Please note that the cars or exhibit items shown in this database are part of our collection but may not be on display when you visit.
Buckminster Fuller had a long and productive career. He was a visionary that worked in many fields, from the environment to architecture. The Dymaxion, which is an acronym for DYnamic MAXimum TensION, was his most famous automotive project.
In 1933, Fuller convinced socialite and friend Anna Biddle to fund the building of the Dymaxion. Progress was rapid, as it was the Deep Depression, and the only thing in short supply was money. In March 1933, Fuller rented a workshop in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and hired a crew. In less than two months, a running chassis was done, and car #1 (of 3) was finished July 21, 1933. Built in only five months, it was sold to Al Williams of the Gulf Refining Company. Unfortunately, on October 27, 1933, car #1 was involved in an accident, killing two of the three occupants. It was repaired, and Gulf Oil continued to use it for promotional purposes.
Construction for car #2 began on September 25, 1933, and pre-sold to Fred Taylor, a London businessman. By the time the car was completed on January 6, 1934, Taylor did not want the car. Car #2 cost $7,688.00 to build (about $130,000 today).
In January 1934, Evangeline Stokowska commissioned car #3, which was finished in October 1934, and immediately displayed at the World’s Fair. The Stokowska’s took delivery of car #3 in November 1934, and sold it in September 1935. Fuller kept car #2 as a demonstrator, and in May 1935 while Fuller was driving with his wife and daughter, the car overturned. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
No more orders were forthcoming, and by 1935 Fuller was out of money, and the business closed its doors. Car #1 was destroyed in a fire in 1939; car #2 is the only survivor, and is now at the National Auto Museum in Reno, Nevada. It is believed car #3 was cut up for scrap in the 1950s.
The Dymaxion project lasted less than two years – a very short time. In most books about Buckminster Fuller, the Dymaxion is barely mentioned, or it might get one page of coverage, since Fuller was best known as the inventor of the Geodesic Dome. Although not a commercial success, the Dymaxion combined four unique features: 1. A fully streamlined body; 2. Rear-wheel steering; 3. Mid-engine/front-wheel drive; 4. A unique 3-frame chassis with the rear frame supporting the rear wheel, the middle frame supporting the engine and connecting to the front wheels, and the front frame supporting the body.
Could it have been made to work? Probably – with more money and increased engineering talent, the Dymaxion could have been a viable car for the 1930s, though it’s unlikely it could have been built for the masses because of its complexity. Fuller, ever the visionary, gave up when the money ran out, and moved on to the next forward-thinking project in his mind.
Manufacturer: 4D Dymaxion Corp.
Country of Origin: United States
Drivetrain Configuration: Mid-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine: Ford Flathead V-8, 221 cubic inches, 85 HP
Transmission: 3 speed manual
Top Speed: Claimed 120 MPH; probably 80 MPH realistically
Years of Production: 1933-1934
Number Produced: 3
Original Cost: Approx. $7,700