A Harrowing Test Drive of Buckminster Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion Car: Art That Is Scary to Ride

In the 1930s, the sys­tems the­o­rist, design­er and inven­tor Buck­min­ster Fuller cre­at­ed the Dymax­ion car — an aero­dy­nam­ic con­cept car that man­aged to get 30 miles per gal­lon while top­ping out at 90 miles per hour, and trans­port­ing 11 pas­sen­gers. Like Fuller’s Dymax­ion house, the three-wheel Dymax­ion car could be dis­as­sem­bled and re-assem­bled with ease. You can see vin­tage videos of both here.

The con­cept car did­n’t get much beyond the con­cept stage. Only three orig­i­nal ver­sions were built, one of which rolled over at the 1933 World’s Fair, leav­ing the dri­ver dead, three pas­sen­gers injured, and investors reluc­tant to bring the car to mar­ket. In 2010, the British archi­tect Sir Nor­man Fos­ter built a repli­ca of the Dymax­ion. You can see Dan Neil, of The Wall Street Jour­nal, take the car on a har­row­ing test dri­ve above. And if you’re intrigued enough to learn more, you can hunt down the 2012 doc­u­men­tary called The Last Dymax­ion (watch a trail­er of the film here).

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Every­thing I Know: 42 Hours of Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Vision­ary Lec­tures Free Online (1975)

Bet­ter Liv­ing Through Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Utopi­an Designs: Revis­it the Dymax­ion Car, House, and Map

Watch an Ani­mat­ed Buck­min­ster Fuller Tell Studs Terkel All About “the Geo­des­ic Life”

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Comments (7)
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  • Tony Youngblood says:

    Wait, isn’t this Jeff Lane’s 2015 repli­ca fea­tured, not Sir Nor­man Fos­ter’s? Or are they one in the same? Jeff Lane appears in the video. That car is on dis­play in Nashville, TN at the Lane Motor Muse­um: http://www.lanemotormuseum.org/103-audio-video/639‑1933-dymaxion-replica-on-display-feb-26

  • Anne B. says:

    Wow — some­body put Jere­my Clark­son behind the wheel, and see what hap­pens.

  • mike says:

    Like every­thing Fuller designed, this appears to be a POS.

  • Tedd says:

    Anne B: Price­less! It would be worth build­ing anoth­er repli­ca just to see that.

  • Dan says:

    Got to see Mr. Fuller give a lec­ture at Ore­gon State not long before he passed. Inter­est­ing guy.

  • Jerome says:

    One of the first uses of his Geo­des­ic Dome was for pro­tect­ing the radar sites for the DEW Line, the string of radar sta­tion across the the US-Cana­di­an Arc­tic Cir­cle. The Dew Line train­ing sta­tion was locat­ed SW of Streator, Illi­nois.

    Our fam­i­ly farm was anoth­er 8 miles west of there and if you can imag­ine walk­ing out on the porch and see­ing a geo­des­ic dome com­ing out of the corn­field, off on the hori­zon.

    In this time our local phone sys­tem still had crank tele­phones, you could­n’t imag­ine a more incon­gru­ous sight! High-tech, secret loca­tion out on the rur­al plains of the Mid­West.

  • John C Dvorak says:

    How exact­ly is this Dymax­ion Num­ber One if it’s a repli­ca? I doubt that the dri­ving expe­ri­ence was any­thing like an orig­i­nal.

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