A deep passion for automobiles and aircrafts united Buckminster ‘Bucky’ Fuller and Norman Foster upon meeting and led them to initiate a series of collaborations beginning in the 1970s. Given this important history of mutual influence, the Norman Foster Foundation holds in its collections several models and drawings of seminal projects by Fuller, including the Dymaxion Car project explored in this collection. Combining the concepts of DYnamism + MAXimum + tensION, Fuller developed the Dymaxion Car through several prototypes and iterations  beginning in 1929.

Dymaxion Car

Archive Collection


























































Model of Dymaxion Car #1
Dymaxion Car Patent #2, 101,057, Buckminster Fuller, Sadao & Zung Architects
Model of Dymaxion Car #2 Frame
Model of Dymaxion Car #3

As a pilot, Fuller held a fundamental understanding of aerodynamics which lent itself to innovative innovations in both building designs, structural components, and cars. Applying streamline premises, and with the help of Isamu Noguchi, in 1928 Fuller created a concept of the 4D Transportation Unit, that would later develop into the Dymaxion Car. By applying streamline forms to cars, Fuller wanted to prove how air resistance could be significantly improved compared to standard automobile designs of the period. The 4D Transportation unit would work as a car, yet as opposed to conventional transport at the time, it would be steered by rudder rather than by wheels. 


While the 4D Transportation Unit was left as a concept, years later, Fuller would return to its fundamental premises once partnered with Starling Burgess, a popular aircraft and racing yachts designer at the time. Bucky’s passion for aircrafts and aerodynamics and Burgess commercial and fabrication knowledge resulted into a car that merged aerospace and nautical influences. As Bucky said ‘I wanted it to fly the way a duck flies: a duck doesn’t soar like a seagull can; it has to flap its wings very rapidly and has jets under each of its wings…it lifts and plummets.’


The first Dymaxion car was released on July 1933. The car featured highly innovative, and ultimately influential, features compared with the common car of the day. It was a white tear-shaped automobile, that included, for the first time, a three-wheel design with rear wheel steering and front wheel drive. As seen in the model of the Dymaxion Car 2 frame, the Dymaxion body functioned like a boat: it consisted of a plywood frame sheathed in extremely lightweight aluminium. By October of the same year, the patent for the Dymaxion Car 1, seen on the left, was presented, and finally approved in 1937.


The Dymaxion #2 was commissioned by an English businessman seeking to market the car internationally. It was built around a Ford X-Frame following its predecessor’s scheme, but this time it was widened by roughly 8 inches to accommodate a bigger cabin. This second version was completed in January 1934. To give it a fresh new appearance, black colour was selected for its coating.


Dymaxion #3, also built on a Ford chassis, began production on March 1934. It included new modifications based on prior observations from the Dymaxion #2 including among others, a central tail fin which improved lateral stability. This last version, as seen in the model, was painted emerald green with cream roof.


Following Fuller’s investigations, in 2010 Norman Foster decided to prototype a fourth version of the Dymaxion car. This new Dymaxion #4 departed from Dymaxion #3, including Fuller’s amendments to this version. Dymaxion #4 was presented in the exhibition ‘Bucky Fuller and Spaceship Earth’ hosted at Ivorypress, Madrid.