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the benefits of suicide doors

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  • the benefits of suicide doors

    When I lived in New Zealand I had the use of a friend's 1936 Singer Nine, for eighteen months while he was overseas in Scotland. This car had a weak valve spring, and its valve would frequently get stuck in the open position. This would stall the engine. It was hard to get it started again without first unsticking the valve.

    I finally developed a procedure which would unstick the valve in about three minutes flat. I didn't have to get out of the driver's seat to do it. In fact, I had to stay in the driver's seat to keep my foot on the gas pedal, gunning the engine so that it wouldn't stall. Fortunately the car had "suicide" doors, hinged at the rear. This gave me easy access to the
    gull-wing bonnet. I was able to reach out one arm and open up one side of it, gaining full access to the valve cover. This was secured with two or three wing nuts. With one hand I would take the valve cover off, exposing the overhead camshaft and the valve springs. Then I'd reach in the back seat for a long-handled screw driver I carried for the occasion, jam it into the stuck spring, and gently pry. As long as the engine didn't stall, this would get the valve moving up and down again, with my elbow flapping to the beat. I'd screw the valve cover back, close the bonnet, shut the door, and drive off running on four cylinders again.

    The spring finally busted for good in Harihari, on the West Coast. The owner of the junkyard there had a spring and valve guide from an Austin Seven, which fit perfectly. The valve never stuck again.

    I doubt if I would have got the car so far south if the Singer had conventionally-hinged doors. The designers knew what they were doing.
    Last edited by aostling; 09-04-2007, 03:24 AM.
    Allan Ostling

    Phoenix, Arizona

  • #2
    I guess with front mounted hinges,the "b"pillar could be made stronger.Hence the disappearance of the suicide doors.If the door was hit by another vehicle,it wouldn't necessarily kill you,but it would do your legs a power of no-good!
    I remember many english cars of the 50's and 60's had electric lucas fuel pumps.They used to make a steady ticking noise when pumping.If they stopped,which they did frequently,you'd have to get under the bonnet,and whack the thing with the handle of a large screwdriver or other handy implement.Some even had this blasted contraption mounted in the boot,which often meant removing the spare wheel,and/or luggage.Rather inconvenient when it was pouring with rain.Which is precisely the time they stopped working,of course!Ah,the good old days.


    • #3
      btw.,this thread is not as off-topic as some might claim.Cars in those days were a lot heavier,and thus so were the doors.Because the hinge pins were often made of something resembling butter,they wore at an alarming rate.Then a pin punch and hammer were required to remove said pins.there ya go,engineering!I couldn't afford reamers,so i'd whack another pin in,and hope for the best.


      • #4
        How 'bout picking up girls- open the passenger door, do a slow drive by, scoop up a few and drive off.
        I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-


        • #5
          My uncle as a small child impulsively reached over and unlatched the door - at speed. The door flew open, taking uncle with with it, hanging on the door until grandpa could get the car stopped. Gramps traded the car in the next day.
          Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
          ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


          • #6
            I have a 1939 Dodge 4 door. The back doors are suicide but the front are not. Sure makes it much easier getting in and out of the back seat!


            • #7
              The Benefits of Suicide Doors

              Surprisingly, I am here despite a request to abandon the Forum!

              Ah well!

              Of course, this idea of doors this way and that does not follow the laws of
              old Euclid! One has to get into solid geometry and to realise that the conjoined scuttle, two wings, front brakes , wheels and suspension all had to be fitted together- together with the body, screen and Heaven knows what.
              Adding a pair of doors onto this a bit of an overload. Of course these doors, if hung on the A Post would be triangulated- but the wrong way and would have to made heavier to resist the load. All this would have to hung on something like a ladder chassis. I don't know whether any one of you has actually done a pressed steel; chassis repair on a pre- monocoque vehicle but it doesn't need much imagination- or memory because the last of the Triumph cars were built on either a pair of tubes or a pressed steel chassis.
              If one cares to look at the re-assembly of a Mark 3 Spitfire, the instructions will confirm the actual weakness- floppiness- in the design. Again, sports cars usually need to have a 'doubler' at the sills to compensate for the lack of a roof structure to link up the A and B posts.

              For those who have yet to determine such principles, the Egg is much stronger than the Chicken inside it.

              Accountancy does teach one to add and substract!
              Well, it did for me! I suppose that there are books on the subject of car body design as well as the examinations. Oops!


              • #8
                Only one request good Norm??
                Just returned from the Naki. Ahh, cool mountain air and biting Southerlies or was that from the West?? Numbed to the marrow
                Keep well young Norm.
                And to keep somewhat on topic. Before we departed South I spent two+ days installing a new stereo in the Corona. A fine install including customised speaker enclosures in the doors.
                It damn near drove me to suicide.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Wes1
                  My uncle as a small child impulsively reached over and unlatched the door - at speed. The door flew open, taking uncle with with it,
                  Huh. I always wondered why they were called "Suicide Doors"

                  That Lincoln Towncar Convertible on Entourage is a beauty, isn't it!
                  "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Wes1
                    My uncle as a small child impulsively reached over and unlatched the door - at speed. The door flew open, taking uncle with with it, hanging on the door until grandpa could get the car stopped. Gramps traded the car in the next day.
                    My dad did that when he was 8 or so,only he didn't pull the latch,the door just popped open,left a good sized dent in his head(splains a lot)
                    I just need one more tool,just one!


                    • #11
                      The Benefits of Suicide Doors

                      Of course, one needs the 'Mercedes Gunsight' to achieve the fine Germanic Precision.