Friday, June 15, 2007

The Dymaxion Car

Buckminster Fuller designed the Dymaxion Car that was a miracle for its time and even for our time.

For those that haven't heard of it, the Dymaxion Car was a teardrop-shaped (least air resistance), 3-wheeled, rear-wheel (single) steering, 20 foot long, Aluminum bodied auto, designed by Buckminster Fuller in 1933 to achieve maximum output and service with minimum material input. It was about 6 feet tall (kinda like a big van), seated the driver and 10 passengers, weighed less than 1000 lbs., went 120 miles/hr on a 90 horsepower engine, and got between 30-50 miles to the gallon of gas.
The car was a revolution in 1933. It would still be a revolution in 2007.

You have to wonder why automobile designers are not looking at similar designs. Especially since electrical drive would do wonders in reducing the weight and increasing the control of the wheel motors.


Anonymous said...

An interesting thought. My guess is that nobody is looking at that type of design because 3-wheelers tend to be dynamically unstable. Especially when they're single rear-steering. Modern control systems can potentially compensate for that to a certain extent, but it would still be difficult under rough-road conditions. And, of course, there's no good fail-safe. Autos are required to have a direct mechanical linkage from the steering wheel to the steering mechanism in case of power failure. Power steering is really only power-assist steering.

The other big question is crash safety. Generally speaking, it's illegal to sell modern reproductions of old car designs, at least as production automobiles (kit-cars are another story). They are structurally not crash-worthy by today's standards. I don't know to what extent that would hamper a Dymaxion-type auto.

Not sure if these are the reasons nobody is looking at these types of designs. For all I know, it's out of institutional inertia. Just raising the questions.

Anonymous said...

Maybe because it's ugly.

That tends to matter with cars. Just the way people are, you know?

DWPittelli said...

The 3-wheel feature and rear steering aren't too important. And it's no big difficulty getting that sort of mileage if you have a 20-foot long teardrop shape and a weight of 1,000 pounds.

But nobody wants a 20-foot long 1,000-pound car. Can't park, maneuver, or garage it; and if you hit a normal 3,000-pound car, you will die.

M. Simon said...


Parking was easy. You nosed the front end into the space and then turned your motorized rear wheel 90 deg and rotated the rear into the space.

The car was designed to be as crash worthy as a light airplane i.e. very.

Seats 10. Or 2 plus a lot of groceries or lumber.

It just goes to show how far behind our automotive technology is.

How about 2/3s the length 3/4 the weight of the Dymaxion?

Any way what this shows is that current vehicles are not too aerodynamic. Not very innovatively designed.

bob said...

Problem is that it did not actually weigh 1000lbs.

"Contrary to various descriptions of the Dymaxion Car as, "... not much heavier than a VW Beetle." ...( the Drawing on page 163 of this publication, [], Labeled DISTRIBUTION of WEIGHT (loaded) shows 4850 lbs with 3450 lbs (71%) on the front wheels and 1400 lbs on the rear wheel."


Also note that Bucky crashed the car with his family in it, injuring them.

I doubt that this thing reached 120mph..

As far as current vehicles go, they are pretty aerodynamic. Auto makers go to a lot of effort to make them so, with the low Cd figures testifying to this.

I also read somewhere ( I will try to find) that it's a myth that teardrop shape is the most aerodynamic shape