Mar 23 2015

Mystery Foto #12 Solved: Buckminister Fuller’s Dymaxion #3 Built at the Former Locomobile Factory

Art Kleiner challenged you again with this weekend's Mystery Foto.

Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify this automobile

The Dymaxion #3was photogrpahed in front of the Crystal House at the Chicago World's Fair in 1934.

It was one of three Dymaxions produced. Only one Dymaxion has survived and has been restored and displayed at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

  • Who was the prominent designer?

As written on "The Dymaxion car was designed by Buckminster Fuller in the early 1930s. The car featured highly innovative, and ultimately influential, features compared with the common car of the day including: a three wheel design with rear wheel steering and front wheel drive, a longer body (20 feet), and a highly aerodynamic design. Success of the design was realized in its performance efficiencies: the car could transport up to 11 passengers, reach speeds of up to 90 miles per hour, and ran 30 miles per gallon."

Buckminister Fuller discusses the Dymaxion.

Check out Amelia Earhart riding with Buckminister Fuller at the 27 second mark.

  • Provide one or more links to this vehicle to the Vanderbilt Cup Races

The 4D Company built the three protoype Dymaxions in a rented section of the former Locomobile Company's factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This was the very same factory where the Locomobiles in the 1905, 1906 and 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Races were manufactured. Additional links are provided in the Comments section.

In this film, Buckminister Fuller narrates the unveiling of the Dymaxion #1 in Bridgeport including a description of a race track at the Locomobile factory.

Congrats to Matt G., Dana Kroplick, R. Campbell, Robert Greenhaus, Greg O. Steve Lucas, Brian McCarthy, Sam Berliner #3, Tim Ivers, Frank Femenias (see Femenias' Findings), Art Kleiner and Tom Abbe for identifying the Dymaxion. Kudos to R. Campbell, Robert Greenhaus, Greg O., Steve Lucas, Brian McCarthy and Art Kleiner for linking the Dymaxion to the Vanderbilt Cup Races.


Howard Kroplick

Kleiner's Korner (Submitted by Art Kleiner)

The Dymaxion #3 shown in front of the Crystal House at the Chicago World's Fair in 1934.  Art Kleiner found the photo in the final edition of the Long Island Press, March 25, 1977.

The Lane Motor Museum Dymaxion Replica

A replica of the Dymaxion #1 has been built over the last eight years by the Lane Motor Museum of Nashville, Tennessee.

In an amazing coincidence, two days after posting this Mystery Foto, I met Jeff Lane and his Dymaxion at the 2015 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.

Jeff drove the Dymaxion 600 miles from Nashville to Amelia Island.

In 2013 Jeff Lane gave me a tour of his wonderful musuem.

Photos Courtesy of the Lane Motor Museum

 First running chassis ready for testing in 1933.

Dymaxion Car #1 (Two split windows on each side)

Dymaxion Car #2 (Three windows on each side)

The Dymaxion Car #2 was restored by Harrah's National Automobile Museum . The restoration was reviewed in the May 2014 issue of Hemmings Daily.

Dymaxion Car #3 with Buckminister Fuller (Three windows on each side with a rear fin)

Femenias' Findings (Submitted by Frank Femenias)

A recreated Dymaxion by Norman Foster

1933 Dymaxion

Buckminster Fuller and the Dymaxion

On the road

Buckminister Fuller Projects

Montreal Biosphere-1967

Dymaxion House

1945 Dymaxion House

Submitted by Tom Abbe

Dymaxion replica at the 2015 Amelia Concours d'Elegance

Tuesday Night Presentation

Newsday, March 23, 2015


Mar 19 2015 Matt C 11:25 PM

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car

Mar 20 2015 Ted 1:17 AM

No clue on this one. Know who would probable know something about this automobile,I’d bet Mr.Jaffey,the automobile designer.I wonder what the Crystal House is? I can’t make out what the rest of it says,something to do with cars. I’ll leave this one for the experts

Mar 20 2015 Dana Kroplick 4:40 AM

I know this one! It’s Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion car - a great car far too ahead of it’s time. Amazing turning radius. But got a bad rep when one was involved in a crash. Don’t know the connection to VCR though.

Mar 20 2015 R. Campbell 10:44 AM

OK—I’ll give it a try. The car is the Dymaxion, designed by architect Buckminster Fuller. Fuller is also well known for his geodesic domes. One of his domes is now the aviary in the Queens Zoo (Flushing Meadows).

Late last year there was a walk in support of a greenway along Motor Parkway East. The walk, August 10th, went from Flushing Meadows - Corona Park to the Long Island Motor Parkway. (Close enough?)

Mar 20 2015 R. Campbell 10:55 AM

This seems like a closer connection: The co-designer of the Dymaxion car was William Starling Burgess (yacht and airplane designer). Burgess also built Harold Stirling Vanderbilt’s America’s Cup defender Enterprise. In 1928, Harold Stirling Vanderbilt endowed the Vanderbilt Cup.

(If this confuses you it’s because HS Vanderbilt was an avid card player. The Vanderbilt Cup he endowed in 1928 was for contact bridge.)

Mar 20 2015 Robert Greenhaus 11:38 AM

Identify the automobile:

• The 1934 Dymaxion car #3.

Who was the automobile’s famous designer?

• American neo-futuristic architect, systems theorist, author, designer and inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller.

Provide a link between this automobile and the Vanderbilt Cup Races:

• R. Buckminster Fuller used the Dymaxion name as a brand for several of his designs and innovations.  One of those other designs was the Dymaxion house, which is on display at the Henry Ford Museum.  The Henry Ford Museum is also home to the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race-winning Locomobile racecar, “old 16”.

Mar 20 2015 Greg O. 4:32 PM

You had us all stumped (and cursing!) last week Art, so thanks for giving us an easier one this week!
I already knew a bit about it and Fuller, but mostly learned about the actual car while researching Mystery Foto #66 of the similar looking, (but much earlier) A.L.F.A. Aerodinamica in May last year.

Identify the automobile-
1933 Dymaxion car
From Wikipedia;
“The word Dymaxion is a brand name that Fuller gave to several of his inventions, to emphasize that he considered them part of a more general project to improve humanity’s living conditions.”

Who was the automobile’s famous designer?
The brilliant ‘father’ of the geodesic dome and the second president of Mensa from 1974 to 1983, Buckminster Fuller.

Provide one or more links between this automobile and the Vanderbilt Cup Races
The only link I can see would be that of the 3 original Dymaxion cars, car #2 ended up in Bill Harrah’s collection along with the Alco Black Beast.

Mar 20 2015 Steve Lucas 9:38 PM

That’s a 1933 “DYMAXION” 4D Transport designed by Richard Buckminster Fuller, who was also known as an architect, inventor, and author. He was also famous for developing the design of the Geodesic Dome. I managed to discover 2 links to Vanderbilt Cup Races: first- Fuller rented the former Locomobile factory in Bridgeport, CT for building the “DYMAXION”, the same factory that produced “Old Number 16”, the first American car to win a Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1908; second- the co-designer of the “DYMAXION” was William Starling Burgess, who also designed William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.‘s brother Harold Stirling Vanderbilt’s two Americas Cup winning yachts, “Enterprise” and “Ranger”. Interestingly, Fuller never thought of his vehicle as a car. He called it “the land-taxiing phase of a wingless, twin-orientable, jet-stilts flying device”.

Mar 21 2015 Greg O. 1:59 PM

...One more possible VCR link could be that the 3 Dymaxions were built in the old Locomobile factory in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Mar 21 2015 brian d mccarthy 3:13 PM

Identify this automobile….Dymaxion 3 wheel concept car. Designer….Richard Buckminster Fuller B. 7/12/1895 D. 7/1/1983. He was an American neo-futuristic architect, systems theorist, author, designer & inventor. In short, he was a man who really thought outside the box, and then some. He and fellow colleagues developed the Dymaxion car in the early 1930’s within Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Locomobile (1906 VCR Europe) was also produced in Bridgeport. And through researching about this mystery, Art Kleiner has written a book titled….Age of Heretics. I hav’nt read the book, but he does speak of Mr. Fuller and the automobile. There was a collision/with fatality involving this concept car and another auto at the 1933 Chicagos World Fair. The term “Dymaxion” described other designs that Mr. Fuller invented as well. As usual, behind every mystery; there’s a educational story to read.

Mar 22 2015 S. Berliner, III 2:37 PM

Coudn’t be easier for a car freak - Buckminster (“Bucky”) Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion car!  It had wheels and ran fast?  It (car #2) survives?  Actually, no clue as to any link.  Art Kleiner should know all about this one.  Sam, III

Mar 22 2015 Tim Ivers 4:12 PM

Looks like Buckminster Fuller’s DYMAXION prototype auto, a three wheeled auto at the 1933 Chicage Worlds Fair in front of the Crystal House.
Frequent contributor to this website (Art Kleiner) also wrote a 1988 book (The Age Of Heretics) in which he refers to the Dymaxion auto.

Mar 22 2015 frank femenias 8:17 PM

1933 Dymaxion No.2 (1 of 3 existing at the National Auto Museum, Reno, Nevada)

Designed by Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, an American neo-futuristic architect, systems theorist, author, designer, and inventor. 1895-1983

No.1 Dymaxion damaged at 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, caught fire in 1941.
No.3 scrapped at a junkyard in Wichita, Kansas.

Folks were uncomfortable with the single rear wheel steering design.

11 seater, Ford flathead V8, 85hp, 90mph, 30mpg, rear mount engine, front wheel drive, periscope in the rear.

Sending pics Howard of various designs

Mar 23 2015 Art Kleiner 7:08 AM

I came across some interesting connections between the Dymaxion, its creators Fuller and Burgess, and the Cup Races, some direct and others maybe a strectch.  Here are my submissions:
- Fuller and his partner in the Dymaxion design, William Starling Burgess, rented part of the Locomobile Bridgeport facility to build their car.  (Site of where cup racers were built)
- The Dymaxion appeared at Roosevelt Raceway in August of 1933.  (Route of races)
- Partner William Starling Burgess was primarily a builder of ships and built one named the “Brutal Beast”. (Obviously years after the “Black Beast”)
- Burgess was commissioned by William K. Vanderbilt’s brother, Harold Vanderbilt, to build his entries in the America’s Cup sailing races. (Family connection)
- Burgess’ company was eventually sold to Curtiss Aeroplane and Automobile Company. (Curtiss plant and airfield near route of race)
- Fuller had plans to create homes from prefabricated materials, similar to how Levittown homes were built. (Races ran through Levittown)
- Fuller and his Dymaxion favorably impressed Walter Chrysler and were invited to Chyrsler’s LI estate.  (I guess Howard is the connection here to the Vanderbilt Cup Races)

Mar 23 2015 Howard Kroplick 7:44 PM

From Tom Abbe:
I wonder if you knew the Dymaxion featured in your mystery photo was at the Concours?

Mar 23 2015 frank femenias 11:17 PM

I couldn’t find the VCR link, and tried again. You guys are way too much. Howard, you’re busy and we’re waiting. Concours?? Can’t be.

Mar 24 2015 Art Kleiner 11:49 AM

Glad to see others learned a bit about Fuller and his ideas (and sorry about last week’s mystery photo).  Fuller was rather fascinating!  Brian and Tim mentioned that I’ve written about the car in my book, “The Age of Heretics”.  This might be the case, but it was not my book (actually I’ve never written any books).  I share the name Art Kleiner with a much more scholarly person than I - I first found this out about 15 years ago when I started getting e-mails from people congratulating me on a book I had written, and I had to confess they had the wrong Art Kleiner.  I did correspond with the “other” Art Kleiner and did read a book or two of his, including the “The Age of Heretics”, but honestly don’t remember the Dymaxion in it.  Will go back and take it out again and see.  More recently, the “other” Art Kleiner is employed by a major management consultant of which my current employer uses and for which I’m the key contact.  In fact, some e-mails directed to me have actually been sent to the “other” Art Kleiner at the firm.  One of these days I need to physically meet my actual namesake, the “real” Art Kleiner”.  But thanks, Brian and Tim, for giving my ego a boost!

Mar 24 2015 brian d mccarthy 8:36 PM

Art….It was a nice surprise to come across “Art Kleiner” when I reading about Mr. Fuller on wikipedia. I know there’s quite a bit of Brian McCarthys out there. Pretty sure the LIMP website I viewed is yours. Between your own research and what you bring to Howard’s site, you writing about anything would’nt shock me at all.        BDM

Mar 25 2015 Art Kleiner 1:27 PM

Brian - thanks for he compliment, I think!  Here’s my website to be sure.

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