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Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion car makes a rare public outing at Salon Prive London


June 23, 2011

The aerodynamically efficient Dymaxion car could transport 11 passengers and returned 36 mpg from a V8 in 1933.

The aerodynamically efficient Dymaxion car could transport 11 passengers and returned 36 mpg from a V8 in 1933.

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Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983) was an American engineer, author, architect, designer, inventor, and futurist whose prolific and widely admired work gave us the geodesic dome, and whose life is probably the best documented in history thanks to his Dymaxion Chronofile in which he recorded everything he did and thought, every 15 minutes from 1920 to 1983.

In it, he gave us the term ""Spaceship Earth" and he became one of the earliest credible proponents of renewable energy sources such as solar- and wind-derived electricity.

One of his most interesting projects was the Dymaxion car which we have previously chronicled in detail.

The replica Dymaxion car had a rare public outing at the exclusive boutique-style Salon Prive event this week.

The three day event closes in London today, so if you're in the vicinity and quick, you'll also get to see such remarkable current supercars as the Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale, Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Spyder Performante, Eagle E-Type Speedster Lightweight, Hennessy Venom GT, GTA Spano, Jensen Interceptor R, Arash AF-10 and the Rolls-Royce 102EX.


Walther Bauersfeld gave us the geodesic dome, Fuller \"re-invented\" it 20 years later and gave it the name. Nice car though, I\'d probably call it a minibus :)

Facebook User

It seems the only major deficiency in the design was that it had rear-wheel steering. Had Fuller used front-wheel steering, as in today\'s 3-wheelers, he would have had a very stable machine. With the wide front stance and length the Dymaxion would have been more stable than a 4-wheeler of similar size. Had Fuller persevered and not gotten discouraged, therefore abandoning the project too soon, the car likely would have seen production. I would speculate by the \'50s there could have been quite a few on the road...if it wasn\'t further sabotaged by one or all of the Big Three. Imagine what the Dymaxion - and all cars - would be like today had it survived and evolved in a linear fashion with modern construction materials and hybrid/hybrid-EV/EV propulsion. The story might have been quite different.

Neil Larkins

Todays car designers could learn a lot from vehicles like this Dymaxion, the Stout Scarab, Schlörwagen & Panhard Dynavia for example. All wondefully streamlined low-drag designs.

It seems aerodynamicists have no place in modern auto design studios now, all new cars come out looking terribly angular and oblique, like they\'ve been designed by frustrated art students, not engineers. Some of the most aerodymic vehicles ever designed were drawn up in the 1930s, and almost no modern cars emulate them...

A recent example of one of the few modern truly aerodynamic cars would be the Aptera, but in mainstream auto design... take the \'kammback\' on the Prius, such a pathetic attempt.


Bill Allison, the wonderful suspension designer from Detroit who invented the Packard Torsion ride didn't think much of Bucky's understanding of suspension design.

Sir Alex Moulton, who produces the most wonderful bicycles and designed the original MiniCooper suspension was well aware of Bill's work as he told me that when he was a child he and a bunch of friends would get in and out of a Caribbean in order to feel it rise and level out. Must have been inspiring as a young man.

When I commented to Bill that I loved the Mog he said "no, no, no! Very dangerous... three wheeled vehicles are inherently dangerous, they are motorcycles!"

That was proven at the Progressive Automotive X-Prize competition when the Aptera spun a 180 in a braking test. Scary as hell if you think about it.

From a historic perspective it is wonderful that Architect Norman Foster created this reconstruction and he must have had fun driving it, but he had better be careful.

Bucky and Noguchi were close friends since college and both were ingenious people.

Interestingly, in his retirement Allison built a wind tunnel and perfected the wind engine and took it to the Betz limit of 59% efficiency. So what are we doing plunking those 3bladed very low efficiency flying fans all over the place? Apparently the human race also has a large capacity for ignorance and the lemming instinct as well. We relish throwing available energy away.

Bill also perfected his suspensions in his retirement... The Japanese Professor that has been covered here in the Giz has drawn very similar conclusions about 8 wheels. But so did the Rail Road industry that has long known that bogied 8's have the lowest rolling resistance.

Bill Dickens

Island Architect

the 1984 Audi 5000 had a cd of .33, the 1988 Audi 80 had a cd of .29, the same as the 2011 Prius no progress after 23 years? not impressive

Bill Bennett

I agree with Neil Larkins! Given time, Fuller might have perfected the suspension and steering problems and had a real winner. I also agree with others here that aerodynamics has pretty much taken a back seat in recent years. Not only does it save gas, aerodynamic cars just look prettier!

Will, the tink

Stability is a fun issue - the lack of is not.

Just looking at it - I think the front wheels could have been much more widely spread - even to the external shell of the vehicle - or almost.

Mr Stiffy

ALL OF US commenting here may like function-driven aerodynamic cars, but the majority of the public does not. We are not representative of the populace. They just don\'t sell as good as a bland Camry.

That being said, a teardrop is not the only way to achieve low-drag aerodynamics. We ARE still learning ways to make vehicles aerodynamics without compromising the features that customers demand in their cars. Here\'s an example. Take a guess at which Chrysler car currently sold has the lowest coefficient of drag. The Viper? Ha, not even close. It\'s the Caravan/Town and Country. That blocky new design is quite low because of all the wind tunnel work they did. Small counter-intuitive tweaks make a big difference collectively.


Funny, while old dude certainly was/is a celebrated creative critter - although luckily it wasn\'t his imagination crapped out with this \"Dymaxion\" moniker, he would have to beat it past death referring to his creations! - back in the day when first I heard whispered tales of him he was called R. Buckminster. Oh well so it goes. But just unlike people such as that pompous overeducated chithead \"Doctor\" Slob Ballard what cannot be bothered to address a famous shipwreck upcoming on the 100th anniversary of her tragic loss as \"the\" Titanic [much less any of our proud Navy vessels], I must needs continue to call old boy respectfully by \"R.\" This weirdlooking doohickey looks more like an RV trailer or some watergoing vehicle than a \"car,\" but since these days every single truck from a pickup to SUVs to a [shriek!] Coke bottle conveyance to [scream!] a dump truck is commonly referred to as - old R. B. must be spinning even now - a \"car,\" his caravan-cum-passenger ferry can hardly be disqualified as such. It\'s this tired old world\'s loss that they don\'t build \'em anymore like either him or it.


neat ancient design !! would love to see it in person, physically. The Alfa Romeo Aperto/Chiuso Aerodinamico, of 1920-1930 was a similar attempt at MPV stationcar design. Those were the days. s.

Søren Algreen-ussing
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