Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Dymaxion Car - Displayed at the 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois.

Buckminster 'Bucky' Fuller.
American architect, systems theorist, author,
designer, inventor, futurist, and
a proponent of the geodesic dome.
Richard Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller's idea was to build a vehicle, or as Fuller termed it, "Omni-Medium Transport," a vehicle that could go anywhere; land, sea and air. The Dymaxion would ultimately have "wheels for ground travel and jet stilts for instant takeoff and flight."

Jet stilts were Fuller's placeholder idea for a future technology that could provide compact, concentrated lift — twenty years before the commercial availability of jet engines.

In the late 1920s experiments were being undertaken to test the aerodynamics of automobiles.

One result of these tests was three prototype Dymaxion 3-wheelers built by the 4D Company (4D stood for Four Dimensional, a term used in physics and mathematics, referring to length, width, depth and time.) in the United States.

The term "DYMAXION" comes from the words: DYnamic, MAXimum, and tensION.

Fuller conducted wind-tunnel test on three-wheeled teardrop shapes with a V shaped groove running under the vehicle.  A rudder was also added to the vehicles and Fuller intended that this would unfold from the upper side of the tail and provide stability.

The 4D Corporation built three prototypes of the Dymaxion their factory which was the former Locomobile Dynamometer building, Tongue Pointe, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The Dymaxion Blueprint Drawings
In 1933 Fuller hired Starling Burgess, an naval architect and a crew of expert sheet metal workers, woodworkers, former coach builders and machinist and they designed and built Dymaxion car № 1 which was shown publicly in July 1933.  As a result of enclosing all the chassis and wheels in a streamlined shape Fuller is reported to have driven at 120 mph with a 90 hp engine.  

A conventional 1933 car would have required, Fuller estimated, at least a 300 hp engine. Fuller also claimed that fuel consumption of the Dymaxion car № 1 was 30% less than a conventional car at 30mph and 50% less at 50mph. The Dymaxion weighed in around 1600 lbs, and measured 20 feet long. It was extraordinary maneuverability and could make a U-turn within its own length.
Dymaxion Prototype № 1
The two front wheels of the Dymaxion № 1 were driven by a Ford V-8 engine. The single wheel at the rear was steerable. Soon after launching Prototype № 1, Fuller was invited to exhibit the Dymaxion at a Bronx race track, beating the track speed record by 50% and drawing attention because it didn't slide or drift across the track like the other race cars.

A highly publicized accident in prototype № 1 on October 27, 1933 occurred "virtually at the entrance to the Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair." Another car, driven by a Chicago South Park Commissioner, had hit the Dymaxion, causing it to roll over — killing the dymaxion's driver (race car driver Francis T. Turner of Birmingham, Alabama) and seriously injuring its passengers: aviation pioneer (and noted spy) William Sempill — and Charles Dollfuss, Air Minister of France. The politician's car was quickly and illegally removed from the scene of the accident before reporters arrived. Turner was wearing a seatbelt, but was killed when the canvas-covered roof framing collapsed. Dollfuss was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected and landed nearby on his feet. Sempill was severely injured and took months to recover before he could testify at the subsequent inquest. The Dymaxion itself had rolled over and was badly damaged, but was subsequently repaired by Fuller and Burgess.

In the press, no mention was made that the Dymaxion had been involved in a two-car accident. Instead, the cause of the accident was attributed to the car’s unconventional configuration: headlines in New York and Chicago read "Freak car rolls over — killing famous driver — injuring international passengers".

The subsequent formal investigation, a coroners inquest (because someone had died) was delayed sixty days, in order to receive Sempill's testimony. It found the actual cause of the impact was a collision with a car driven by the Chicago South Park commissioner who wanted a closer look at the Dymaxion — and immediately left the scene after hitting the Dymaxion and causing the accident.  According to the official coroners inquest, the two vehicles were traveling at 70 mph, with Turner trying to evade the politician's car. The inquest found the design of the Dymaxion was not a factor in the accident.

On Dymaxion cars, № 2 and 3 an angled periscope had been added to help compensate for the lack of a rear window.  Initially the car created vast attention where ever it went. Although the accident investigation of car № 1 exonerated the Dymaxion car, the vehicle received a bad reputation and the British group cancelled their order for the Dymaxion car № 2.
Dymaxion Prototype № 2
The Dymaxion car № 3 was featured in the finale of Edward Hungerford's "Wings of a Century" exhibit at the 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair held in Chicago, Illinois. The Wings of a century production took place daily on an open air stage opposite the Travel & Transport Building which housed displays.
Dymaxion Prototype № 3
The design of the Dymaxion cars were one of the biggest breakthroughs in automobile design since the car had originated some fifty years earlier.

Prototype № 1 was badly damaged in the noted car accident at the time of the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress fair. The car was repaired and sold to the director of the automotive division of the U.S. Bureau of Standards, only to be subsequently destroyed in a fire at the Washington D.C. garage of the U.S. Bureau of Standards.

Prototype № 2 survives in the Harrah Collection of the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. Prototype Two was initially purchased by Alfred Williams, manager of the Gulf Refining Company and driven cross country in a nationwide advertising promotion of aircraft fuel. Fuller notes that good friend Amelia Earhart asked that the Dymaxion be her official car for the celebration of her receiving the National Gold Medal from National Geographic. Dymaxion car № 2 was driven to Washington and garnered considerable publicity.

Prototype № 3 changed hands many times but was lost, presumed scrapped, in the 1950s, once owned by Leopold Stokowski, it was estimated to have been driven over 300,000 miles.
The Foster Dymaxion Replica was built in October 2010, by architect and student of Buckminster Fuller, Sir Norman Foster. Foster's team conducted extensive research to replicate its interior, which had completely deteriorated on the only surviving prototype and had not been well documented. Foster was able to borrow Prototype Two under the condition he would also restore its interior. Prototype № 2 was shipped to the U.K. in order for the work to be carried out before returning to the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

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