evening, Julius Richter, a German theologian, emphasized that the current wave of anti-semitism in Germany was just a "passing phase".

Two of the Zeppelin's passengers were in the first Dymaxion car when it crashed the following day just outside the grounds of the fair.

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by Michael John Gorman

Passengers - Francis T. Turner, Colonel William Francis Forbes-Sempill and Charles Dollfuss

On October 27, 1933, the first Dymaxion Car was involved in a fatal accident just outside the grounds of the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago.

The American driver of the car, Francis T. Turner, was a famous racing driver, employed by the Gulf Refining Company, that had purchased the car. Two passengers in the car, Colonel William Francis Forbes-Sempill and Charles Dollfuss of Paris, were seriously injured.

Forbes-Sempill and Dollfuss had arrived at the World's Fair on the Graf Zeppelin, and were being rushed to the airport to catch a plane to Akron Ohio where they would meet the Zeppelin for its return trip from New York to Europe.

According to newspaper reports immediately, the accident was caused when the car hit a "wave" in the road. Later, it emerged that the car had been "rubbernecked" by the car of the South Park Commissioner, which had left the scene of the accident afterwards. The public blamed the design of the car for the accident, and some potential investors were scared off. The death of the driver was caused by the canvas top of the car (no. 1) caving in on him.

Later, Fuller described the accident as follows:

But, in England there was a man called, his title was the Master of Semple it was a Scotch title, and he was the greatest aviator in England in those days, and extraordinarily well thought of. When the Graf Zeppelin made a special first trip over to the Chicago World's Fair, and the Master of Semple was invited as the English guest to go on the flight to America, to go to the World's Fair, and the Air Minister of France was on the trip. These two men telephoned me from the Graf Zeppelin over the Atlantic, asking if I could have the Dymaxion Car available for them to see at Chicago with the World's Fair.By this time I let the car go to a man named Al Williams who was the Navy's #1 speed flyer, and left the Navy to become head of gasoline sales for the Gulf Refining. And Al had acquired my first car for the Gulf Company to use at air meets, and it had become the official car at air meets running around the air field. And when this call came I then got in touch with Al Williams, so he had a race driver take the car out to Chicago to meet these two distinguished guests. They, then the car was put at their disposal with this race driver during their visit.

The Graf Zeppelin just dropped them off in Chicago and went back to Akron where it could be moored. The day came a few days later when the word came that the Graf Zeppelin was to return to England and these two guest would have to rejoin in the meantime they had driven the car a lot, and they needed the car to get out to the Chicago Airport in a hurry they called in, so at 7 o'clock in the morning went to their hotel, picked the two men up and started out for the Chicago airport when the next thing I knew there was a NEW YORK TIMES full headline FREAK CAR ROLLS OVER AND KILLS RACE DRIVER AND FAMOUS GUESTS WOUNDED injured and so forth. And I was in Bridgeport, and the Associated Press got in touch with me where I was building my second car at the time no yes, I had just started we were doing the drawings on the second car, and I flew out, and I had an engineer friend in Chicago. I asked him to go and start investigating just as fast as he could. I telephoned him, and I flew out to Chicago, and we found that the car had been removed from this accident.

It had occurred just in front of the main gate of the Chicago World's Fair, and so we found where the car was it had been put in a garage, and we looked it over very carefully, and we couldn't find anything wrong with the steering gear or the but it had rolled over, and you may remember, my looking at this and saying this is crystagon and so forth I had it a convertible, and I had an open top with the buttoned on canvas canvas top on it here, so we could open it up, and it did, the there were race they had a Al Williams as a flyer, had put in flying seat belts into it, and the driver had one of those on. The car had rolled over, and the top had punched in, and he had been killed the Air Minister from France was sitting in the rear seat he didn't have a belt on, and I say this canvass top opened, and he just went out and landed on his feet. The Master of Semple was sitting beside the driver, hurt his head very badly, and he was in the hospital in Chicago in very critical condition. We went to the hospital, and they let me listen to him, so if he were to say anything that would give me any kind of clues what had happened.

While I was sitting waiting, the King of England called up he was a very close friend of his, and it really became very much of an international matter. You can imagine how I was feeling here. My car had killed one man, and another was extraordinarily injured. The Master of Semple did recover thank God! And he, the, they had a coroner's inquest on account of the death of the driver, and the coroner's inquest postponed the coroner postponed the meeting, hoping against the day that the Master of Semple might recover, because he had been driving the car and was familiar with it all, and he might be able to tell them what happened.So it was postponed. Sixty days later they had the continued meeting, at which time the Master of Semple told about then that something that had happened to me very, very frequently as they were coming to it was a ten-lane highway, five lanes on either side, and they had been in the outermost lane and a car tried to rubberneck with them. People were always wanting to look at me, and they tried to ride along beside you and getting the it was a very tortuous feeling, these people were looking at you and they were going to run into something.So he had accelerated to get away from them and came into the second lane, and this man, then, started to rubberneck some more, he began really pestering, so he finally got to the middle lane, and this man tried to pull upside, and the man hit his tail and threw him out of steering.

The precession, incidentally, when you do hit this it turns precessionally. So, the man who owned the other car was the South Park Commissioner it turned out later. And his car had been moved right away. My engineer friend and I had gone to see the policeman who was on the corner at the time it happened, and he didn't know anything about this at all, but later on when it turned out that it had been a collision and not a freak roll over sixty days afterwards, so the coroner simply said, well it was a mutual responsibility some kind of carelessness but no real fault of anybody. At any rate, it was not the car. But my car got an enormous kind of a blow. Al Williams, as I said, had been one of the leading Navy fliers, and he said "Bucky your car is in no way responsible, so you've really got a great obligation to society to let society know it isn't the car." We couldn't get hardly any publicity about it there is no news like that

(excerpt from the Everything I know tapes. Source: www.bfi.org)

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Timeline

Fuller produces 200 copies of a mimeographed typescript of "4D", a manifesto for mass-produced housing and decentralization. Included in the plan is a proposal for an "omnidirectional transportation device", to allow people to reach their homes, delivered by Zeppelin to remote locations. Fuller suggests that the transport should be powered by means of jets (practical jets were not built for aircraft for another decade). He called it his "4D twin, angularly orientable, individually throttleable, jet-stilt controlled-plummetting transport". To his daughter Allegra, he described it as a "zoomobile", explaining that it could hop off the road at will, fly about, then, as deftly as a bird, settle back into a place in traffic May Fuller presents the manuscript for 4D at an annual meeting of the American Institute of Architects in St. Louis. The response: the institute passes a resolution: "Be it resolved that the American Institute of Architects establish itself on record as inherently opposed to any peas-in-a-pod-like reproducible designs". Unperturbed, Fuller sends the manuscript to a large number of luminaries thoughout the globe, including Bertrand Russell, publishing their responses, in the few cases in which they did respond, along with the original manuscript in 4D Timelock.

The first hard, heat-treated aluminum alloys become available. These will be essential in the aircraft industry, and in the dymaxion car. Dawes suggests building a prototype of Fuller's Dymaxion House for the Chicago World's Fair, asking Fuller for an estimate of cost. Fuller responds: "the basic cost today is a hundred million dollars", after calculating the cost of retooling all component parts of the house. Fuller refuses to build a mock-up of the Dymaxion house for the fair.

January: A friend offers Fuller a few thousand dollars to finance the development of his Dymaxion projects. The cash is insufficient for the development of the Dymaxion house,. or for a jet-propelled device (liquid oxygen, regarded by Fuller as the most suitable fuel for the "jet-stilt" transport, generated greater heats than could be withstood by existing alloys at the time). Fuller uses the cash to investigate the extended "ground taxiing" capabilities of his 4D transport.

February: Fuller rents the Dynamometer building of the defunct Locomobile Company's factory in Bridgeport Connecticut. He engages a crew of six world-class craftsmen out of a thousand applicants to work on the project under the direction of seaplane and racing yacht designer Starling Burgess.

March 4: Bank Moratorium declared by Roosevelt. Work begins in Bridgeport Connecticut on the construction of the Dymaxion transport. Henry Ford himself gives Fuller a standard 85 bhp Ford V8 engine at 70% discount.

April: The first experimental chassis is tested by Starling Burgess, and, although it handles well, it develops uncontrollable steering oscillations at high speeds similar to the "death-wobble" known to motorcyclists. To solve the problem, the chassis is modified so that the rear-wheel remains perpendicular to the ground at all times.

Once the chassis has been corrected, Fuller engages a crew of 27 men, including Polish sheet metal experts, Italian machine tool men, Scandinavian woodcraftsmen and former Rolls-Royce coachmakers to produce a complete prototype in time for the opening of the Chicago World's Fair.Work started on a wood-framed aluminum clad body. The car still had problems driving in gusty conditions, with cross-winds blowing it off course like a small airplane. The steering cables also had a tendency to become loose, adding to the problem.

July: With a hull based on wind-tunnel models made by sculptor Isamo Noguchi, the first complete car (Dymaxion car no. 1) is completed. Driving through Manhattan, it causes gridlock. Excluded from the auto show at Madison Square Garden, Fuller parked it near the entrance, causing more traffic jams. The car could reach speeds of 120 mph.

October: The car arrives in Chicago for the World's Fair.

October 27: The first Dymaxion car is involved in a fatal accident outside the World's Fair. The press blames the design of the car.

November-December: The first car is repaired after the crash, and later used by Gulf Oil (the owners) in a publicity campaign. Fuller, Burgess and the rest of the crew work on completing the second complete car (dymaxion car no. 2) in time for the 1934 Chicago World's Fair. With the money from the investors running out, Fuller uses all of the money he has inherited from his mother to pay for the second and third cars. Oversteering with the rear-wheel at high speeds was dangerous, but Fuller did not have enough money to prototype a version of the car with front-wheel steering for normal driving and rear-wheel steering for tight situations. While work on the second car is being completed, the orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski orders a heavier, more elaborate Dymaxion car, in Emerald Green.

Stokowski's car (car no. 3) is exhibited outside the Crystal House at the World's Fair in Chicago. Instead of a rear-view mirror, it has a periscope. It also has a central fin, intended to help stabilize the car, but not very effective. Fuller cannot afford to produce a car ordered by Amelia Earhart, or the three cars ordered by the Russian embassy. Investors have been scared off by the accident and the Depression.

To pay his debts, Fuller gives the second car to the mechanics who made it, sells the factory and lays off his team of workers.

Norman Bel Geddes designs "Futurama", The General Motors Pavilion in the New York World's Fair

Car no. 1 is destroyed in a fire in the U.S. Bureau of Standards' Washington garage. Fuller proposes a smaller three-wheeled vehicle to Henry Kaiser.

Car no. 3 (Stokowski's car, with the fin) is discovered in Brooklyn, and repurchased for Fuller by his friend, J. Arch Butts, Jr. of Wichita, Kansas

Car no. 3 disappears. J. Baldwin says he finally tracked down a junkyard owner in Wichita who says he cut it up for scrap during the Korean war.

Fuller and car no. 2 pose with his 26' Fly's Eye dome during his 85th birthday party at the Windstar Foundation in Snowmass, Colorado (this car is now in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, NV)

xxxxxx

Starling Burgess

Before he began work on the Dymaxion transport, Starling Burgess was a famous yacht designer and builder. His yachts included three Americas Cup winners. He was also an aeroplane designer -- he built the Wright brothersí planes under license, and designed seaplanes including the Burgess-Dunne Flying Boat for the US Navy. He is also, somewhat bizarrely, rumoured to be the inventor of Times New Roman font.

It is not known when Burgess first came into contact with R. Buckminster Fuller. There is a possibility that they met in the U.S. navy during World War I (Lieutenant Commander Burgess was placed in charge of U.S. Navy Seaplane design on December 15, 1917).

Whether or not they were old navy buddies, Burgess had worked on the streamlined fairing for Fuller's ten-deck 4D tower in 1927, subjected to extensive wind-tunnel tests. He also worked on the central mast for the Dymaxion house between 1927 and 1929.

Burgess is, in some ways, the unsung hero of the saga of the dymaxion car. According to Jay Baldwin, "Burgess did all of the engineering and most of the design work once the basic layout of the car was determined by RBF ... It appears likely that Burgess made all of the calculations and hard engineering" (personal communication).The final design of the Dymaxion car, with its wooden-ribs and nautical interior, owed much to Burgess's experience with yacht design.

It was Burgess who courageously tested the first chassis built in Bridgeport, just six weeks after work had begun. When, during the test, the car developed uncontrollable steering oscillations, similar to the "death wobble" feared by motorcyclists, Burgess redesigned the chassis so that the back wheel would no longer lean on turns, making it remain vertical at all times.

The personal life of Burgess was more complicated. During work on the building of the Dymaxion car, he had an affair with one of the sponsors of the project, the famous aviatrix Nannie Biddle (also romantically involved with Fuller) resulting in a brief marriage (Burgess's fourth of a grand total of five).

As for the patent drawings, there are several drawings, but none of them reflect the car as built.  J. Baldwin says the same is true of the Dymaxion house (which he took apart to have it moved to a museum in Michigan) -- the patent drawings differed from the blueprints, and both of these differed from the actual construction."

xxxx

The most radical of American 20th century inventor-designers, Fuller studied Mathematics before setting up 4D in the late 1920's to develop his own inventions. Fuller was concerned with people rather than materialistic gain. His aim was to produce a 'design science' that would 'obtain the maximum human advantage from the minimum use of energy and materials'. This '4D' principle later became known as 'Dymaxion'. Fuller developed the 'Dymaxion' house between 1927 and 1946 which was transportable and self-contained, supported from a central 'mast'; an invention which caused the design theorist Reyner Banham to label Fuller 'the essential modernist'. His 'Dymaxion' car designs were inspired by aeroplane design, but proved to have some dangerous design faults.

Later, in 1949, Fuller created what was to become his most important legacy - the mathematically derived geodesic dome. The easy transportability and impermanence of the structure coincided with the aims of his lecture tours in undermining the concept of property ownership and a drive towards sustainable design.

 

   

For more information please read:

Dymaxion : http://www.bfi.org/

Dymaxion: http://sts.stanford.edu/dymaxion/

Dymaxion: http://www.stud.unit.no/studorg/a/Ades94sid/Dymaxion.html

Dymaxion: http://www.3wheelers.com/dymaxion.html

Dymaxion: http://www.cs.uwindsor.ca/meta-index/people/traylin/dymaxion.html

Dymaxion: http://www.cruzio.com/~joemoore/Index/Dy-Dz.htm

Dymaxion: 3D Model: http://www.washedashore.com/projects/dymax/

Dymaxion Car: http://members.aol.com/bowlustrlr/fuller.html

Dymaxion Transport: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/bucky/car.html

Dymaxion Vehicle: http://www.washedashore.com/input/wallace.html

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