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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Why is it still alive?!: Cadillac Escalade


SNN2315AA-682_972184aI was walking one day, minding my own business. I think I was on my way to see my friend who I haven’t seen since I left for England to study in 2009. Anyway, I was just having my usual walk (80s music in my ears, enjoying the sun) when suddenly I was interrupted by something visually horrible. Ok, I am not an Art historian or a fashion designer, but these kinds of shapes can be drawn up by a 4-year-old kid. It was a black Cadillac Escalade. I have always hated these cars. Not because I am jealous. I believe jealousy is one of most fatal traits of any human being, because it eats you from inside (you keep mentally hitting yourself) and outside (losing your friends). It is just because this car is AWFUL. And to this day I still have no idea why there are some people who walk into a Cadillac showroom and say “I would love to buy an Escalade”. Actually, up until recently I had no idea why people walked into Cadillac showrooms at all, they were terrible. The Cadillac dealership went bankrupt soon after SAAB went away in 2010. How horrible does a car brand have to be, when the dealers survival is depending on another clinically dead brand? Just recently Caddies have finally managed to be somewhat competitive. I’ve seen the new CTS and I can’t even deny that it feels quite decent inside. As good as BMW. Of course it has some design flaws, for example, a glossy interior finish. It is so sensitive to dirt that if someone got shot in a Cadillac nowadays, the police would just need to photograph the climate control panel as all of the fingerprints are visible.

Back to Escalade. I just have not seen a reason why someone has bought one. There might be a couple of reasons why they WOULD buy one.

The main one is psychological. It was once written in The New York Times about this. They said:

Sport utility [SUV, i.e. large off-roaders, the class the Escalade is related to] buyers tend to be more restless, more sybaritic, less social people who are “self-oriented,” to use the automakers’ words, and who have strong conscious or subconscious fears of crime.”

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Basically, those who buy SUVs are all about being flashy, desperate to show off, to tell all world that they exist and they are cool. I read somewhere else that this is because some of these people have been bullied and abused in their childhood. I get this. But some just pretend that they have been suffering and just have an excuse to flaunt. That’s why so many low-class rappers are driving Escalades with too much chromed bits on it (oversized wheels with spinning discs, “gold-wrapped” (like the one I put in before), tinted windows and so on). They want to threaten, to make sure that everyone is afraid of them, rather them being afraid that they might be bullied again. Eminem? Well…it’s hard to count him in. Yes, he has a SUV (Dodge Durango), but it’s not as flashy as those the others drive. I respect Eminem as a rapper. His songs make sense.

Now that’s the only reason I see why would someone buy it. But on other levels that car is RUBBISH.

It is engineered and built by the biggest automotive tyranny on Earth – General Motors – so it is doomed to have some stupid flaws in it, and it does. It was one of the cars that got caught in the big GM recall craze (when more than 8 million cars got recalled for technical problems that they should have had resolved BEFORE the car hit production). Not just the old ones, but the new one too. And for one truly appalling flaw – faulty air bag units. A 21st century car maker having reliability flaws with one of most crucial safety systems in a modern car is a medicine for company’s downfall, but because of people’s stupidity they somehow managed to gain profits during that period. And who knows, maybe there are some more faults in the design that no one, not even their makers, know about. I am actually laughing right now as I write, because I just cannot believe how stupid the GM are by letting such faults just get through. Everybody in the company knew, but did nothing. Some might say it’s risk, but a risk of losing someone’s life over a 5 cent economy is a bit of a bad relationship, if you ask me. If it was at least $1000 dollars per car, I would understand their economy, but still would feel mad about it.

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Then someone says “well some might buy it because it’s comfortable.” Trust me, if someone would like to sail about in an Escalade, the least thing they are thinking is comfort. Maybe the comfort of their dealer’s car service lounge chairs, while waiting until their Escalade gets its recalled bits changed. If someone wants a comfortable car that looks like an Escalade, they would buy a Range Rover. It is the comfiest SUV there is. I’ve driven it and I was surprised on how comfy it was. It was literally like being on a cruise liner. And it would suit design taste of those buying Escalades, because it is just as boxy, just as large, but way better looking. A lot of celebrities are swapping Escalades for Range Rovers.

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And the price is not the issue either. I highly doubt that there will be someone saying “no, Audi Q7 is a bit too expensive for me. I rather buy an Escalade for that”. There are a few issues with that. First: nobody would think about the economy when deciding on which premium SUV to buy. It is what it says in its class description: PREMIUM SUV. People buy the brand, not the value in the premium world. Secondly: if they made the stupid decision and bought the Escalade because of it being cheaper than the competition, they will be suddenly disappointed by its gas mileage, because all that difference will be wiped away by fuel bills. The Escalade has ONLY petrol V8 engines. Highly unlikely recipe for money saving, isn’t it?

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If it’s national identity (Americans buying American cars cos they are helping the country), Escalade loses again. Ford Explorer sells better, so does Dodge Durango. And true Americans would buy a pick-up truck like the Ford F-150. Again an argument against Escalade.

Hated or loved, the Escalade is still here. And will be here for some years as they have introduced the 2015 model. Though I hate it to bits and so do a lot of other petrolheads, GM is still letting it through factory gates. I can’t wait for the day that these people owning an Escalade will finally realize that they cannot feel special with the Escalade. That it’s vulgar, ugly and as big as Florida and will eventually shift to Range Rover, Porsche or BMW. Though they are not American (except BMW; the X5 is built in South Carolina), they will still be better both in sales and in being a car than that pathetic Escalade.

My automotive heroes: Lee Iacocca


Once in a while I will talk about some of my automotive heroes. Guys who had a huge passion for what they did and those who I highly admire. A couple of weeks ago I talked about Colin Chapman. This week I will talk about the guy who’s straight talk and risk paid off when he took up one of most difficult jobs that any automotive entrepreneur could take. No, I am not for once talking about John DeLorean. I am talking about Lee Iacocca.

Lido Anthony Iacocca, an American patriot with Italian passion.

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Some of my closest friends already know that on my phone and my laptop I have a picture folder entitled “Car Guys”. Call me nuts, but in this folder I have pictures of most recognizable and talented executives in automotive world. I flick through them once in a while to gain confidence and to regain the boost for my inspiration: work in a car company. Until recently the dominant person in there was John DeLorean. But recently I read Bob Lutz’s “Icons and Idiots” where he talked about the executives he worked with during his life. The biggest chapter in the book was titled “The name is an acronym for “I Am Chairman Of Chrysler Corporation Always” which was about Bob’s work under Iacocca’s leadership. Though in some areas of this chapter Lutz painted the picture of Iacocca in dark colors the overall vision of him was truly remarkable. So remarkable that I decided to look into what has this man done…and I almost fell of my chair from amazement from the achievement this man has made. So here are some big achievements this man has made that has changed the automotive world forever:

1) HE IS THE FATHER OF MUSTANG

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Lee Iacocca studied industrial engineering and began his career at Ford Motor Company as an engineer. But, after a couple of months he understand that this job is not for him, he asked if he could be moved to marketing and sales. So they did…and that is where the true genius of this man started to show. His selling genius was recognized nationwide while working in Philadelphia as assistant sales manager with his “56 for 56” campaign, i.e. all 1956 Ford model range cars with $56 monthly payments for three years (about £285 in today’s money). Because of this he was transferred to Ford’s Headquarters where in 1960 he became the Vice-President. Then in 1964 he introduced a car that changed the automotive industry forever and changed the idea of “American automobile” – Ford Mustang.

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The Mustang almost didn’t happen, because of Ford’s then recent fiasco that became a household name for “disaster”: Ford Edsel (the car who’s grill resembles the one on Bugatti Veyron). It was thanks to Lee Iacocca’s straight talk and determination that they got green light for the car. And it sold…in less than 2 years they sold over 1 million Mustangs and, as many car historians have said, Mustang “put America on wheels” as it was very good value for money.

For Mustang’s 45th anniversary (this year Mustang celebrates 50 years, by the way) Ford produced a special “Lee Iacocca” Mustang to immortalize the name and the legacy that this great man created (the car you see below).

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2) HE GOT FIRED FROM ONE “BIG 3” COMPANY ONLY TO LAND HIMSELF INTO ANOTHER ONE

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By 1970 Lee Iacocca was made the president of Ford Motor Company. He did make one terrible mistake with the Ford Pinto (look at “Episode 3” of my YouTube blog https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D16-y-B0lY) and was known for saying “Safety doesn’t sell”, but under his watch Ford Motor Company flourished. Then suddenly, in 1978, when the company he managed was making healthy $2 billion, he was fired for clashing too much with ideas made by another board member, Henry Ford II. This came at the right time, because straight after he was made chairman of another American giant, Chrysler Corporation, where his actions became legendary.

3) IF NOT FOR HIM, CHRYSLER WOULD’VE COLLAPSED

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The Chrysler Corporation in everyone’s eyes were dead in 1978. The company was making losses so big, workers were praying God that the collapse won’t hurt them too much. Iacocca, being an extremely tough guy, saw a huge potential in the company and went to the U.S. congress, asking for a loan of $750 million to save Chrysler. Some of congressmen went crazy, saying that this investment would ruin American economy and it would be wasted. On the other hand, Lee came back, arguing that if they do let Chrysler fail, the damage to the Economy would’ve been far more disastrous than the loan itself (approximately $10 billion a year).

In the end the government trusted Iacocca, giving him $1.5 billion to invest into Chrysler corporation and asked to repay this loan by the end of 1990. Lee kept his promise and turned the company and repaid the loan already in mid 1983 (below: him celebrating the loan repayment)

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The introduction of the K-car (i.e. K-platform car that had front-wheel drive and economy engines) brought tons of money into the company despite the economic decline at the time and made Lee Iacocca a household name. Lee also made sure that Chrysler was synonymous with “quality” and “reliability”.

4) HE INTRODUCED THE MINIVAN WE ALL KNOW

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GM and Ford already were under way with introducing a minivan, but Iacocca got the formula right – a spacious, front-wheel-drive getabout for those new families, groups of friends and wannabe rockstars. By this time Lee was so sure of himself that he started appearing regularly in car commercials. He has been famous for saying “If you can find a better car, buy it.” And they didn’t, as Chrysler was the best at the time in the States.

5) HE SAVED LAMBORGHINI

There was another company with one foot in the grave at the time – Automobili Lamborghini. Because of Iacocca’s Italian parents and his love for the country (he had a property there) he decided to make a gamble for it and it paid off. Diablo instantly became Lamborghini’s best selling car and saved the dying Italian company. Also, with help from Lambo people, Chrysler developed a V10 engine that they put into their Viper, another legendary car that was born during Iacocca’s time at the helm.

 

So there you have it. This guy, though having some lows, in the car world he’s going to be remembered as a legend that changed the face of automotive industry forever. A living legend. I wish him good health and still long enough time on this Earth to have a chance to do plenty of charity work what he has been doing for most of his retirement.

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