There were only three Dymaxion cars ever made. One car survived a spectacular crash in 1933 in which its driver died. A second ferried H.G. Wells around Manhattan before it too spectacularly crashed (It eventually made its way to Arizona where it was restored by local engineering students). A third car was driven around the United States in 1944 to promote the Allied and then, as the folks at Annville Auto Center tell us, was sold for scrap. Such was the fate of the three original Dymaxion cars, brainchild of the truly Legendary R. Buckminster Fuller.
Billing himself as “a maverick thinker, a gentle revolutionist, a loveable genius, an anti-academician, doctor of science, doctor of arts, doctor of design,” among many other roles, “Bucky” aimed to build the most fuel-efficient and practical car on the road. He used the word Dymaxion to describe not just his automobiles but to identify many of his futuristic creations. Accordingly Bucky had designs for Dymaxion houses, appliances, even entire communities. Today he is regarded as a brilliantly original thinker.
Bucky’s Dymaxion cars were built in 1932 in Bridgeport, CT. All three utilized frames, gearboxes and V8 engines from 1932 Ford Sedans. They had two front wheels, just one in the rear and a wide-expansive windshield made up of facets of flat glass. The body was aluminum and built like a boat with internal rib-like wooden framework. Fuller claimed that the Dymaxion was capable of over 120 MPH, a speed that was only obtainable in dedicated racecars in the 1930s.
Just before Car #1 was finished, Fuller, who was known for his exaggeration, told a journalist that it had already “gone 100,000 miles with no problems” and that 100 more were being made. This was just hyperbole, of course, but Car #1 did make a triumphant journey to Manhattan before its fateful crash a few months later just outside Chicago.
Today, Dymaxion Number 2 is the only original Dymaxion that exists and it survives in the Harrah Collection of the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. Bucky never did change “the entire face of the automotive industry” with his Dymaxion cars but he certainly gave it a try.