the six-meter, eleven-seater trike that for a (brief) time was the future of the car

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maybe the word “tricycle” automatically transports you to a corridor. A hallway with two girls and Danny Torrance pedaling. But no, today we come to talk about mobility. And by tricycle we don’t mean motorcycles with two front wheels that guarantee that extra stability.


Today we look at the 30’s of the last 20th century, when Richard Buckminster Fully (“Bucky”, to friends) had a vision: to build a six meter long trike for up to 11 passengers at breakneck speeds. The project, as expected seen with today’s eyes, ended up failing but has even raised the interest of Norman Foster.

This is the crazy story of Dymaxiona vehicle, dear and hated in equal parts, which raised so much expectation that General Motors had to face the withdrawal of its bank loans. All dreamed up by one man: Richard “Bucky” Fuller.

a visionary

It is not the first time that on the pages of Xataka you find a reference to Richard Buckminster Fuller. This man was an American architect who, in his day, was considered a visionary of the times that were to come. Decades later, he still has a multitude of admirers.

Fuller considered that the Earth “is like a spaceship that came without an instruction manual”. The consequences were disastrous. In his opinion, the human being was wasting lots of resources natives who did not get the whole project.

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His works sought to prioritize functionality above all else, but he considered that they had to be beautiful to understand them as his own. “When I work on solving a problem, I can’t think about beauty. But when I’m done, if the solution isn’t beautiful, then it’s wrong,” Fuller said.

To better understand what he meant, his projects began to bear the label Dymaxion, an abbreviation for “Dynamic Maximum Tension”, three words that Fully constantly made his own. From this premise a house was born, a Map and of course a car.

Dymaxion Patent

Dymaxion, the tricycle for 11 passengers

In 1933, Fuller felt that he could apply his work philosophy to the automotive world. With the clear objective of achieving more with less, he designed a six meter tricycle long with rounded shapes to be as efficient as possible and transport up to 11 passengers.

The vehicle had a front axle with two wheels and a rear axle with a single tire that also housed the steering of the car. Thus, this tricycle could turn 180º using its rear axle. In the rear area, a V8 engine of Ford origin was also included, which provided 86 CV of power.

The great advantage of Dymaxion it was very efficient. Its consumption was calculated at just 7.8 L/100km, really good figures for the time, especially if we take into account that it was intended to carry 11 passengers inside. But, in addition, its aerodynamics and low weight allowed it to reach a top speed of 193km/h.

Dymaxion Car Photo

a reality shock

The big drawback was, of course, in that lonely rear wheel. Although his figures were truly spectacular, the stability It was his unfinished business and the unintuitive driving, especially with a side wind, which took the colors out of his rear axle.

In fact, and although it has not been shown what really happened, one of the prototypes had an accident in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. After rolling over, two passengers were seriously injured and the driver died as the roof failed to withstand the impact on the ground.

This was the end for the Dymaxion. The accident scared investors away and the project ran out of possible funding. However, in the book “The Age Of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management” by Art Kleiner it is pointed out that General Motors was interested in the project but that its banks threatened to withdraw all its loans considering that the Dymaxion could eat up the entire car market.

Three units of the Dymaxion were built but only one remains. It’s in the National Automobile Museum of Reno, Nevada, and it is a piece that lacks an interior, since it was lost over the years and it has not been possible to know for sure what it was like inside. In addition to the damaged unit, the other prototype was lost over time.

However, the Dymaxion has transcended over time and even Norman Foster came to build a fourth unit of this peculiar vehicle. The project even has its own book.

maybe the word “tricycle” automatically transports you to a corridor. A hallway with two girls and Danny Torrance pedaling. But…

maybe the word “tricycle” automatically transports you to a corridor. A hallway with two girls and Danny Torrance pedaling. But…

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