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Transportation Technology

Dymaxion Car Being Restored 121

Posted by kdawson
from the car-of-the-future-yesterday dept.
An anonymous reader notes that R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car is being restored by the company Crosthwaite and Gardiner. Only three of the vehicles were produced in the 1930s and only one survives. "Synchronofile.com has been granted the great honor of announcing the restoration of the Dymaxion Car — because our readers are now invited to help in the project. Can you identify the manufacturer for the component shown at the link?"
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Dymaxion Car Being Restored

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  • by jarocho (1617799) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @10:58PM (#29511483)
    I mean, it's so obvious.
  • by TheBilgeRat (1629569) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:00PM (#29511499)
    Now THAT'S a name that means quality. Say it a couple of times with a slightly chilled gin and vermouth resting idly in one hand and a fag in the other.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Slashdot users
      Get their knowledge
      From many years
      In junior college.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Burma Shave

    • ... and no reference would be complete without a mention of the work that they did for Audi restoring Auto Unions from the 30s:

      http://www.ianmacfarlane.co.uk/ianHome.htm [ianmacfarlane.co.uk]
      http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=i7pI99iOezo [youtube.com]

      (I was lucky enough to see the both reproduction and restored C and D types running at Donington a few years ago)

  • by TheBilgeRat (1629569) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:06PM (#29511533)
    From Wikipoedia:

    The Dymaxion car was a concept car designed by U.S. inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller during 1933. The word Dymaxion is a brand name that Fuller gave to several of his inventions, to emphasize that he considered them part of a more general project to improve humanity's living conditions. The car had a fuel efficiency of 30 miles per US gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp). It could transport 11 passengers. While Fuller claimed it could do speeds of 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), the fastest documented speed was 90 miles per hour (140 km/h).
    not bad for a 30's car and a V8 (albeit an 84hp V8).
    • by wisty (1335733) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:27PM (#29511647)

      It's on Damn Interesting as well: http://www.damninteresting.com/the-extraordinary-dymaxion-automobile [damninteresting.com]

      The car flopped because the prototype had a fatal accident in an auto show, so the investors pulled out.

      • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:15AM (#29511951)

        More precisely,

        The Dymaxion was later exonerated when an investigation showed that the other driver had likely been at fault, but the damage wreaked by the negative press had condemned the project to the scrap heap of history.

      • by Slugster (635830) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @07:06AM (#29513543)
        The car was dangerous because it used rear-wheel steering.
        In at least this respect, B. Fuller should have taken the advice of automotive industry engineers of the day, who would have told him that this (steering arrangement) was a waste of time. It is generally presumed to be impossible to build a mechanical rear-wheel-steering system that exhibits positive stability (that being the natural tendency to hold a straight line, AND to return to a straight line on its own when you release the steering controls in a turn).

        Positive stability isn't necessary for slow vehicles such as forklifts and construction and agricultural tractors, but it is critical for high-speed vehicles.

        I recall reading that one (Dymaxion) was eventually converted to front-wheel steering, just so that it could to an exhibition run on a test track at typical car speeds.
        ~
        • by xmundt (415364) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @08:36AM (#29514037)

          Greetings and salutations...
                    First off, please understand that I consider Bucky Fuller to be in the running for the smartest inventor of the 20th century, and, (at least SO far) the 21st, so I have a small amount of bias towards him. Do a bit of research and SEE what basic parts of today's society his inventions have become - say, like Celotex.
                    Now, as for the Dymaxion car... Here is an interesting link that seems to be a pretty complete history.
          http://www.washedashore.com/projects/dymax/chronology.html
                    The car was, as is pointed out, a concept car, and, was in the process of evolving through its three incarnations. Each one was further away from the "pie in the sky" design, and closer to something that could be put in the hands of the average idiot, without them killing themselves in the first thirty minutes. The car also had some PRETTY innovative designs in it, including state of the art materials, and, individual suspension on all the wheels, with a decoupling of the body from the chassis, producing a VERY smooth ride. In "the Dymaxion world of Buckminster Fuller", it is quoted that the car could drive across a plowed field, at high speed, with the passengers feeling very little vibration or jostling.
                        I also question your assertion that rear wheel steering is unstable or dangerous. It is, I agree, different in its response to steering commands, but, I am not entirely sure that it is SO different that it is hard to get used to. I would think that the appropriate caster angle would tend to push the steered wheel back to a straight position, just as it works with front steered vehicles.
                        Your recollection as correct, but incomplete, as the third model of the Dymaxion car was a ALL-WHEEL steered vehicle.
                          Another poster says something about the danger of roll-overs. Fuller understood physics quite well, which is why the single wheel was located in the rear. Trikes are only prone to rolling over because the force vectors are unsupported by a single FRONT wheel. By putting the two wheels up front, it brings great stability to the vehicle. As an example of this...take a wheel barrow...put a bunch of stone in it, then, try pushing it along the ground, with the single wheel out front. It is hard to keep it upright and stable, and, to make turns. Then, take the same wheelbarrow, and, PULL it along by the handles. All of a sudden that wheelbarrow becomes a model of stability and maneuverability.
                          Regards
                        Dave Mundt

          • by RingDev (879105) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:39AM (#29515407) Homepage Journal

            The 2-front 1-rear three wheeler design is vastly supervisor to the 1-front 2-rear. But the big problem I see with the Dynamaxion is three fold:

            1) In an emergency situation, people react by crushing the break pedal. In a front wheel steering car this increases the down force on the steering wheels, improving traction, and gives the driver more control over the car. In a rear wheel steering vehicle, when the breaks are applied hard, weight still transfers from the rear axle to the front. But that means less down-force on the rear wheel and less steering control.

            2) The cab forward design of the body put the majority of the vehicle's weight over the front axle already making the vehicle steer and handle worth a crap even under only moderate breaking.

            3) The accident that kill the driver was the other vehicle's driver's fault. But that driver was guilty of following too close. When the driver of the Dynamaxion hit the breaks (transferring weight to the front axle, and the person following too close hit the REAR of the Dynamaxion, the vehicle flipped forward. Even though it was the other drivers fault, it was the incredibly poor design of the vehicle that allowed it to roll in such a manor.

            There were amazing technological feats to this car, but the single rear wheel steering combined with the cab forward body was absolutely 100% retarded.

            If you want to see the pinnacle of 3-wheeler technology, look into the T-Rex http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-Rex_(automobile) [wikipedia.org] And Aptera http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aptera_2e [wikipedia.org] or some of the tilt-steering prototypes.

            -Rick

        • The car was dangerous because it used rear-wheel steering.

          In at least this respect, B. Fuller should have taken the advice of automotive industry engineers of the day, who would have told him that this (steering arrangement) was a waste of time. It is generally presumed to be impossible to build a mechanical rear-wheel-steering system that exhibits positive stability (that being the natural tendency to hold a straight line, AND to return to a straight line on its own when you release the steering controls in a turn).

          Positive stability isn't necessary for slow vehicles such as forklifts and construction and agricultural tractors, but it is critical for high-speed vehicles.

          I recall reading that one (Dymaxion) was eventually converted to front-wheel steering, just so that it could to an exhibition run on a test track at typical car speeds.

          ~

          Thrust SSC used single rear wheel steering and it broke the sound barrier.

          • Technically, it had two closely-spaced wheels in the back. But I think that the huge airplane-like stabilizer fins had more to do with keeping it pointed forward than any of its wheels did.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Looks like he invented the first mini van!

        Wait for it..

        For Soccer moms.

        Yes, it's a joke that requires thinking, sorry.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      damm.. 1933 and it got 36 mpg.

      76 years later. and my car gets 34 mpg.

      theres something really wrong with this...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        wrong. 1933 it got 36mpg WITH A V8 ENGINE and a 20 FOOT LONG BODY.
        geniuses like fuller arent around anymore. dont you love progress ?
         

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Waffle Iron (339739)

          wrong. 1933 it got 36mpg WITH A V8 ENGINE and a 20 FOOT LONG BODY.
          geniuses like fuller arent around anymore. dont you love progress ?

          I've long been a fan of this vehicle, but it's basically a light airplane fuselage stripped of wings and control surfaces. Of course it will have great economy and straight-line performance. That doesn't make it a practical, comfortable or safe ground vehicle.

          Modern computerized control systems could probably address its stability issues, but a competitive modern version would probably have to be much heavier to provide crashworthiness, sound deadening, climate control, etc. Highway mileage would always be

      • by Jurily (900488)

        That we still use fossils.

      • Nothing against Bucky, but I wonder what kind of mileage you'd get if your car didn't have all the various emission and safety features that decrease mileage.

  • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:08PM (#29511543) Homepage

    After reading the "summary" and all the links I still don't know what any of this means. From what I gather three cars were made in the 1930s and they need to know who made the turn signals. Thats about all so far....

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)

      You'll know more than most slashdotters after the 3MB of images linked from the summary brings that server to its knees.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Car by the guy [wikipedia.org] who got buckminsterfulerine or buckyballs [wikipedia.org] (of nanotechnology fame) named after him. Famous for his geodesic dome designs. He was somewhat of a quirky inventor type. Now hand in your geek card ;-)

  • Pictures (Score:5, Informative)

    by vxvxvxvx (745287) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:08PM (#29511551)

    Seriously, an article on some obscure car should include at least one image so we know what the heck it's talking about.

    http://www.washedashore.com/projects/dymax/pictures.html

  • by shadowblaster (1565487) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:09PM (#29511553)

    Hi it's Iran here, we need help re-constructing this piece of history [wikipedia.org].

    Details of components can be found by following the link above.

    • Just aim a cannon[loaded with a fissionable warhead at high velocity] at some fissionable material. The more FM, the better.
      Just make sure you try this at 'home', after all, it's not rocket surgery...;-)

      • "The more FM, the better."

        I think it's best to stop loading FM before the cannon gets hot enough to cook breakfast on, YMMV.
      • But the link was to fat man. Fat man was a plutonium implosion device, much more complicated than the simple uranium gun mechanism in Little Boy. You can't use the simple gun mechanism on Plutonium.

        James

  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:10PM (#29511569) Journal
    I'd prefer a hybrid, though, and something with a bit better stability control. I'm not sure the Model T engine could work without a bit of a pollution update - make the roof glass and power it with a Stirling engine from the thermal load?

    Just kidding here. But it was a beautiful idea. RBF may have been a crackpot, but he was my sort of crackpot - no axiom sacred. Yes, they weren't exactly safe, but then Ralf Nader wouldn't have passed on the Model A Ford-era cars with their beam front axles and rather philosophical approach to braking and steering, either.

    • true- of course in most rural areas of the day the "philosophical" approach to steering in the model t would perhaps just ruin a fence or two and startle the cattle. :)
    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      You know, a hybrid car with a sterling engine wouldn't really be that bad of an idea.

      I had thought up a few practical(ish) applications for Sterling engines, but couldn't find anywhere to buy a working one of any substantial size. Sure, I've found instructions on making one with a couple soda cans, but nothing that would make a few HP and spin a generator head.

      How well would a hybrid parked in the sun do, if you could produce say 11hp to spin a 6Kw generator hea

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Stirling with an "i". Have a look at Whispergen [whispergen.com] in New Zealand. They sell commercial Stirling engine applications in bulk as home MicroCHP (Combined Heating and Power) generators. They might sell you just the engine, if you're truly interested.
        • by JWSmythe (446288)

          Thanks for the link.

          The most practical application that I wanted to find info for was a friend in Alaska. They're in geothermal active areas, so a subterranean loop would provide for a very warm side, always warmer than the cool side of the ambient air. A lot of people up there live off-grid, and have to truck, boat, or fly diesel fuel in to keep their generators going. That's a cumbersome task in mid winter.

          For us folks farther south, I liked the idea of usin

          • Does it have to be 120VAC 60Hz?
            I know inverters lose energy in the conversion, but could not DC at *some* voltage be usable/efficient enough to make this worthwhile for examination/exploration?

            I am just asking, 'cause I am out of my area of expertise here, and am probably off course if it hasn't been done yet....just curious.

            Maybe it's more efficient to use *n*VAC and not convert to DC, or to optimise VAC to the engine?
            On the surface, to a layman, this may seem possible...or I am truly over my head here and

            • by JWSmythe (446288)

              It's just a matter of what you're trying to power with it. :)

              I'm converting a city bus to be an RV, and have been looking at what's available in a lot of different ways. For electrical stuff, I could go with any standard, since I'm starting with a blank slate. It provides 12VDC and 24VDC. Ideally, I would want to go with 24VDC for everything, but it's not exactly easy to find COTS equipment like that. In other words, if the refrigerator or TV fails, you can't just run down t

          • by thejynxed (831517)

            Here are some sites you might be interested in:

            http://howardhallfarm.com/freewatt.html [howardhallfarm.com]
            http://www.infiniacorp.com/ [infiniacorp.com]
            http://www.mrsolar.com/ [mrsolar.com]
            http://www.dodsbir.net/selections/abs071/osdabs071.htm [dodsbir.net]
            http://www.stirling-tech.com/ [stirling-tech.com]

            You might want to also contact the Honda Motor Company, as they mass produce the engine type you are interested in (they use them in their Hybrids).

          • The New Nomads (Score:3, Interesting)

            The most practical application that I wanted to find info for was a friend in Alaska. They're in geothermal active areas, so a subterranean loop would provide for a very warm side, always warmer than the cool side of the ambient air. A lot of people up there live off-grid, and have to truck, boat, or fly diesel fuel in to keep their generators going. That's a cumbersome task in mid winter.

            Ok, you've generated some nice imagery there. Somehow I took your Alaskan environment and tied it up in my mind with Dymaxion cars and Fuller-dome shaped (shush, Stewart, let me work with this) trailers using Stirling engines. You'd only travel when the sun was up, or when you had fuel for the iron stove in the back to run the engine.

            There's something very Steampunk, very Golden Age of SF, Popular Mechanix cover about the image. "Well, looks like the sun's coming out. Pack up everybody, let's get ready t

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by kybred (795293)

          Stirling with an "i".

          Perhaps he wants an engine made of Sterling silver [wikipedia.org]?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      ...something with a bit better stability control

      Yes, well, anybody who has flown a taildragger can understand why this car could never be "naturally" stable. The usual experiment with a shopping cart can dramatically show you why.

  • by zobier (585066)

    Surely a skilled machinist could just make a matching turn signal indicator from scratch.

    A quick google reveals
    KSJ Auto Sales NJ
    KSJ Auto Parts Malaysia
    KSJ Engineering India

    • Yeah, it looks like a pretty standard school bus turn signal lamp to me. Hard to tell for sure without a better idea of the size, though. It would have been helpful if they had included some sort of scale in the photo.

      • You mean some sort of scale such as a thumb, the standard for the inch? It's about 3 inches across, The K-S-J is perhaps 3/4ths of an inch wide.
    • Re:KSJ (Score:4, Informative)

      by SEWilco (27983) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:48AM (#29512099) Journal
      They're undoubtedly trying to fix it with original parts. It's counted as original parts if it's the same part, even if it comes from a rusty hulk in someone's barn. The unit shown can be restored with sandblasting, polishing, painting, and replating. So they're probably looking for a missing part for the other side of the vehicle. I doubt that this vehicle would have had ordinary lights on it. So if it's not a custom part, maybe it's an aftermarket accessory. I don't have any 1932 automotive catalogs, and their availability would be limited due to questionable copyright status.
  • by Jon Abbott (723) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 @11:28PM (#29511659) Homepage

    According to the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org], the Dymaxion car had 30 MPG and could transport 11 passengers with only three wheels. Suck on that, Detroit.

    • by SEAL (88488) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:18AM (#29511963)

      If you took that thing and updated it to meet current U.S. safety and emissions requirements, you'd get nowhere near the same gas mileage.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by martinX (672498)
        Balance that with modern light alloys and I'm not so sure.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rei (128717)

          The thing had a canvas roof. You don't get much lighter than that.

          The GP was correct; this car's efficiency would drop like a rock if brought up to spec. Heck, it'd drop like a rock if you merely tested the existing thing on a modern drivecycle. Also, the rear wheel steering was a really, really bad idea.

      • by putaro (235078) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:15AM (#29512229) Journal

        Oh yeah, because all of those cars from the sixties and early seventies got such great gas mileage before they had to add the emissions control equipment. And the cars were so much lighter then too without seatbelts and air bags.

        • by Shatrat (855151)
          You're comparing the wrong eras.
          Try comparing the weight of an 80s or 90s car to the same class today.
          The Honda Accord, for example, has gained about 550 KG (1200 pounds) over its various iterations.
          I don't know how much of this is due to attempts to make the car more comfortable and quiet, and how much is due to safety regulations, but efficiency gains are definitely being eaten by weight gains.
    • But it didn't have to carry all the now-required safety and pollution-control features. Those add weight and inefficiency.
    • Also according to the Wikipedia article, it made 85 horsepower. I didn't see how much it weighed, but unless it was under a ton it would underperform modern expectations when merging onto an interstate.
  • unusual if (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alien9 (890794)
    great car analogies come by.
    It is said that the fatal crash which cursed the prototype was due to astonishment.
    Despite its remarkable innovations the Dymaxion car misfitted common sense.
    • Looks like American design

      Looks more like the gondola of a blimp to me.

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      The Euro's what are shaking and why? Because an American architect built a car in America? I mean, the Euro wasn't even around back then and it only was on the American-architects-don't-build-cars standard very shortly.
  • Who *cares* who made the part? It'd obviously be trivial for any competent machine shop to duplicate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by couchslug (175151)

      It's sheet metal, not machined from stock, so that machine shop would have to produce dies for the job.
      Do-able, but it would be several hundred dollars worth of work at least for the shell, then more money to duplicate the lens. Looks like a generic add-on light of the era.

      Posting the thing in Hemmings Motor News along with contacting appropriate firms for help would make much more sense.

      Anyone who restores old cars should be thoroughly familiar with Hemmings, which has been around for decades:

      http://www.he [hemmings.com]

      • by geekoid (135745)

        No, it could be cut from existing materials. Anyone who is good with metal could recreate it.

  • This car is a looker. Suave and vibrant are the words that come to my mind when I see the pictures. Galls would yearn to be picked up, shagged and brought home in this absolute crumpet catcher. Definitively worth an article on /.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bowdie (11884)

      Heh, "crumpet catcher" nice.

      Although I believe the historically correct nomenclature is "Vaginal lodestone"

    • Galls would yearn to be picked up...

      [my emphasis on OP's spelling choice]

      Do you mean Gauls [wikipedia.org], Gals [wikipedia.org], or 'gals'[as in females].
      Or is this some kind of kinky gall bladder pr0n I have not heard of yet....

      You need to be more specific.....this is /. after all...Definitively worth an article on /. ;-)

      And don't blame this on 'sticky keys' either....Clean Off/Out Your Keyboard!!!!

  • Why, in seventy years, haven't we seen anything half as innovative in either design or efficiency come to market?

    To my mind this in itself is reason enough for Detroit to have wound up a wholly owned subsidiary of the US government, which also guarantees that we will never see anything remotely progressive taking to the road in these United States.

    Yugo anyone?

    • by maxume (22995)

      There have been plenty of 40+ mpg cars with anemic engines and minimal metal brought to market; most people don't buy them.

      • anemic engines

        This had a V8 and more room than a tiny subcompact.

        • This had a V8 and more room than a tiny subcompact.

          An *anemic* V8. A typical modern 4-cylinder (and even a few 3-cylinder) economy car engines are more powerful than that one.

          The OP also said the car had minimal metal. He didn't say that the small amount of metal wasn't stretched out over a large interior volume.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          I know it's ahrd to tell from car commercials, but engin power is determined be a lot of factoirs, and the number of cylynders is just one.

          For example, what id each cylinder was only 1 inch in diameter. You wouldn't get a lot of power.

          I used an extreme examples to make a point.

    • Perhaps because, while it was visionary in a number of areas it wasn't actually very good as a car?

      • Right on. People get so engrossed in the hero-worship of kooky "inventors" that they seem to check all and any critical abilities at the door.

        As for this wacko of a "car", one could ask questions like: How do you install windshield wipers on a curved window composed of a bunch of panes? What is the dynamic stability of this three-wheeled wonder when turning at 120 km/h? Side wind, anyone? What is the traction one can get of a single rear mounted wheel transferring the entire output of the power-train on a

        • by jtev (133871)
          Um, it's front wheel drive and there are two wheels on the front. Yes the rear wheel steering caused some trouble, but not actually that much. It was a concept car, and yes, there was an accident, caused by someone else, that caused it to not go into full production. We'll never know if it would have worked as a production car or not.
          • Yes the rear wheel steering caused some trouble, but not actually that much.

            The single rear wheel steering system hasn't been used by any manufacturer on any serious car (save $200 rickshaw bicycle/motorbike conversions somewhere in the Orient) during all of these decades with many millions of vehicles produced. I find it rather unlikely that a workable concept would be ignored by countless engineers world over for the last 60 years or so...

            And there is still the problem of general dynamic stability, by d

          • by geekoid (135745)

            You might want to look into the details of the accident before saying it didn't cause much trouble.

            No control when skidding, and it would roll forward when rear ended.

            It's an interesting car, but many interesting cars turn out not to be practicle.

            A funnier thing to remember is that he basically invented the first mini van....and mini vans are what Soccer moms drive.

    • The Dymaxion was a product of its time. The "innovation" is that it steers the way every boat has since someone thought "why not fix the steering oar to the back end and waggle it?"

      It's been similarly pointed out that electric vehicles were very successful - at the end of the 19th century, because lead acid cell powered vehicles work well at horse speeds and horse ranges. Once the IC engine made much higher speeds and longer ranges possible, the electric buggy was dead.

      Once trucks started their steady growt

      • by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:03PM (#29516635)

        The reason you haven't seen anything so innovative in 70 years is that the last 70 years have had constant steady progress.

        Not to rain on that parade, but in the mid-1930s we had V-8 engines for cars, which could accommodate no more than 6 passengers comfortably and got well under 30 MPG. Airplanes one the other hand had rotary engines a la the Armstrong-Siddeley [flightglobal.com] or Pratt & Whitney [wikipedia.org], carrying up to 14 passengers and with flight range capabilities of up to 745 miles.

        Today we have 4 cylinder engines in cars that can barely accommodate four adults comfortably, let alone six, with a few models sporting MPG ratings in the 40+ range, but with fleet averages still far below that. Contrast that with aircraft, which have enjoyed brutes like this one [geae.com] for decades, and whose carrying capacities have increased geometrically since the 1930's and whose range can extend to the thousands of miles.

        Anti-lock brakes, power steering, GPS in-dash navigation, and all the other bells and whistles are all well and good. But aside from computer controls and fuel injection (another technology from the last century), we are still being driven by the same engine Henry Ford used, in little metal (though now increasingly plastic) compartments not radically different from those used in 1930.

        If the same attention to innovation and invention had been nurtured in the automotive industry as it was in the aircraft industry who knows what we'd be "driving" now.

        • So, by your definition, we'll have made progress if every person on the road is driving a V-12 powered bus?

          Hate to break it to you, but the rather ordinary V4 in my car generates more power output than pretty much any consumer-grade car manufactured prior to 1980, and comes close to matching the V-12s used by Ferrari in the 70s. I'd call that quite significant progress. Even more impressively, Volkswagen's 4cyl diesel can even come close to those numbers, produce more torque, and still attain 40-50mpg, wh

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Why, in seventy years, haven't we seen anything half as innovative in either design or efficiency come to market?

      One word: Aptera [aptera.com]

      The real reason that we haven't seen innovation is that we have allowed the automobile industry to be structured in such a way that rewards huge, monolithic corporations rather than entrepreneurs. Why do we need huge dealer/distributor networks for cars, when everything else can be purchased over the web? Why do we have parts and service departments that only work on one bra
      • One word: Aptera

        OMG! Thanks for that link. This is one worth watching.

        As for the rest of your points... I couldn't agree more, especially with "Fuck the monolithic corporations -- let them fail."

        Bailouts prevent Darwinian principles from thinning the herd.

        • by Rei (128717)

          Browse some of the vids on YouTube, or its appearance on Jay Leno's Garage. Awesome vehicle, isn't it? I have my reservation down -- I'm in the 300s (the waiting list is over 4k long).

          They're making a 2e (electric), 2h (plug-in hybrid), and 2g (gas-only), as well as a 4-series (4 wheels, four seats, but still with the Aptera philosophy of extreme safety and efficiency).

    • by geekoid (135745)

      What? Car are far more efficient, and more innovative.

      Yeah, the government has never done anything progressive~

      Of course all the American auto manufactures are completly changing and innovating right now. The ONLY role the government has to do with these companies is high end financial. So fi Dodge wanted to buy another company, the government would need to approve. The government isn't in the engineering and design meeting.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:07AM (#29515727)
    The car steered with its single rear wheel. While not totally impractical, this does make it unstable and hard to drive. With front wheel drive instead, it would look very much like a larger capacity Aptera. Not bad for being designed 70 years earlier. (I like the rest of the design. I just think there might be a reason why nobody uses rear wheel steering. The Northrop University "White Lightening" human-powered vehicle also used the setup of driving the front wheels and steering the rear wheel. Feedback from the drivers was that it was difficult to steer correctly, and took a lot of getting used to.)
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I just think there might be a reason why nobody uses rear wheel steering."

      Apply brakes in a curve and you'd promptly swap ends. It would steer like a pallet jack.

  • They're trying to restore the entire car, and all they have to start with is a turn signal light? And they're looking to replace that! Looks like a lot of remanufacturing will need to occur.

  • Sorry, but I haven't had time to read the entire thread. If what I'm writing is a rerun, then so be it. Fuller, like Frank Lloyd Wright, George Ellery Hale, and more than a few other greats of the 20th Century, was part genius, and part con man. His plan to design a revolutionary car was flawed by the fact that he assumed that his great intellect was a worthy substitute for experience in designing cars. Aside from the points about stability raised by others, I point out that there was a plenum in front

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