American Masters Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud
Dymaxion Transport
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.