Aug 29 2016

Mystery Friday #35 Solved: Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion #1 on a 1933 Test Run at Roosevelt Field

Joel Friedman challenged you to solve this weekend's super Mystery Foto.

This photo is courtesy of the Cradle of Aviation , where Joel is a volunteer.

Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the automobile

The Dymaxion #1 designed by Buckminster Fuller with Starling Burgess as his chief engineer.

  • Identify the airplane

A Privateer Amphibian

  • Where was the photo taken and in what year?

The Dymaxion #1 was runway tested at Roosevelt Field on August 11, 1933, going more than 90 miles per hour. The car was driven by Frank Coffyn and aviator Al Williams, who later purchased it.

Congrats to Dr. Moskowitz, Tim Ivers, Dick Gorman, Steve Lucas, Art Kleiner (see Kleiner's Korner), Greg O., Sam Berliner III, Leo Bunker, Frank Femenias (see Femenias' Findings), Gary Hammond (see Hammond's Historical Happenings with a shout-out to a Long Island Dymaxion bathroom!), Aldo Zana and Tim Ivers ( See Iver's I-Openers).

Kudos to Tim Ivers, Steve Lucas, Art Kleiner, Greg O., and Gary Hammond for identifying the 1933 test run at Roosevelt Field.


Howard Kroplick


Buckminster Fuller (with glasses) is sitting on the far right with "Dymaxion lead designers". Starling Burgess, chief engineer for the Dymaxion car project, was likely sitting on the far left.

Aviator Al Williams was standing with his hands crossed  next to the Dymaxion #1.  It is possible that Vanderbilt Cup Race winner Ralph DePalma, a fan of the Dymaxion, is the man pointing to the car?

From the book "The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller": Al Williams (right) and Starling Burgess (left) with the Dymaxion #1. The photo appears to be taken at Roosevelt Field with the Privateer Amphibian in the background. Note: Williams' matching tie and pants with the Mystery Foto.

The 1933 license plate for the Dymaxion #1. I assume the FV indicated a Factory Vehicle.

Privateer Amphibian

Hammond's Historical Happenings (Submitted by Gary Hammond)

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 11, 1933

Frank T. Coffyn (1878-1960)-Driver of the Dymaxion on August 10, 1933.

Dymaxion Corporation in Bridgeport, Connecticut

1933 National Air Pageant

Privateer Amphibian

Kleiner's Korner (Submitted by Art Kleiner)

The Guardian, July 2013: Lead designers including Buckminster Fuller (with glasses)- with nearly completed Dymaxion #1 in 1933. Photograph : The Buckminster Fuller Archives.

National Charity Air Pageant, Roosevelt Field, NY, October 7-8,1933.

The New York Times, October 22, 1933

Palacios Beacon, Palacios, Texas, October 26, 1933

Femenias' Findings (Submitted by Frank Femenias)

Fuller (seated) and Starling Burgess in the Dymaxion #1.

Vanderbilt Cup Race winner Ralph DePalma with the Dymaxion #1. It is possible this photo was also taken at Roosevelt Field. Note: The matching 1933 FV 453 Connecticut license plate as the Dymaxion in the Mystery Foto.

Side View of the Dymaxion #1.

Dymaxion #1 scale drawings

Dymaxion #1 body construction

Iver's I-Openers (Submitted by Tim Ivers)

Dymaxion schedule (1933-1934). Also submitted by Art Kleiner.


Aug 26 2016 Mark Moskowitz MD 12:21 AM

Fuller Dymaxion

Aug 28 2016 Tim Ivers 11:28 AM

Looks like the Dymaxion three vehicle prototype near a Roosevelt Field hangar in
1933; either in August or October.

Aug 28 2016 Dick Gorman 1:18 PM

The Dymaxion car by Buckminster Fuller.
Site could be Bridgeport, 1933. Maybe.
Can’t identify plane.

Aug 28 2016 Steve Lucas 8:36 PM

That’s R. Buckminster Fuller’s DYMAXION #1. Photo may have been taken on August 11, 1933 at Roosevelt Field. No clue on the plane.

Aug 28 2016 Art Kleiner 9:56 PM

Identify the automobile: Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion #1
Identify the airplane:  I know I’ve seen this before, but came name it (or find it).  Might be hanging at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.  Similar military aircraft called the Walrus. 
Where was the photo taken and in what year?  Roosevelt Field, 1933 at the National Charity Air Pageant.


Aug 29 2016 Greg O. 8:48 AM

Identify the automobile
Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion

Identify the airplane
Unsure-For a guess, I’ll say it’s a Curtiss since they were an airfield neighbor on Clinton Rd.

Where was the photo taken and in what year?
Roosevelt Field in 1933

Aug 29 2016 S. Berliner, III 11:13 AM

Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller’s prototype Dymaxion car ca. 1933 at Roosevelt Field.  What is of especial interest to us LIMPers is that the Dymaxion Corporation’s factory was in the defunct Locomobile dynamometer building at Tongue Pointe in Bridgeport, CT.  The amphibian appears to be a Curtiss-Wright CW-1 Junior (several survive, incl. at the Smithsonian’s NASM).  It’s hard to tell at such low res. but that seems to be Fuller at right, pointing.  Sam, III

Aug 29 2016 Leo Bunker 1:59 PM

The ” car ” is a Dymaxion probably around 1934,35 the pusher plane I’m guessing was made by Grumman but don’t know what they called it.

Aug 29 2016 frank femenias 3:58 PM

Possibly Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion #1 three-wheeler in Bridgeport, CT, July 12, 1933. Flyer “Al” Williams standing in front of vehicle with lighter slacks would eventually purchase the vehicle. An amphibian plane but dunno what it is.

Aug 29 2016 Howard Kroplick 8:55 PM

From Gary Hammond:

Here’s Hammond’s Historical Happenings for Mystery Photo # 35:

Automobile: Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car #1 – 3 were built (only one still survives); at Roosevelt Field (note old Curtiss Field hangers in background), 1933; Buckminster Fuller on right pointing; possibly the man he was talking to was pilot Frank T. Coffyn ((1878-1960) who drove the car on August 10, 1933 (see photo); license plate: red with white lettering “FV 453 CONN. 1933”.
The Dymaxion Corporation factory was located at the defunct Locomobile dynamometer building, Tongue Pointe, Bridgeport, CT.  Building markings: “4D / DYMAXION” (see photo)

This photo is probably from August 10, 1933 when the car was given test runs on the runways at Roosevelt Field, supposedly reaching more than 90 mph. (see Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 11, 1933, p. 6) The car again visited the Field when it was exhibited at the National Charity Air Pageant, held at Roosevelt Field, Saturday & Sunday, October 7-8, 1933. (see copy of ticket)

Aircraft: The P-3B Privateer amphibian, built by Amphibions, Inc. in 1933, with a 210 h.p. seven-cylinder Continental R-670 pusher engine, which was pylon-mounted above cockpit. Registration # NC13252.  Notice the Amphibions logo on the a/c. (see photo)
The company was originally called Ireland Aircraft Inc., and located at Curtiss Field, Garden City NY.  In 1931 it was reorganized as Amphibions Inc., at Roosevelt Field, Garden City, NY.

Hammond’s Bonus question: Did you know that an important Fuller design resides in Nassau County?  In 1936 Fuller designed a Dymaxion Bathroom for his friend Christopher Morley, for his writing studio “The Knothole”, in Roslyn, where it still resides!

Aug 29 2016 Howard Kroplick 9:24 PM

From Aldo Zana:

About the mystery car it’s the Dymaxion , the 1933 concept car by Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) built for the Chicago World Fair 1933.It was totally unstable and underpowered, but the shape was a real revolution.

Sep 01 2016 S. Berliner, III 8:53 AM

Oopsies - scrambled captions - nobody has his hand on the car in the third image; Williams does in the fourth.  HA - I had completely forgotten about the Privateer.  Thanks, Howard.  Sam, III

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