Bucky Fuller was a renaissance man ahead of his time… Known mostly for his Dymaxion “Dwelling Machine,” a spaceship-looking house intended for mass-production, he also dabbled in poetry, art, math, sailing, and, of course, automobile design. His one major foray into the automotive world, the Dymaxion Car, seems to combine all his interests into one bizarre, futuristic piece that Jeff Lane has spent 9 years recreating for an epic 600 mile road trip this spring to the Ritz Carlton at Amelia Island.
If you’re not lucky enough to see this 11-passenger, 3-wheeled bizarro creation at Amelia Island or on the road en route, you can see it on display at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville. (You know, Jeff’s little collection of absolutely incredible cars. See more pictures of the museum here).
Although it took 9 years to build, Lane never gave up on his dream of loading the beast full of his buddies and heading off on an epic road trip. His dream will finally become a reality this March as they go from making small day trips to putting the Dymaxion replica on the road in a really big way- accepting an invitation to display her at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. (600 miles away from the Lane Museum)
Normally, this sort of road trip only takes a day in a new car, but the Dymaxion replica is, in many ways, still a car from the 1930s, especially its engine- a 1933 Ford flathead. It’s 3-wheels (with the rear wheel pivoting) also creates a, uh, unique driving experience. Hemmings quotes Lane:
We just took it for a 40-mile trip today, and it’s kind of like driving a 20-foot-long forklift. Though it’s really not all that bad now that we have a body on it—it’s really very quiet with the engine in the rear and doesn’t have as many vibrations as one would expect for a Thirties car.
This Dymaxion is actually a combination of the 3 originals with the body design mostly from Dymaxion #1 and the chassises from #2 and #3. He has also made some upgrades to make it more road-worthy like swapping the original chain & cable brakes/steering systems for hydraulic brakes and steering.
Lane isn’t the only person to catch the Dymaxion bug. During Lane’s nearly decade of work on the project, Lord Norman Foster in the UK had a replica of the Dymaxion #3 built for him, and in the process the builders, Crosthwaite & Gardiner, also restored the only Dymaxion in the world today, #2. You can see it in the National Automobile Museum (See more pictures here).
If you want to see Lane’s Dymaxion replica, hurry over to the Lane Motor Museum before March 11th, hop down to Amelia Island during the show in March, or try the museum again later in the spring.
More information about the only remaining Dymaxion from the National Automobile Museum:
[Fuller] designed (with the help of Starling Burgess and Anna Biddle) the Dymaxion, one of the most significant and progressive cars ever built in the early 1930s. Burgess, a famous naval architect and aircraft builder, was hired to engineer the car and direct its construction. Biddle, a wealthy Philadelphia socialite and longtime friend of Fuller, agreed to financially back the project. The three-wheeled cars were built in the old Locomobile factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Fuller coined the word “Dymaxion” from dynamic, maximum, and tension. To Fuller, a three-wheeler wasn’t radical, it was simply logical. He didn’t care about marketing statistics, buyer profiles, or luxury styling cues. This highly streamlined car used a Ford V-8 engine at the rear to drive two front wheels. The single rear wheel steered like the rudder of a ship. Since the rear wheel could pivot 90 degrees, the car could easily turn on its own axis, giving the driver the sensation of meeting himself coming.
One of the most radical features of the Dymaxion design was that it was mounted on two frames, hinged at the front, with one frame carrying the engine and drive chain while the other carried the rear wheel mount, suspension and steering. There were no rear windows, just a periscope. Top speed was about 120 mph with fuel economy between 25 and 30 mpg. Adverse publicity from a fatal accident involving car number one tainted the future of the Dymaxon. During 1933 and 1934, three Dymaxions were built before Fuller ran out of cash. Number one and number three have disappeared; this is number two.
And for those of you in love with his “Dwelling Machine,” you can actually tour it at The Henry Ford. We have. It’s awesome.