Come fly with me: Why gull wing doors are the best solution for car doors?


As many of you probably know by know my dream car is the DeLorean DMC-12. It is not because of its starring role in the film all of you know very well. It’s because of what it stands for, what its creator did to create it. Even though a lot of critics have annihilated them, targeting its “not-so-futuristic” features, the wheezy engine and the early-80s British reliability which needs no further explanation, all of them have overlooked one quite futuristic and useful feature that’s not been used on a lot of cars since. Nope, it’s not the stainless steel body. It’s the doors. Not just because it made Marty McFly look like an alien when he arrived in 1955, but because he could feel a little bit safer. Yes, gull wing doors are safe and more practical than ordinary doors. Let me explain why.

52141_10100885336570606_374757580578457342_o1) EASE OF ENTRY AND EXIT

It’s time to shut up all those gull wing door critics who say that gull wing doors have to have miles of room before the doors can be opened. RUBBISH! RUBBISH! RUBBISH! Clearly, these critics don’t know anything about either physics and geometry.

Let me show this video and finally put these matters about space to rest.

There! It’s been tested that the DeLorean needs 11 inches (28 cm) of room to open the doors. Try and par a car with normal doors next to it and open the doors. An average car door is 12-15 cm thick. If you’re as thin as a spaghetti, then you’d need about the same amount of room to slide yourself through the door like an origami swan through that narrow slit. In a gull wing door car you also open up a portion of the roof, which means not only you can get into the car in a narrow space, but also comfortably slide yourself into it.

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2) SAFETY

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The car above is a Mercedes 300SL. The very first production car in the world to use gull wing doors. The reason for that hides beneath the skin.

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As you can see in the picture above, there are some tubes on the door sills. That’s one of the reasons why door sills are so high in a 300SL. Those tubes are the chassis of the 300SL. In plain English, they keep the car together. They are so high because initially the 300SL was a racing car and in racing the high sills are there to improve car’s rigidity because the distance between the roof and the main chassis is reduced, making the car tighter and more stable.

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Bosses of Mercedes-Benz, after the big success of 300SL in Mille Miglia 1000 mile race across Italy in 1952-1953, they decided to use the chassis of the race car and to make it useable on the road. Nowadays it’s not a big deal but then it seemed unreal. Especially knowing that the chassis of the racing car could prove unusable for everyday driving, and fitting ordinary doors wouldn’t work. So they fitted gull wings (first used on the 300SL racing car) so its users could get in. And because the sill is so high up, in a side impact you would be better off in a gull wing 300SL than being in a normal door, lower sill coupe.

Some of you are going to ask “what if it rolls over?” As in past few decades car safety has been a priority for car makers. So it’s highly unlikely that cars of past 40 years have had safety overlooked. A DeLorean was safe when it was rolled over, because the driver could push out the windscreen. And for a very recent gull wing beast, Mercedes SLS, the doors featured explosive bolts. A lot of you who take Jeremy Clarkson seriously think that SLS doors are bombs. But have a look at this:

It’s hardly an explosion. As soon as bolts are loose, you just push the doors out and you’re free.

3) CHASSIS STIFFNESS

Mercedes-Benz-SLS_AMG_2011_1280x960_wallpaper_71I am not a physician, but I saw on British Channel 4’s “For the love of Cars” DeLorean episode they said that a gull wing car is more resistant to torsion (twisting) than an ordinary door car. It is not just in a DeLorean or Mercedes-Benz. Ford GT’s doors also cut into roof. Somehow the single bar in the roof made the car so strong it broke one of crash test machines where it attempted to slowly squash the Ford.

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PROBLEMS WITH GULL WING DOORS

There are a couple of problems of having gull wing doors. First one, of course, is that you cannot have a four door gull wing car. Even though a gull wing coupe is a very tough car there is a physical limitation on how much you can cut out of the roof. Even Tesla’s new Model X SUV has just one pair of gull wing doors. But you can’t complain because they do look nice anyway.

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Secondly you can’t have a sunroof. But you can have a transparent glass roof. As you can see above for the Model X. Finally, even though gull wings do not need a lot of room near them, they do need a room above them. It’s ok in an ordinary multi-storey car park, but in your own garage it could be tricky.

But don’t let these small impracticalities fool you. Demand your favorite car maker to make gull wing cars. Please!

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My first review (sort of) and my hopes on SAABs success


MY 10th ARTICLE! And, incidentally, for this article I have something special – a car review. After that I have a confession to make. So enjoy the read.

CAR REVIEW: RENAULT MEGANE III COUPÉ 

 

Last Thursday I was walking around Norwich, minding my own business and then I saw a bunch of Renaults parked in a Shopping mall. No, not randomly parked. They were there because Holden Renault of Norwich were advertising them. Obviously, one of reasons why cars are being advertised this way is because they are not doing that well. So I decided to see those cars what’s what.

There were four cars there: Megane III hatchback, Clio, Megane III Coupé…and another one I don’t even remember because I couldn’t be bothered to see it. Anyway, I decided to see Megane Coupé up close because it was the only appealing car between those. So…what did I see?

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First thing I noticed was that it is a handsome thing. Really, French have finally improved their design over the years. It’s not like they’ve never designed a beautiful car – some Renaults before 1990s were quite cute and nice looking, like Renault 5, Dauphine and Alpine Renaults. But during 90s and 00s Renaults were so dull I wasn’t bothered to find out anything about them. Maybe it’s because their partnership with Nissan has got themselves some decent designers. The profile is also sweet. It is more like a shooting break than a coupe. And I prefer shooting brakes to coupes any time. They look sleeker, sexier.

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One thing I was really surprised was the quality of interior. Long gone are the days of cheap, rattling plastics. Now it’s all soft touch, quality materials. Even plastic buttons on the climate control and radio are coated with soft, rubber-like layer. Definitely it’s gonna be feeling good for first couple of months of usage. But after years, I feel that this rubber will wear off. I’ve seen it before on other cars (I think VW Passat. One of taxis I’ve been in around Norwich I noticed that this kind of coating was worn off). Despite that it’s a massive improvement over the dull interior of those 90s/00s Renaults. Cars like 2nd Generation Clio had interiors that make watching paint drying on the wall a lifetime experience. So this interior gets thumbs up.

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One detail I was particularly fond of was the key slot. To many it’s no big deal, but I really wish that ordinary keys didn’t disappear, but who am I to decide. So the best I can wish for is these key slots. Why? Because I want to have as much connection to the car as possible. A push button start is good, but it is quite impersonal. A slot key makes me feel like I did start the car. I put the key in and I unleashed that power, whereas when I push a keyless start button, it’s like I ask the car “can you star for me, please?” 

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The driving position is good. Low down, the steering wheel and pedals are right in the centre and you can have the “king of the road” position (i.e. one hand on top of the wheel, one on the gear lever) easily. The visibility of instruments is very easy (unlike Peugeot, where they stupidly moved it in such a way that for some drivers the steering wheel is in the way to see them), however I question the use of electronic speedo. I believe they used it because it’s cheaper and looks cooler, but why do you need to know precisely how fast are you going? Even racing drivers don’t. For them only things they want to see on the display is the gear and rev counter. And another thing: using an electronic fuel tank gauge is not a wise choice. Renaults have used them for some years now. So have MINI. The problem with it is that they have bars instead of a continuous line to tell how much fuel you’ve got left. And bars make a huge difference. What’s wrong with an ordinary fuel gauge? It ain’t that expensive to make and won’t make too much of a hustle.

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Another thing that made me puzzled was the rear leg and head room. Ok, I know that I’m 194 cm tall (6ft4in for imperial measurement people) but even midgets would find it hard to get in here. It’s not like Renault are exclusive cars like Jaguar. Renault people are ones who have a lot of friends without cars and (hopefully) you’re a nice enough person to give them a lift. And my guess is that many people will choose to walk because it will be less painful than to sit in the rear. First of all to have at least some decent legroom the driver needs to drive like a teenage girl, i.e. with the steering wheel in the chest and the chin above the wheel. Even then you would struggle to get some decent room.

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And if they did have some leg room they would have to cut their heads off because there is literally no headroom.

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And I don’t see what was the problem. The Megane rides on the same platform as Nissan Quashquai, and that car ain’t the smallest. And Renault still had tons of room behind rear seats to extend the car because the boot is massive, only it has a funny opening. So why didn’t they sacrifice some of that cavernous boot to make passengers a bit more human than headless pieces of meat? Even the smaller Renault Clio seemed larger.

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Unfortunately I wasn’t able to drive the car because of two reasons: 1) there is a stupid bureaucracy in Britain regarding insuring people on cars and 2) they had no test cars. So I can make no comment on that. But as a car to live with you have to have midgets as friends and you will be fine. And as for quality, I have a feeling that those worry days are over, so forget about those French car stereotypes when you want to try a Renault.

I GIVE UP: The ill-fated SAAB

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Some of my friends know that I am a huge Swedish car fan. And in past couple of years I have been very enthusiastic about the brand. A couple of reasons for that: I loved what they stood for, I hoped that they will get away from GMs disastrous regime and because my dad owned two – A 9000i and a 9000 CS 2.3T – and I loved them. And I was always thinking of excuses to why I am defending its troubles. But last year I finally gave up hoping, after hearing the news that they have run out of cash AGAIN and that they assembled merely 4 cars a week. With that kind of tempo and with assembly of a 12-year-old model I gave up hoping for its success because it is impossible.

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I mean really. SAAB had already a decline in sales prior Spyker takeover in 2010 of the 9-3. It is by no means a bad car, only massively outdated, too simplistic for modern day competition (when cars like Megane I reviewed above have way much tech than a SAAB. Renault, being better than SAAB. Many years ago that was unthinkable) and not great for keen drivers. The front wheel drive for such large chassis is limiting the ability of the car and they are only keeping it because some SAAB purists say “don’t ruin the heritage.” BMW just recently spitted in the face of its RWD heritage with the hideous 2-series Active Tourer (more about it next week) and nothing happened. 

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I don’t blame NEVS for this. And I don’t blame Spyker for this (though Spyker could’ve saved it if Victor Muller (pictured above) wouldn’t had tangled with the bastard Russian “businessman” Vladimir Antonov who also bankrupted two banks in the Baltics during that time). What I DO blame is GENERAL MOTORS! Yes, the very dastardly company that, as John Oliver said, “doesn’t have bad ideas, only bad cars.” Their mismanagement of SAABs finances and their insisted use of their pathetic platforms crushed the reputation of SAABs overnight. Suddenly the reliable, quirky Swede was nothing but a European Chevrolet Malibu or another Opel Vectra only in a fancier suit. Same with SAAB 9-5. The recent 9-5 (pictured below) was so similar to Vauxhall Insignia I truly believe that if I took the Vauxhall badge and stuck it over the SAAB badge nobody would notice that it was a SAAB.

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Whenever I talked to people about SAAB, they don’t think about their great Turbo cars and their fantastic build quality. All they could say was “oh, that Opel-derived car?” or “it’s so unreliable.” If SAAB managers in 1989 heard the word “unreliable” and “SAAB” in the same sentence, I think they would’ve torn that deal up there and then. But because they didn’t and because it has once again stopped making cars because of money problems, I do apologize to hard core SAAB fans but I just can’t make myself believe that SAAB will ever flourish. It’s just too much to ask. I will respect their best work like 900 and 9000 and will not hesitate if I will have a chance to drive them, but that will be it. As I am boycotting GM, I will not be considering on getting a 9-5 or a 2nd Gen 9-3 even if somebody gave it to me.

About being a true petrolhead


Who do you think you are?!: What makes a true petrolhead?

 

 

I hesitated to talk about this topic for long but, after a desperate invitation on Instagram I’ve decided to let it loose and expose these “petrolhead wannabes”.

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The guy in question invited to follow his profile on Instagram. He said it’s about “cars” and I just thought I might check out this guy. But as soon as I opened it, it was yet another one of those million profiles out there, one of those who think they know about cars and think that the flashier the brand is, the cooler the car is. Umm….NO. STOP IT!

 

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Just to give a flavor of what I’m talking about here are a few of his (not sure if his, but they are there) photos. Just a bunch of ordinary midlife crisis cars.

 

First of all, if you are a true petrolhead, you can’t possibly like just new Ferraris (he had quite a few on there). If you say “hey, I love that Ferrari 458” or “Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is the best car in the world”, I laugh my insides out (in my mind, of course), because a true petrolhead doesn’t like just recent Ferraris…or Ferraris in general. Do you know why? Because anyone in the world knows what a Ferrari is and non-enthusiast’s first supercar of choice will always be a Ferrari. It’s a dream car for unimaginative businessmen and for those who think “LSD” is a drug, not a piece of car technology that improves handling. Someone who likes a Ferrari can be regarded to be a petrolhead ONLY if they have a knowledge of the brand and they like the genuine Ferraris (Daytona, 250 GTO, Flat-12 engined Testarossa). They have knowledge and they can say that those cars then were Ferraris. If Enzo Ferrari was alive today, he’d punch Ferrari executives of today directly in the face because the company nowadays go completely against his principals – he made cars to be piece of art and don’t even try and think of doing excessive mass production of them. Enzo made cars primarily to fund his F1 team.

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Ferrari Daytona. If you can tell more about Daytona, then I might think you are a petrolhead

Then there’s the “crown” of petrolhead wannabes – Bugatti “Škoda Headlights” Veyron. Some post pictures and write that that is the coolest, most beautiful car in the world. Excuse me? Lamborghini Miura is beautiful, Aston Martin DBS is cool. Veyron is an example of over-engineered, overpriced, overrated car for people with “SCS” (Small Cock Syndrome); for those who just don’t know what to do with their money and they waste on a car that you can’t drive (more about it in my

About Veyron drivers and Bertone” article.

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Tell me once again that Bugatti Veryon is cooler and prettier than this Aston Martin DBS and I will recommend you an optician to visit because you are possibly blind.

 

Then there are those who think wrapped cars are cool. How in the name of God can you call yourself a petrolhead if you cannot appreciate car’s original looks? The ones that really get on my nerves (and there have been quite a few of those wrapped in shiny wraps) are Bentley Continental GTs, the ultimate show-off Napoleon’s car (and by “Napoleon” I mean a guy who makes himself look “greater” by buying these “bling-bling” automobiles. I know Napoleon himself was an interesting character, but let’s stick to showing off). There will always be someone driving around town in a Bentley at night…wearing sunglasses. That’s just their nature. No wise man will buy a Bentley. You say “oh hang on, but what about the Flying Spur?” Sorry, Gullible Gustav, but “Flying Spur” is just a VW Phaeton with a Bentley badge stuck on the bonnet (one of worst badge-engineering examples ever executed by VW). Don’t get me wrong, Phaeton is a great car, but why waste thousands more buying a Bentley when you can buy a VW for a fraction? If you want prestige, buy a Jaguar XJ, Maserati Quatroporte or a Mercedes S-Class. Or, in worst case, an Aston Martin Rapide. Use common sense.

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Bentley Continental GT. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…well…this happened. WHY?

 

So, now you might as, if you are a petrolhead, how can you prove that? Simple. I like cars based on their heritage, technology and personality, not based on what everyone else thinks. The most important thing of being a petrolhead is to be individual, to not be afraid to share views on any car or any brand. Then you might ask “what cars do you like then and why?” Ok, let’s list just a few, shall we?:

 

1)   Jaguar E-type 4.2 liter Series 1:

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It has to be Series 1, because, personally, I have a feeling that those sealed headlights make that car complete. And the Series 2 and 3 are too American (Jaguar had to customize them to American needs), so they became fatter and more ordinary. I think the ugliest E-type of them all is the E-type Series 3 2+2. Simply because the cabin silhouette is a bit too big, it starts to make this British beauty look like a fishbowl on wheels. Anyway…Series 1 4.2 liter simply because it gave the power that Jaguar promised and because that noise is my favorite car noise in the whole world. I can listen to it day and night and never get tired from it.

2)   DeLorean DMC-12:

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Ok, some might protest now. I know, I know. DeLorean wasn’t that brilliant. It had its flaws such as its engineering (doors, if opened to rapidly, can be deformed, hence that plastic line on the side might look “broken” because of increased panel gaps), performance (the PRV-6 engine combined with laughable American emission restrictions made this car as powerful as a base trim Hyundai of today) and its infamous creator, genius and felon John Zachary DeLorean . But at the same time this story is so mysterious and crazy that it makes me to love this car. I am one of few people in the world who loves the stock car more than the Time Machine in “Back To The Future” and I am definitely considering of owning one in the future when time will be right.

3)   Face-lifted SAAB 900 Turbo Coupe:

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The classic one, obviously. It still is a rather cool and great to drive car. Coupe somehow is well proportioned and it is, I think, the best-looking SAAB there ever was and will be. Also because, though being fast and great to drive, it is still as comfy as Queen Elizabeth’s bed and is one of few coupes that can sit 5 people easily.

4)   Jaguar XK:

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It is the best looking car of today. Forget about the useless rear seats, this car is for gentlemen. Because it saved Jaguar in 2000s, when Ford made such a hustle of it (but it was nothing compared to the disaster that GM created out of SAAB) and because it is a car that truly can be treated like a woman. It’s hips over the rear wheels, the long hood, cat-eyes and the window frame (somehow classic). And because it’s a Jaaaaag.

5)   Lamborghini Miura:

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The genesis of supercars and a Mona Lisa of automotive culture. Read more about it in my “About Veyron drivers and Bertone” article.

6)   Rover Mini Cooper:

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The pre-2001 Minis were Minis. It’s hard to call the post-2001 ones Minis as it’s hard to see in what way are they small. But the original Mini, I’ve driven it, it is brilliant, corners like nothing else out there, is super cute and it is the only car that I’ve seen who’s drivers are waving at each other as they pass. Gives you a feeling that you’re part of another big family, doesn’t it?