In 1934, the socialite and actress Dorothy Hale took a roadtrip through Connecticut with 2 old friends, writer Claire Boothe Luce and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. They drove in a special car Noguchi had designed with his drinking buddy, futuristic inventor Buckminster Fuller. The car was called the Dymaxion.
The 20-foot long aluminum-bodied Dymaxion car caused a traffic jam wherever it went. This was between the 2 world wars when cars were sedans and pick-ups. “Bucky’s” car was shaped like a teardrop and ran on 3 wheels. It went 90 m.p.h. and got 30 m.p.g. The 3-wheeler made a 360 degree turn on a dime. A periscope that came out of the roof gave extra visibility. It seated 11 passengers.
It was the car of the future – for a while. Unfortunately, only 3 Dymaxion cars were ever produced. Orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski bought one. Amelia Earhart was interested in investing. Financing was a problem and Fuller was running out of cash.
Any hope of putting the Dymaxion in full-scale production dried up quickly when the car was involved in a fatal accident at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Another car was blamed for the crash but that didn’t stop the negative publicity for the Dymaxion.
Sadly, only one of the Dymaxions exists today. You can view the restored exterior of the car at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. Disappointingly, though, the car windows are painted opaque from the inside to prevent you looking inside. Evidently, the inside was in very bad shape when the car was acquired and little information exists as to its original look in order to guide the museum restoration artists. The rumor is that the car had been used as a chicken coop somewhere in the Midwest before it was discovered, which explains the wrecked state of the interior!
View this youtube video to see the amazing turning radius of the Dymaxion. While you’re viewing, keep a lookout for Amelia Earhart in the back seat.
For more on Dorothy Hale, see my most popular post, “Frida Kahlo: The Suicide of Dorothy Hale.”