It might have forever changed the way the world thought of transportation and altered the course of the automotive industry, were it not for a buzz-killing fatal crash at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and a fire that destroyed two of three completed prototypes. And we here at E3 Spark Plugs rather wish things had gone differently for Buckminster Fuller and his gleaming, three-wheeled road zeppelin.
Alas, just one Dymaxion car prototype survives locked away at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. But all that could change if the right bidder prevails. On June 6, a set of 18 blueprints believed to be the only Dymaxion-related items not currently stored in a museum or filed away in a university archive will be on the block at the Wright Auctions Important Design Sale in Chicago.
The ultra cool Dymaxion concept car traveled on three wheels, had room for 11 passengers and boasted a fuel efficiency of 30 mpg. It’s fastest documented speed was 90 miles per hour, though Fuller claimed it was capable of hitting 120 mph. The aerodynamic, teardrop-shaped body measured 20 feet in length – twice the length of a conventional automobile. The single rear wheel steered the Dymaxion, which proved a bit tricky in crosswind situations. It was powered by a rear-mounted Ford V8 engine and the front axle was actually the rear axle of a contemporary Ford roadster turned upside-down.
Fuller introduced his Dymaxion car at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – perhaps one of the most disastrous debuts ever. The vehicle rolled and although the driver was wearing a seatbelt, the prototype’s canvas roof proved poor protection. The accident killed the driver and seriously injured the two passengers, one of whom was aviation pioneer and Japanese spy William Sempill. Investors bolted and the Dymaxion never went into production. But the real reason for its disappearance may have had little to do with the crash, according to Art Kleiner’s 1988 book The Age of Heretics. He points the finger at bankers who threatened to recall their loans to Chrysler, worried that its imminent popularity would destroy sales of Chrysler rides already on the market. Still the Dymaxion proved influential, most notably in the design of the Fiat 600 Multipla, produced from 1955-1969.
The Dymaxion blueprints are expected to fetch upwards of $30,000. And while it’s entirely possible they’ll end up hidden away from the world in a private collection, we think it would rock if they landed in the hands of a visionary-a la Fuller who just may put the Dymaxion into production and on the road.
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