The Fascination: Nebraska's Three-Wheeled Space Car

While the three-wheeled "Fascination" looks to have been constructed in full-sized prototype form in the early '70s, its engine, a "Nobel Gas Plasma Engine" that needed no fuel to operate 60,000 miles, was not. (Wonder why!) A reader to PopCult magazine offered this first-hand experience:
It was a very cool car. I even rode in it once or twice! Quite a revolutionary design, too. It had air-filled rubber shock absorbers like on today's buses. It had a mid-engine design, behind the back seats, and the engines were going to be from Renault–I think they were Wankel or rotary engines. I don't remember anything about "Nobel Gas-Plasma Engines" that the website mentions. Because it was mid-engine, the front of the car was very light. Supposedly, if it got hit broadside, it would just spin around on the back wheels. Because it only had three wheels, you could drive it into a ditch and you'd never lose contact with any of the wheels and the road. You could also turn the front wheel almost perpendicular to the car, which meant you could turn nearly in its own radius, and you could parallel park with about 12 inches of total clearance. It got 40 or so mpg.
The Fascination may have been inspired by a similar design from Buckminster Fuller. Fuller's car, the "Dymaxion," was designed in 1933. At least three were constructed. It sat ten plus the driver, weighed less than 1,000 pounds, and got between 30 and 50 MPG. Three prototypes were built. Unlike the Fascination, the Dymaxion's third wheel was in the back, a design it shares with the upcoming Aptera electric and hybrid vehicles. A space age transportation innovation [] [via Core77] Previously: Aptera Three-Wheeled Electric Car May Reach Production [BBG]
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9 Responses to The Fascination: Nebraska's Three-Wheeled Space Car

  1. dogu4 says:

    Fantastic. I’ve been a devoted fan of anything relating to R. Buckminster Fuller for many years and of course the design emulates Fuller’s dymaxion car, which is well worth researching even today to understand how important decisions are made regarding our oh-so engineered infrastructure. I too am curious about the inhertntly unstable position of the front wheel…something the dymaxion car didn’t have to worry about with it’s tiller wheel in the back.
    Next time Detroit’s designers are pretending to scratch their heads, shrugging their shoulders as an indication of how there’s nothing they can do…someone please suggest the gesture will be a lot more meaningful and contributory if they’d simply put their heads back into their nether regions while other countries do the heavy lifting in innovative designs for a while.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Renault has not been involved in Rotary engines since 1938.

  3. dargaud says:

    Having a lone front wheel is very unstable: you just tip over if you try to break while you turn. But it makes for easier and cheaper handling system. Pick one.

  4. Bob says:

    I’ve long been a fan of the Dymaxion, and this immediately reminded me of it.

  5. subtlesquid says:

    At first I thought the pointy end was the front and this was the most gorgeous station wagon ever. driving the other way its pretty damn ugly. and yeah one wheel up front makes handling a nightmare.

  6. vik says:

    Doesn’t this remind you of Homer’s car design when he discovers he has a long lost brother who runs a car manufacturer?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The tear drop design is highly aerodynamic. If all cars looked something like this we could have another 10 years or so to deal with oil depletion and climate change. So we are facing crisis now because of aesthetics.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Early ’70s? Looks like circa 1960 to me.

  9. adammetal says:

    It looks like the driver sits way back from the windshield. Seems like you’d focus on the inside of the cabin instead of the road.

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