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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Sharing is caring: most surprising car part sharing occasions


On Tuesday I was doing something that only 10% of Twitter users do: scroll through and read the messages posted on the main feed. Since I’m following 216 accounts it is quite a messy feed, ranging from posts from people I actually care about to some stupid, unreasonable reposts, like “you will not believe what Justin Bieber posted on Facebook. To see it, click this link here”. Uh-huh, yeah, I’m not that stupid. There are two things I don’t care about in these situations: Justin Bieber and getting my laptop infected with every single computer virus there ever has been.

But it’s not all that bad. I find out some surprising facts and I found something quite shocking car-wise that I decided to do some research and find out more of this trait in car world. CAR PART SHARING.

The post that caused this interest was about McLaren F1. An engineering marvel. It still is the fastest naturally aspirated car in the world with 390 km/h (240 mph) in the record books and it is sort of a hypercar that you wouldn’t be expecting to see a cocky rapper or a pretending genius, teeth-whitened producer behind the wheel. No. These cars are owned by true professionals like Jay Leno, Eric Clapton, Michael Schumacher, Elon Musk and Rowan Atkinson (who occasionally kept crashing and restoring his F1). The car had a price tag of $1m and, because only 106 were produced, this price won’t be decreasing for sure. So you expect this car to be made out of exotic materials and genuine parts created for the car. But you’d be wrong, because there was a set of parts on the car that you would be least expecting to be shared with some other car. I am talking about the rear lights.

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Now an ordinary human being would just say “no big deal”. But then you have to see what other car (or I’d rather say “motor vehicle”) shares them. Surprise, surprise, it’s a DAF bus.

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If the car DAF would’ve shared its parts with would’ve been a Ford or a Hyundai, I wouldn’t be surprised, but cost cutting on a million dollar supercar seems unjustified. It’s not like the company was short of cash. With McLaren having four consecutive F1 championship titles before the car was released in 1992 it’s not like they were short of cash. Or maybe they rushed it. That’s the only explenation I could think of – them rushing to finish the car in time before potential buyers turn away. Luckily McLaren aren’t the same anymore, having all their cars and technology designed “in the house” as they say in the car world.

But McLaren ain’t the only ones who fell into the misery of car part sharing. Here are a couple of other cars with some cheap parts and the cars these parts originated from.

ASTON MARTIN DB7 REAR LIGHT MODULES – 1989 MAZDA 323F

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I now understand why in 1990s James Bond didn’t drive the Aston. Because as you can see, cost cutting in the company was pretty horrible. The rear lights out of a economy car? It’s the only design element of that car I didn’t really like. Aston wasn’t all that great on the inside either, having a gearstick so close to the stereo that you couldn’t really change your cassette (or CD if you were tech-savy in those days) unless you had your car in a low gear if it was an auto box or if it was in 2nd, 4th or 6th. The switchgear and the console itself was very Fordish (which is no coincidence, as Aston was owned by Ford from 1987 to 2007. Ford also had a small share of Mazda as well, which explains the light sharing). It’s a shame, because it’s an Aston Martin.

ASTON MARTIN VIRAGE FRONT AND REAR LIGHTS – AUDI 200 and VW SCIROCCO

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It’s Aston again. But this car basically shows how bad things were before Ford took Aston Martin over. It’s no surprise that you haven’t heard of the Virage, because it was Aston’s call for desperation to stay alive. Just over 1000 cars were produced and they haven’t really found their place in classic car hall of fame. Partly it was because of its gopping looks. This car really looks like it was designed in a hurry by an accountant and a salesman. Then there was the parts sharing. The front lights were from Audi 200 and rear lights – from a VW Scirocco. They could’ve used parts from other manufacturers because these don’t fit at all. It makes the Aston look like a kit car built by some car enthusiasts during weekends. Some really could mistake this with a VW Scirocco coupe which for an Aston would be such a resentment.

MG SV-R – FIAT PUNTO

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The last years of MG were a pain to many car enthusiasts. Here is a brand with racing pedigree and charm dying a suffering death. This suffering also was reflected into cars they built. The MG SV-R was a weird project. Firstly because it was a super car from a brand that already earned a reputation for building cars for British pensioners (thanks to Rover). Secondly because though it was supposed to be a super car it was still built like a pensioner’s car. The front lights were inherited from Fiat’s Punto. It’s not a bad decision as it suited the design, making it look like it squints at you with a mean stare.

PAGANI ZONDA AIR CONDITIONING CONTROLS – MG ZS

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Now this one I found by pure chance and I started doubting Pagani. Up until the moment I found out about this I believed (sort of) what Horacio Pagani was saying, that he sprays a fresh grass air freshener around his office so he can concentrate better, that he was spending hours walking around the finished car and watching every single detail of it before redesigning it, that all the parts for his cars were made by Pagani. RUBBISH! So did MG just steal a batch of air conditioning units from you and dropped them into their cars? What’s more, they just kept washing petrolhead’s brains that all cars are “crafted to the absolute perfection” and hey used this claim to justify their £500k price tag. Why couldn’t you just rise the price for another £50k and insert proper electronic switch gear, not one that costs £60 (I did research. The MG air conditioning control unit costs £60). If your cars were an automotive perfection, why did you cut costs so early?

LAMBORGHINI DIABLO FACELIFTED MODEL’S HEADLIGHTS – NISSAN 300ZX

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It’s nothing huge, but I really preferred the pop-up headlights on the Diablo. That’s all because of the legislation that is supposed to “keep people alive by removing this fatal headlight design”. Thanks.

NOBLE M600 ENGINE – VOLVO S80 V8

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This last one though might not be a visual part, but it sure is quite an interesting one. The hard-core supercar maker Noble used the conservative Volvo’s mad V8 engine, added a couple of turbos and created a monster. It’s really a shame we will never see a V8 engine in a Volvo again because they’re now staying with 4-cylinder engines, but it’s weird that a Volvo engine powers a 200+mph supercar. What’s more, remove all the silencers on Volvo’s exhaust and you will have the best car to confuse people with, because when they’ll hear this roar and then see an S80 coming from that way they will think that they’ve lost their minds. These cars are called “sleeper’s cars”, because until you beat the guy next to you at the take off from traffic lights, he will never know that you have something sinister at your disposal.