Sure, gullwing doors can look insanely cool. From the iconic Mercedes 300 SL to the DeLorean, it's a stunning sight when done right. But why don't we see them more often? There are several reasons why they are not more ubiquitous in the automotive world.
Practicality, safety, cost, and comfort all play a role here. It's an exciting story because when the 300 SL was introduced in 1957, many must have looked at Mercedes as if they had just discovered fire.
And yet, half a decade later, gullwing doors haven't been as successful as hoped — aside from supercars, of course. This is why.
- They're tough to design well
It doesn't seem like much of a technical challenge to open a door rather than open it once you get the idea, but some ongoing design challenges plague gullwing doors in particular.
The first is that the weight of the door, which is usually quite heavy, must actively fight gravity as it travels open, rather than simply pivoting on a traditional hinge.
- They can be annoying to use
Cars with butterfly doors are not as comfortable for passengers as normal car doors. When driving a Tesla X, at least no one must lift things, but Gullwing owners will explain to new passengers how to get in and out of the vehicle for as long as they have it.
It's probably too complicated to explain how doors work all the time. On the other hand, some may find this just a necessary part of being the coolest car on the block.
- Roof Problem
Other designs can cause problems when the door infrastructure interacts poorly with the car's roof. The DeLorean used a torsion bar to create tension in the cabin. However, there was a possibility of overtightening the torsion bar, which could cause the roof to warp.
So another challenge is figuring out how to apply the right amount of pressure without the door handle destroying other parts of the car.
- Emergency Access
Here's another safety issue that has plagued innovators trying to incorporate gullwing doors into car design: In the event of an accident, or if the vehicle rolls over or is upside down, there must be a way in and out. leave.
First responders or others must be able to get into the car to help, and the driver must be able to open the cabin from the inside when alone. A "normal" side door design is also used here: even if the vehicle is lying on its side, one of the doors can still be opened.