Created in 1933 by Buckminster Fuller the Dymaxion Car was his attempt to explore the assumptions that underlay the nature of the idea of a “car” in 1930s society. The Dymaxion Car was built around the engine and drive train of a contemporary Ford car for 1933, however Fuller completely changed the layout and design of the car. The engine was pushed to the rear of the vehicle, which featured only one wheel, and the operator was centered over/near the front axle, to provide the car with greater stability in travel. Fuller went with a design that included a considerable number of windows to increase visibility and its “teardrop” shape to take maximum advantage of aeronautical efficiency. The Dymaxion Car was designed to seat a total of eleven people (including the driver) and was estimated by Fuller to be able to reach a theoretical top seed of 120 miles per hour. (In actual performance it only reached 90 miles per hour in operation.) It was also found to have an average fuel efficiency of thirty miles to the gallon, which for the 1930s was an unheard of level of fuel efficiency. The Dymaxion Car also had an incredibly tight u-turn radius.
So the question one must ask – why didn’t this idea take off in the 1930s? Was it too “radical for the times” or did it push the boundaries of “conventional thought” as some contest many of Fuller’s ideas were prone to do? Perhaps, as one author has contended, it was a sinister cabal of bankers threatening the funding of Chrysler, which was interested in the concept car, due to the danger this miracle car represented to existing car models and used car lines! This was the bleeding edge of 1930s automobile thinking to some people looking back, of course it would be crushed by big auto!
The reality though is a great deal more prosaic, the car had issues in cross-winds, specifically it got very wobbly and extremely hard to manage in even moderate winds. Worse while driving around during the 1933 Worlds Fair, where it was being shown off, the Dymaxion Car rolled over and injured the individuals riding inside of it. Despite several additional prototypes he tinkered with regularly for several years, Fuller simply could not get the car stable in cross-winds. This problem is actually fairly common to three wheeled vehicles, a single wheel in the rear or the front makes for a wobbly car, often times in not unusual driving circumstances.
The Dymaxion Car, like so many other Fuller ideas, was eventually abandoned by its creator who moved on to new concepts to make the world a better place. Overall as a car it was revolutionary but, like many amazing new technological ideas, when actually put into testing it failed to meet one of the basic requirements expected of it, mainly, not rolling over.