March 15, 2011
On July 21, 1933, Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car made its debut to cheering crowds in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Looking nothing like the standard Fords that were its contemporary, the teardrop-shaped three-wheeler had the curved hull of a yacht and was almost zeppelin-like in stature—in fact, it had been built by William Starling Burgess, a preeminent aircraft and boat designer who moonlighted as a poet. It also offered superior gas mileage (35 mpg to the Ford V-8’s 18) and roughly three times the passenger space as the V-8. The car was part of a larger Dymaxion project—the word is a combination of Fuller favorites: dynamism, maximum and tension—that the inventor was working on, which included plans for a Dymaxion house. A combination of setbacks resulted in producing only three of the vehicles. Then, in 2008, British architect Norman Foster, who had worked with Fuller in the ’70s and early ’80s, decided to commission Crossthwaite & Gardiner, a British firm that reproduces ’30s racecars, to create a fourth. Like the originals, no. 4 was built from the chassis and parts of a 1934 Ford V-8 Tudor sedan. The rest was crafted to order, and the creation debuted last fall at Ivorypress Arts + Books Space, a Madrid gallery and bookstore founded by Foster’s wife, Elena Ochoa Foster. Out this month from the gallery’s publishing venture, the 223-page Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Car uses archival and contemporary blueprints, handwritten notes and sketches, and period photos, including images of the plaster models done by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, to tell the full story of a visionary vehicle that looks just as futuristic today as it did in 1933. $75; ivorypress.com.