The Dymaxion was the talk of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Folks weren’t really ready for continental flight quite yet and the 11-passenger, 30 mile-per-gallon, 120 mph Dymaxion showed promise as a personal bullet train of sorts. Throw the family in the back, strap the luggage to the top in specially built pods, and drive from New York to California in half the time it would take in a regular automobile.
“Bucky” Fuller was the man behind the idea and had spent most of the decade preparing the Dymaxion for it’s initial debut. He started with a grand vision of a flying car with “jump jet” capabilities but decided that the alloys required to build such a machine weren’t quite available yet. Grounded, Bucky concentrated on more traditional materials and his borrowed Ford Flathead blocks.
When his brain finally took a rest and his pencil went on break, the three wheeled, front-wheel drive, flathead powered (85 hp), Dymaxion was what remained. It was an extremely futuristic form with the function to match, but had one shortcoming that would prove to be enough to lead to the demise of the concept. The single rear wheel of the car was driveless, but was used to give the car direction. This made the car very nimble for it’s size, but the odd setup was incredibly counterintuitive for drivers – steer right to go left, left to go right.
During the ’33 fair, a prototype was cruising the fairgrounds when it was rumored that the reverse steer setup lead to a fatal crash. Investors pulled out, banks wanted their dough back, and Bucky moved on… The Dymaxion was dead.