When Buckminster Fuller, one of the most creative and visionary minds of the 20th Century, directed his vast intellect toward the design of an automobile, the result was an utterly unique expression of mobility the likes of which the world had not seen before, or since.
The futuristic Dymaxion Car that appeared in 1933 defied all notions of convention or even normalcy. It was distinctively shaped like a raindrop for maximum aerodynamics at a time when boxy cars with upright windshields, flared fenders and running boards were the standard. The cantilevered chassis carried two fixed wheels in front and one in the back that steered like the tiller of a boat.
Although the Ford V8 engine was mounted in the rear, the car had front-wheel drive. The steering position was placed ahead of the front wheels, with the driver’s inputs directed back to the single rear wheel. The car could pull a U turn in the smallest of confines.
How odd the Dymaxion Car must have seemed to people back then, and how odd it still seems today. But it was a paragon of efficiency: The car could carry 11 people, and it could achieve 30 miles per gallon and a top speed of 90 miles per hour.
And Fuller’s unique car still fascinates. The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville announced Tuesday that after eight years of effort, the museum’s restorers and technicians had succeeded in creating a replica of the first Dymaxion Car, which will be put on display starting Thursday.
Fuller succeeded in building three prototypes of the Dymaxion Car, just one of which survives today at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
“The Dymaxion just makes sense for us to have at the (Lane Motor Museum),” said Jeff Lane, director of the museum that uses the slogan, “Unique Cars from A to Z.”
“The design is well ahead of its time and its looks definitely fit the uniquely different philosophy we build our collection around,” Lane said. “After doing lots of research, we decided that Dymaxion #1 was the best fit for the museum, and now it’s here.”
In honor of Fuller’s dynamic contribution to automotive history, Jeff Lane will drive the Dymaxion Car replica from the museum in Nashville to northern Florida to make its debut March 15 at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
Fuller used the invented word “dymaxion” for a number of projects to describe his design philosophy of “doing more with less.” The futurist is best remembered outside of scientific circles for his groundbreaking geodesic dome that became an architectural staple.