Bizarre’s Dymaxion – So Which Version Was Actually Made?
by Harvey Goranson
Bizarre No. 1014, stated to represent the 1933 Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion, was just released. This has been a much anticipated model by some collectors, and I decided to do a little online research on the real cars as well as the man responsible.
Born in 1895, Richard Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller is remembered as an architect, author, inventor, designer, and humanitarian. He held 28 US patents, and is best remembered for popularizing the geodesic dome. These domes are latticework spheres, perhaps the best known being the Montreal Biosphere from Expo 67.
The Dymaxion (a conjunction of dynamic maximum tension) was intended to maximize both speed and fuel efficiency. Construction took place at an old Locomobile factory building in Bridgeport, CT. Design features included three wheels (two front and one rear). Steering was via a single wheel at the rear, which must have made for some very touchy corrections at high speed, but ease in parking with a near zero turning radius. The rear-mounted Ford V8 engine drove a front-mounted axle (the reverse of the 1932 Ford V8 layout). The body was sheet aluminum on an ash wood frame.
There were three original Dymaxions. Dymaxion #1 was built in 1933 and originally sold to Al Williams, who held the world speed record for seaplanes at the time. It was painted a light color, possibly white based on period B&W photos, and had rounded glass at the front. The car was involved in a fatal accident just as it was to be featured at the 1933-34 Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair, when a Chicago park commissioner hit it at speed causing it to roll over. The car was subsequently repaired and resold, only to be destroyed in a fire at the Bureau of Standards in 1943. A replica of Dymaxion #1 is in the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville Tennessee.
Dymaxion #2 was to have been sold to a group of English investors, but they backed out following the publicity following the crash of Dymaxion #1. The #2 car was completed in January 1934, was dark overall, and had an improved frame with a multi-piece windscreen of flat panes. Fuller sold it to his own mechanics and later it reportedly ended up as a chicken coop somewhere. Eventually the remains of the car ended up in the Harrah collection (now National Automobile Museum in Reno), after display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It was here that it had been made presentable with white-painted windows, probably because the interior was shot. Present color appears to be dark blue.
Dymaxion #3 was a bit heavier than the previous cars but looked a lot like #2. Paint was reportedly emerald green with a white top and blue formica interior. This one made it intact to the 1934 year of the Chicago World’s Fair. Later it was sold to Leopold Stokowski, who found the handling quite unnerving. After a succession of owners, it was reported as sold for scrap during the Korean War.
More lore of the original Dymaxion cars can be found in a timeline here: http://www.washedashore.com/projects/dymax/chronology.html . And as can be expected, Wikipedia has more details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_car
In 2009, UK coachbuilder Crosthwaite and Gardiner was contracted to recreate Dymaxion #3, which we should probably call #4. Architect Norman Foster championed this endeavor, and, as part of the deal, Dymaxion #2 was shipped to Sussex for an interior restoration. Dymaxion #4 emerged by 2010 as a very faithful replica of #3. Details of Foster’s replica are here: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/oct/05/norman-foster-dymaxion-buckminster-fuller
Now to the Bizarre model . Contrary to reports from some collectors on the Forum 43 website, my example is well finished and assembled. The model has the proper front-raised stance on wire wheels, which would have been correct for a 1933-34 Ford chassis and which are just barely evident in a period photo. The interior color is white with black seats and a reddish wood-like dash. All the vents, door handles, etc. are there, along with “Dymaxion” decals in white at the appropriate places. The only minor criticism I can make concerns the front horizontal portion of the bumper which was molded integrally with the body – it should be spaced out with a small air gap like the rear.
So, did Bizarre make a replica of the original or the replica? First off, it looks like car #3 vs. #1 or #2, and on that basis should have been called a 1934 at least. This is based on the flat pane windshield and the white roof. I looked at the orange turn indicator lights, and thought those were a much more recent innovation, but then the #2 car seems to have orange ones too. Still, they could have been replaced at some point since 1934. But then there’s the interior, white with black seats and “wood” dash like #4. Not blue, like the formica reported to have been placed inside #3. Given the access to the replica available today since the original is gone, I have to conclude this is more Foster replica than Fuller original. I would be interested to hear what other collectors think.
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