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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I 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.
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.
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!