Enter gull wing doors: the doors of a billionaire.
Remember the DeLorean? It’s that gorgeous, stainless steel car made famous by the Back to the Future movie trilogy. Arguably the most enticing thing about this classic vehicle was the fact that it had dramatic gull wing doors, which opened up instead of out.
Well, guess what? A recent house bill governing car companies that don’t produce many cars per year just made it possible for the iconic DeLorean to make a comeback.
First produced in 1982, the rear-engine two-door coupe went out business when John DeLorean was arrested for drug trafficking. Now, more than 30 years after it made its debut, the DeLorean and its gull wing doors are making a return. Certainly this begs the question why haven’t more car companies developed gull wing doors while DeLorean was defunct.
There are a few. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the Porsche 917 and Lincoln’s new Navigator Concept SUV, for example, but not many car manufacturers have opted to get into the gull wing door game. Here’s our best guess at why.
- High ceilings. Although many people think that gull wing doors need more horizontal space than traditional doors it’s actually the opposite. Gull wing doors require, on average, less than a foot of space between the car and any adjacent obstacle. That said, Gull wing doors open up, so they also need more ceiling space to open successfully. Not an issue in your spacious driveway but it could prove to be challenging in a tight garage.
- Hard to open. Since gull wings doors open vertically, they are effectively fighting against gravity. In order to take the weight off the passenger’s arms as they try to lift the door, gull wing doors require some extra engineering. Historically the DeLorean used rods that help push the door up when opened although it remains to be seen if this mechanism will remains unchanged in the new version.
- Can’t reach. Once you’re inside it takes a very long arm to reach all the way up to the pull down the door of the Mercedes SLS AMG. Drivers and passengers of smaller stature are out of luck unless they plan ahead, or get help, which really ruins the effect of having such a sexy car.
- Won’t open in rollover. With big, heavy cars safety always comes first and the problem with gull wing doors is there is no easy way to remove them if the vehicle rolls over during an accident. The Tesla X, for example has rear gull wing doors that are fully powered but naturally they can’t exert enough force to open themselves if they are upside down. The Mercedes Benz SLS actually has a mechanism to blow the hinges of the doors off in case of an accident but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to get out.
Gull wings doors will always be dramatic and when the DeLorean makes its comeback in 2017 we’ll be holding our breath to see if they’ve created any new solutions but our guess is those who want the drama are willing to assume the risk.