|Buckminster 'Bucky' Fuller.|
American architect, systems theorist, author,
designer, inventor, futurist, and
a proponent of the geodesic dome.
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 car.at their factory which was the former Locomobile Dynamometer building, Tongue Pointe, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
|The Dymaxion Blueprint Drawings|
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|
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|
|Dymaxion Prototype № 3|
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
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.