Automotive X PRIZE competitor Illuminati Motor Works Q & A

10. With your project do you feel the Gull-wing doors and rear facing backseats will have the car viewed as more futuristic than practical? Many builders in the past have experienced problems with Gull-wing doors. Did the team encounter any obstacles? If so how were these resolved?

Nate:

Gull-wing doors solve a bunch of problems and are really cool to boot. Practically the only thing different about gull-wing doors is where the hinge is, and any hatch back, or SUV owner should be able to concede that their rear door or hatch isn’t that futuristic. Rear facing seats, well they are much safer than forward facing seats. A car spends most of its time with people in it going forward and when you strike something going forward the energy from the collision must be absorbed by the seat belts. When you spread the energy out over an entire seat the severity of the impact is greatly reduced. A whole bunch of physics proves this, but some other examples to illustrate the point rear facing Child safety seats, the C5 galaxy military transport has rear facing seats, and astronauts recline to take the acceleration from lift off in a prone position.

Josh:

Gull-wing doors were considered futuristic when they were first implemented in 1952 on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL. It could be said that many consumers would find them just as futuristic now, if only for the fact that there have been very few production cars that incorporated them. The most notable being the Bricklin brand of the 1970’s and of course the world famous Delorean of the 1980’s, made famous by the film “Back to the Future”. It is a pretty involved design aspect. We went through a few design ideas before settling on our current configuration of hinges and lift assistance. We feel that our design is the best we can do within the capacity of our limited resources and time restraints. The practicality of the door design is in it’s entry and exit of a low sitting vehicle, and it’s minimal opening clearance.

With the door hinging near the middle of the roof, it allows the driver/passenger to avoid the need to bend way over and duck beneath the roofline to gain entry. Also, our door only extends 16 inches from the side of the car at it’s widest point. Open a traditional car door only 16 inches from the outside door face to the doorjamb, and you’ll find it very difficult if not impossible to gain entry. (Unless of course you are a very slender contortionist, or a Hobbit like Kevin.)

Kevin:

That’s me 😀

Nate:

Gull-wing doors biggest problem in the public perception of them. Technically the biggest problem they impose is they have to be raised by the occupant or some other mechanical means. Here is an experiment for you try to park your car 16” from something and get in and out of it, you can with ours.

Josh:

Rear facing seats may take some getting used to by the average consumer. However, they too have been around for decades. Many station wagons over the years have incorporated a rear facing “rumble” seat in their rear hatch areas. Growing up, my grandmother had such a car, and it was always a race with my cousins to get to that seat first. In keeping with fuel efficiency concerns, we had to design our vehicle with the best possible aerodynamics in mind. That being said, our best option to provide seating for four adults was to arrange the rear seats facing rearward. For us to use the traditional orientation for rear seats, and at the same time keep with our aerodynamic constraints, our car would have needed to be over 25 feet long. In our opinion, that is not practical in the least. As it sits, our car is just over 17 feet long. Just slightly longer that the average Ford Crown Victoria Police Cruiser.