by J. Baldwin
Click the yellow arrows above to see other inventions.
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.
Click the picture above to examine a patent drawing.
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.