Sunday YouTube Cinema: The Dymaxion Struts Its Stuff

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

The news that Norman Foster has finished building a Dymaxion replica had me checking to see if there are any good films of the Dymaxion in action. The pickings are slim, but this clip, without voice over but well chosen music, is pretty much it. One doesn’t really need that typical pedantic news reel voice over from the thirties anyway, to appreciate the Dymaxion’s qualities, including picking up a speeding ticket.

Here’s the newly built replica Dymaxion. Since the frame is an old ’33 Ford frame turned front to back, that probably wasn’t too hard to come up with, including the ford flathead V8 that drove the front wheels. The single steering rear wheel was a no-starter, as far as eventual public acceptance since in various situations, like a cross-wind, it required counter-intuitive inputs. But the Dymaxion was very efficient for the times, although it didn’t achieve many of designer Buckminster Fuller’s original claims, including a 120 mph top speed (90 actually), and a $200 price. A crash injured Bucky’s daughter, and he pulled away from the project, which quickly collapsed in bankruptcy.

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  • John Fritz John Fritz on Nov 01, 2010

    Many years ago I had a landscaping job where I drove a huge three-wheeled mower configured like the Dymaxion. Bad, bad things would happen to you if/when that rear steered wheel got out of its comfort zone. Especially at high speeds.

    • Hyundaivirgin Hyundaivirgin on Nov 01, 2010

      I think technology available today (ESC) may be able to fix any issues with three-wheel stability. Certainly with something that could turn within its own length, you wouldn't want to turn the wheel hard when going 60.

  • Uncle Mellow Uncle Mellow on Nov 01, 2010

    Interesting the way the flat glass is made to follow the shape of the body.

  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.
  • Pickles69 They have a point. All things (or engines/propulsion) to all people. Yet, when the analogy of being, “a department store,” of options is used, I shudder. Department stores are failing faster than any other retail. Just something to chew on.