EIK - Session 9 Part 16
And it was simply a matter of the secondary spring between the body and the and it allowed these things to do anything without really carrying anything through into the body itself at all. Which keeps the body from really tipping too far tipping forward, because we overhang the front axle by quite a lot. The system worked incredibly really beautifully well. I never had any ride in history that even mildly touched this in any kind of vehicle.
May I have some more pictures of the car besides the nice frame pictures. You can see where the front lights are mounted. This is the very first chassis we made. Starling Burgess was sitting up forward there in his flying hat, and the coon coat from the days of the airplanes when the coon coats were being worn, and we were trying out our first chassis and you can see the radiator of the engine in the back there. That's the drive wheel here is the bow of the ship here is the main drive wheels and you can't see the rear steering back here, but here's where the engine is, and that's where the radiator was inside the body, and we scooped the air underneath the car to go through the radiator.
Next picture please. This is the first vehicle we turned out. We built three of them. It was an all aluminum body, and I did use the this was a crystal it was just a celluloid, or crystalloid they called it at the time.
And the rear cabin. I had on the window top, and I had a periscope so that you could look over your whole car and you could see anybody standing beside the car, back of your tail. It was a beautiful thing. And, this one had a scoop for air to go into the ventilator there, and the engines are in the rear, and you just open the back door there and you've got the engine on a beautiful workbench. It was very convenient and you lift that rear bustle to get at your rear wheel if you want to change anything there.
Now, next picture please. Then these are some of the drawings for the second and third cars, I built three of them successively. Each time trying to improve on what was learned.
Next picture again. This is very interesting because now, I want you to look at, I have a car the regular four-wheeled car wanting to get into a parking lot. He has to go ahead of position and then back in and it takes him quite a lot of room to get in there. I always could come in head on, and because my rear steering could go over at up to 90 degrees if I wanted, I could simply go sideways. I had a round nose, and I'd just bring my round nose there was a window frame right up to whatever was in front of me and then she'd just rotate into place, she'd never advance any more at all you'd just throw your wheels sideways. It was a lovely thing.
Used to the news reel moving pictures used to just love it, because they would give me 3" more than the length of my car, and I was coming down the street like that and going fast and no trouble at all. Because there was such a perfect control there. As long as I know knew the 3" were there I really dared throw my tail over, cause all I had to do was really watch my front window frame and then the car in front of me.
Now, this is she did all kinds of things in these beautiful ways. And, the, because the, I had the center of gravity of the car nearer the front axle than the rear, all other automobiles have always been nearer the rear axle so that I am really changing the pattern very greatly it meant then that the outboard wheel on a turn the relationship between the center of gravity of your car and the tire where it touched the ground, the outboard wheel needs a fulcrum of overturn. As you go around the turn, what stops you from going forward now is the tire itself, where it touches the ground, and the line of center of gravity of the car pushes at that, so if it is much higher than it by very far it tends to rotate over it. But I kept, I said, my center of gravity so low, and so close to the front axle, that it was really like a gun carriage, you couldn't tip it over. And while I was driving then, I simply kept my wheel accelerating, and therefore it didn't go into a skid, and I could give it really, very, very sharp turns. I began gradually practicing what I could do, and I would be able to, I finally found that I didn't want to do it too fast, and I didn't want to have a tire ripped off it's rim by the enormous weight of the car just stopping like that.
I was able to slow down to 15 mph, if I was 15 I could put it into a 180 degree turn and make a turn with the inboard wheel making a circle of 1 foot. I would literally hook around and go this other direction. Now there is no other vehicle in the world that could do that, so that motor cycle policemen would start after me and I am suddenly going the opposite direction, and they couldn't do anything about it. And they it got to be known all around the motorcycle cops all around the country that it did that, so they were bothering me to try to get me to do it.
At any rate. There was one occasion when they were opening the first midget racing car track in New York up in the Bronx, and they asked me if I'd bring my car there as a feature for the opening night and I did. And they had me parked out in the middle of the oval of the raceway, and so they had an interval break, and they had all the officials got in my car it would carry 11 passengers, so it was a big vehicle. It was 19 feet long, that was the length of the big Cadillac or of the big cars of the day. But I got an incredible amount out of it. I got 11 passengers and getting really very high mileages and extraordinary efficiencies. So the car was loaded up with all the officials of the track and they asked me to drive around the track as just a show for the people, so I went I was just going around and I thought I might as well go fairly briskly, so we were going around nicely, and in it you really just sat up like at church, an extraordinary stability.
So we went around, and I was just really going around quite comfortably, and I thought everybody enjoying themselves, so, they said, "You've broken the track record by almost 50 percent!" I could go, I went around the these kid's cars all skidding around and everything. I really just went around going around like no effort at all, and I broke the track record.
Well, there were, there were bugs in it, and you had to learn those. Number one were the cross winds, and it really was something. She did want terribly to head into a cross wind, and a gusty northwest wind day, cross winds were something. Because I had aircraft stainless steel flexible cables for my steering, because the steering was up front to a geared head on top of our rudder post back aft. So there was no slack in them whatsoever, going through beautiful ball bearing shivs. The kind of shivs you see on sailing boats today, getting to be very lovely kind of shivs you get on racing boats. Starling Burgess was designing, and we made all of our shivs we made everything like that. Got the ball bearings and made some very extraordinary hardware. Because he had wanted to design those kind of things for the cup defenders and so forth, he had already gotten into some very beautiful he had already introduced some extraordinary hardware into the nautical world, and he didn't think anything at all of getting our own hardware for this car.
So, cross wind, then. What happened was that there was no slack in my steering at all so the tire would distort, because the wind tried to twist me really violently, and the tire, the rubber, just the pneumatic tire would yield. So this could throw whips into you. I had to really learn to be very on a very bad cross wind day it was really like flying a plane, you really did have to learn how to play that wind. So it was not something anybody could have right away, and I knew I'd have to improve those features, and if I do build another one someday, I would know how to do it.
I would point out to you that nature has such problems, and there are one of the oldest creatures known to human beings are the horseshoe crab with this long tail. And they go back to the very earliest of the known creatures. Now their job, life is to cross streams. They are in where the tidal streams are and so forth. And they are designed literally to go cross stream, and hydraulics there is no yielding that there is in the pneumatics, so that they have to be superbly designed to go cross wind or across current. They are designed then, with a whole crescent tail, they have a broad nose, but they have a 120 degree crescent where the section through them, you go up through their nose and take a section back from the middle of the nose, it is the same section through the whole 120 degrees so there is no difference in the drag. In other words you have to have a broad tail I had a single tail everything focusing down to that tail, and then and it wanted to nose right up into the wind, but by having the broad tail you can do that. That horseshoe crab, then, is able to use its secondary tail to help a little on any sort of delicate balance in addition to that release, it can really make its tail go to increase the tendency to let go of the drag in that direction. So it can go across current, and I found it would be just as easy to do that.
So later on I was asked by Henry Kaiser to design a vehicle, and I did design it that way, and I designed that one with the rear steering wheel also on an extendible boom, because I found that when you are not going fast, I could really make very, very tight turns really go right around in a circle here locally. In the garage I could turn myself around to go out the other way right on the spot. But with a long boom you couldn't do that, it was in the way, so that I could have an extendible boom give me a long wheel base on the highway and automatically contract as she began to slow down and lengthen as she speeds.
Well, that is more or less enough here. At the time of the oh goodness it's getting late. At the time of the Chicago World's Fair we had two extraordinary events. One a very, very untoward event the opening of the Chicago World's Fair in l933 they had wanted to use my Dymaxion House but I had found it would cost much, too much, and I wasn't willing to make just a mock up of it it had to be the real thing, and so they made a mock up. But, in England there was a man called, his title was the Master of Semple it was a Scotch title, and he was the greatest aviator in England in those days, and extraordinarily well thought of. When the Graf Zeppelin made a special first trip over to the Chicago World's Fair, and the Master of Semple was invited as the English guest to go on the flight to America, to go to the World's Fair, and the Air Minister of France was on the trip. These two men telephoned me from the Graf Zeppelin over the Atlantic, asking if I could have the Dymaxion Car available for them to see at Chicago with the World's Fair.
By this time I let the car go to a man named Al Williams who was the Navy's #1 speed flyer, and left the Navy to become head of gasoline sales for the Gulf Refining. And Al had acquired my first car for the Gulf Company to use at air meets, and it had become the official car at air meets running around the air field. And when this call came I then got in touch with Al Williams, so he had a race driver take the car out to Chicago to meet these two distinguished guests. They, then the car was put at their disposal with this race driver during their visit. The Graf Zeppelin just dropped them off in Chicago and went back to Akron where it could be moored. The day came a few days later when the word came that the Graf Zeppelin was to return to England and these two guest would have to rejoin in the meantime they had driven the car a lot, and they needed the car to get out to the Chicago Airport in a hurry they called in, so at 7 o'clock in the morning went to their hotel, picked the two men up and started out for the Chicago airport when the next thing I knew there was a NEW YORK TIMES full headline FREAK CAR ROLLS OVER AND KILLS RACE DRIVER AND FAMOUS GUESTS WOUNDED injured and so forth. And I was in Bridgeport, and the Associated Press got in touch with me where I was building my second car at the time no yes, I had just started we were doing the drawings on the second car, and I flew out, and I had an engineer friend in Chicago. I asked him to go and start investigating just as fast as he could. I telephoned him, and I flew out to Chicago, and we found that the car had been removed from this accident. It had occurred just in front of the main gate of the Chicago World's Fair, and so we found where the car was it had been put in a garage, and we looked it over very carefully, and we couldn't find anything wrong with the steering gear or the but it had rolled over, and you may remember, my looking at this and saying this is crystagon and so forth I had it a convertible, and I had an open top with the buttoned on canvas canvas top on it here, so we could open it up, and it did, the there were race they had a Al Williams as a flyer, had put in flying seat belts into it, and the driver had one of those on. The car had rolled over, and the top had punched in, and he had been killed the Air Minister from France was sitting in the rear seat he didn't have a belt on, and I say this canvass top opened, and he just went out and landed on his feet. The Master of Semple was sitting beside the driver, hurt his head very badly, and he was in the hospital in Chicago in very critical condition.
We went to the hospital, and they let me listen to him, so if he were to say anything that would give me any kind of clues what had happened. While I was sitting waiting, the King of England called up he was a very close friend of his, and it really became very much of an international matter. You can imagine how I was feeling here. My car had killed one man, and another was extraordinarily injured. The Master of Semple did recover thank God! And he, the, they had a coroner's inquest on account of the death of the driver, and the coroner's inquest postponed the coroner postponed the meeting, hoping against the day that the Master of Semple might recover, because he had been driving the car and was familiar with it all, and he might be able to tell them what happened.
So it was postponed. Sixty days later they had the continued meeting, at which time the Master of Semple told about then that something that had happened to me very, very frequently as they were coming to it was a ten-lane highway, five lanes on either side, and they had been in the outermost lane and a car tried to rubberneck with them. People were always wanting to look at me, and they tried to ride along beside you and getting the it was a very tortuous feeling, these people were looking at you and they were going to run into something. So he had accelerated to get away from them and came into the second lane, and this man, then, started to rubberneck some more, he began really pestering, so he finally got to the middle lane, and this man tried to pull upside, and the man hit his tail and through him out of steering. The precession, incidentally, when you do hit this it turns precessionally.
So, the man who owned the other car was the South Park Commissioner it turned out later. And his car had been moved right away. My engineer friend and I had gone to see the policeman who was on the corner at the time it happened, and he didn't know anything about this at all, but later on when it turned out that it had been a collision and not a freak roll over sixty days afterwards, so the coroner simply said, well it was a mutual responsibility some kind of carelessness but no real fault of anybody. At any rate, it was not the car. But my car got an enormous kind of a blow. Al Williams, as I said, had been one of the leading Navy fliers, and he said "Bucky your car is in no way responsible, so you've really got a great obligation to society to let society know it isn't the car." We couldn't get hardly any publicity about it there is no news like that. And so, at any rate, that's why I built car #2 and car #3 rather, I had #2 underway, but it's why I built car #3, to really clean things up. And I think I did wipe out pretty much of that stigma, but you can imagine how I felt, so the
I would like to tell you a little more about back in that operation in just the production. I said I arrived in Bridgeport the day of the Bank Moratorium and the country had absolutely stopped dead and we started, then, developing these cars. In the end I took on 28 mechanics, very extraordinary skilled men, or draftsmen. A total team of 28 in that little building there. And, nobody had any jobs anywhere. For those 28 jobs there were way over 1,000 applicants. And as I found I was going to need I set up my own machine shop, my own woodworking shop, and so forth.
The Rolls Royce Company had opened up an American they were going to produce Rolls Royce in America at Hartford, Connecticut. The boom, the enormous Wall Street Boom just before the crash, so they curtailed that operation but their men were still over in America. I got the two leading Rolls Royce body workers to work for me. They were extraordinary craftsmen. At any rate, had beautiful Italian machine tool men, and beautiful Polish metal hammer workers and so forth. An extraordinary team. At any rate, as I took on my crew, and the applicants nobody had eaten, their families were really starving, and as I, what I did then, when I got too equally good men, I'd find who had the largest family and who hadn't eaten in the longest time, and I'd take him on. Everyone of the 28 went into tears when I took them on. They were going to be able to go to their family, and it was terrific times I assure you.
Well, so, remember this is the first day of the New Deal that I am opening up there. Then, later on they got the WPA going so they got some jobs, and then they got all kind of inventive jobs and so forth. At any rate, I found that when I was finishing my car, I really only had enough money to produce this one car, and as I got nearer and I explained to everybody I was just going to build this one car, I wasn't going into business, I wasn't there to make a profit, I was simply wanting to demonstrate a vehicle and see whether my principles were right. Because the dynamics of this were very critical. So you all understand then that they couldn't have been better craftsmen, they loved their work, but as they got near the end of it they realized that this is the end of that job, and my family WPA hadn't made things it was only six months gone by and they, without any conspiracy whatsoever, each one just slowed up like that. I couldn't get my car finished. The only way I got the car finished was to start car #2, and then everybody got the first car finished.