update: I did and ill post it later
A PROBABLY NOT COMPLETE GUIDE TO CAR DOOR HANDLES
Ah. So you have made a beautiful classic from the 50s. Era correct, swooping lines, lots of chrome, a real beauty. Now there is only one thing missing to make this car complete, right?
So. That’s better, right? But why do you feel deep inside that something after all might be…just wrong?
Door handles are a small detail that can make or break realism, actually. I have already been anal by putting up a guide how one certain type should be placed, and for some reason I am kind of a door handle nerd. @Arn38fr releasing a bunch of new handles, in combination with some people mentioning that they have a hard time choosing them, I will briefly go through the most common types and show some variants. Note that they are probably called different things in a car designer’s language, so don’t take what I call them as some official names, and yes, I probably will be missing one handle or another, but I hope this can give an overview.
THE “TWIST” TYPE
The oldest type of them all. Predates the car, and needs no further explanation. You already have them on all the doors in your house, either as conventional handles, or as knobs. And speaking of knobs…
… the Volvo Venus Bilo concept car actually used them!
This is mainly a pre-war design. Cars using them after WW2 were often carryovers from before the war. But they survived on some more simple, utilitarian cars for longer amounts of time. The last passenger car released that used them that I can think of was the early Mini, which however adopted pushbutton handles on later facelifts. Also, it survived for a bit longer on…
…sliding doors for vans and…
…tailgates on some station wagons.
Today they are extinct unless you are Morgan. They were quite natural on early cars since it was what a door handle was to most people, and since the door latches on early cars actually was more or less similar in construction to the ones on house doors (even used the same standard size on the square end so fact is that if you have a car with twist type handles, you can put regular handles from the hardware store in their place, lol). The handle in itself is also sturdy and reliable, being just one chunk of metal.
But they do have their drawbacks. Pedestrian safety was hardly a priority back then, but fact is that protruding door handles with sharp points that could snatch on clothes etc. was one of the earliest objects for criticism. They are not really stellar from an aerodynamic standpoint either, and with more modern, safer, secure door latch types replacing the traditional “house door” type, their days were numbered. Also, it is of course easy to imagine that a car with those looked “old” when there was more modern and fancy types available.
So, to sum it up, this is the natural choice on pre-war cars, more uncommon after WW2, ancient in the 60s and should only be used on really simple and utilitarian vehicles after that. Could be used for a little longer on sliding doors on vans, tailgates etc.
THE “PULL” TYPE
Here shown on an early VW Beetle, the pull type is another style of handles that is very old, starting to emerge already before WW2. And one could say that they are still going strong - because there is no doubt that they are the most common type of door handle on cars of today. But the operation has actually changed a bit. The old pull type handles were hinged at the back, and had more or less the same drawbacks as the twist type handles. While being somewhat popular in the early postwar era, they more or less got replaced by mainly pushbutton handles, until Mercedes “reinvented” the handle on the 1971 107-series SL/SLC.
The new thing was that the handle now was hinged at the front, not leaving an exposed edge that could snatch on things and maybe even unlatch the door. That meant that the handle now had almost no major drawbacks at all. Sure, protruding from the body they still wasn’t the most aerodynamic choice and they could still be something of a pedestrian hazard but…
…the W126 S-class some years later made the handle more “flat” and instead had a recess behind it, and here we more or less has the “modern” pull type handle finished, like it is used on cars today, spare for that styling can be a bit different. Also notice that the handle is made of plastic. Mercedes introduced that on the 1976 W123, I don’t know if that was the first car with plastic handles, but at least an early adopter, so try to keep in mind that before the mid 70s, regardless of handle type, they should generally be metal.
Rumours says that Mercedes had patented this type of pull out handle, and that may be correct since competitors were not really catching up in the 70s. The earliest non-Mercedes I can think of that used the same style of handles was the 1985 Saab 9000 (there is probably other examples but still). Today, though, it is probably the most common type of door handle, maybe not too strange since it is a good compromise between styling, ergonomy, practicality and safety.
To sum it up, appearing in the pre-war era, somewhat common immediately after the war, but going out of popularity a bit in favour of pushbutton handles. “Reinvented” in the early 70s, becoming more and more common since the mid 80s, and is the dominating type today.
THE “PUSHBUTTON” TYPE
One of the earliest adopters of the pushbutton type door handle was the early 40s Lincoln Continental. Where it was - just a pushbutton and nothing more.
Stylish but not very practical. A variant could be found on some cars, for example the Renault 5.
Here, you still had only a button and no traditional handle, but at least a recess for your hand to open the door.
However, in the late 40s, they started to appear in their most common form, with a fixed “handle” either incorporating a pushbutton, or being placed close to one. And this was probably the most common type of handles in the 50s, 60s and first part of the 70s. Then they were maybe falling a bit out of favour, but never really gone away (for example, I think that the Fiat Tipo, arriving in 1989, has them, and so do a lot of late 80s/ early 90s american GM cars).
From the 90s and onwards, they have mostly appeared on cars having a “retro” inspired design, though, like the Chrysler PT Cruiser (shown), Jeep Wrangler or Mercedes G-class.
This type of handle is often sturdy and reliable, but it has some drawbacks. Once again, we have the aerodynamic drawbacks of a protruding handle, as well as the pedestrian safety even if it at least lacks snag points unlike the twist and some of the pull type handles. However, both of them can of course be cured by making the handle more “flat” and put a recess behind it. They can also be really awkward in cold weather since the pushbuttons may freeze (I am living in northern Sweden and as a child my father were mostly driving Mercedes W115s with pushbutton handles so…I know the struggle). Also, they are questionable from a rollover/side impact standpoint, since if something strikes the button, it might unlatch the door.
To sum it up, appearing in the 40s, becoming commonplace in the 50s and probably the most common type of handles in that century, as well as the 60s and early 70s. Used on regular cars throughout the 80s. Never completely went out of fashion but since the 90s mostly used on “retro” designs. Also, very important to put them on the right way, see guide above.
THE “FLAP” TYPE
One early adopter of this type was the fin era Mopars. Traditional door handles were probably not stylish enough in the jet age. In the 60s they were gaining in popularity more and more, and in the 70s they started to take over from the pushbutton handles as the most popular type.
And as this Dodge Challenger shows, they are still used, in a not too different form other than maybe styling wise. However, they seemed to be on their way out in the early 00s, getting replaced by pull style handles. It seems like with the recent EV craze, though, that they are coming back, maybe because less wind resistance means more range. Because that is of course something they have in their favour, due to the “flush” design. Also, many people seems to find them to be “stylish” because of that. They do have drawbacks, though. Often, they are rather “flimsy” and not as reliable as other types of handles. Ergonomy is not optimal since you have to reach them from one side unlike a pull handle that can be reached from two sides. They have sometimes been questioned from a safety standpoint, since it is harder to open a jammed door than with pull handles, however, since the emergency crew seems to be cutting the roof if they are the slightest in doubt nowadays, I don’t know if that is very much of a problem.
Some manufacturers flipped them over, here AMC, but the action is the same…
…and then of course we have the Miata.
Sometimes they are hidden in the pillars for the rear doors, I think that the WD21 Nissan Pathfinder was something of a pioneer there.
To sum it all up: Started to appear in the late 50s, became more commonplace in the late 60s. Probably the most popular type of handle in the 90s, 80s and at least later part of the 70s. Went a little bit out of fashion in the 00s in favour of pull type handles but never really disappeared. Might even be getting a revival now. Since it is a type of handle used for a long period of time, watch out. What fits on a car from the 60s might not do it on a modern car and there is numerous fixtures of this type to choose between.
THE “TRIGGER” TYPE
Appeared on Volkswagens in 1968, was used by numerous VW, Audi and Porsche products well into the 90s, as well as the original Saab 900 (and later model Saab 99s), and the Volvo 700-900 series. For more modern implementations, I think that the mid 00s euro Civic might have used them. The idea was to eliminate the risk of the door unlatching in, for example, a rollover accident by removing the external pushbutton and placing a “trigger” on the inside of the handle instead. I don’t know if they have any major drawbacks, though I remember that as a kid I hated opening Volvo 740 doors because the trigger was so heavy to operate, so maybe they aren’t really good if you have reduced strength in your hands. Also, the handles used on for example the Mk1-Mk2 Golf has a really bad reputation for reliability, but on the other hand I have never heard about Volvo, Saab or aircooled VW handles failing, so it might be more about how they are engineered and less about the type in itself.
To sum it all up: Started to appear in the late 60s, never really took off but can’t be called uncommon either, especially not for cars in the 70s-90s. If you like it, use it.
THE “SQUEEZE” TYPE
Often looks like the “flap” type when you first look at it, but instead of pulling a flap outwards, it is actually kind of a huge “button” that you push upwards.
IIRC, this 1955 Nash door handle is an early implementation of it. Then it has been used on for example 60s Fiats (which means that the Lada Niva still uses them), 70s european Fords, I think some 70s and 80s Toyotas, and the sliding door of the T4 VW Transporter. Still, quite a rare type though. Don’t know if there even is any fixtures resembling it, although many “flap” type fixtures could probably work for it.
THE “FLUSH” TYPE
Handles being more or less flush with the body have existed since at least the 50s, here on a Mercedes 300 SL. Some different types exist, there is some that you push in in one end for the handle to pop out…
there is some that have a button you have to push for the handle to pop out (here on a Fiat Barchetta)
We have the Tesla handles that pop out electronically
And then we have my favourite handle of all times, the Corvette C3. Almost hidden when it is mounted on top of the door, push down to open.
They have mostly been used on sports cars, but there is examples of some less exotic cars to use it, like the 1955 De Soto…
Late 60s and early 70s Pontiac Grand Prix
And with the chase for the perfect aerodynamics due to the EV boom, we will probably see them on some more regular cars in the future, like here on the Honda E.
To sum it all up, have existed since at least the 50s in many different configurations. Most suitable for, but not limited to, sports cars, since they are a bit of “design over practicality”. Probably becoming more commonplace in the future though.
I think that I have gone through all the most common types now, there will always be oddballs like the little levers on the early Twingos or the hidden button under the mirror on some TVRs etc. - but I feel like there is no idea going through every handle that has ever existed here, if you want to do something oddball and is in doubt, do your research. And as always - check out similar cars from the era. Even if the pull type is right even on cars of today, I doubt that the 1949 Mercury handles that just arrived as a mod will look right on a modern car - or vice versa, it is really about the shape, material etc. too. - but if this is going to help anyone (and if it means that I never again has to see that square 80s shape in black plastic on a 1940s car), it’s all good I guess.
(And this looks more believable, doesn’t it?)
It’s strange that we have waited so long for a guide to door handles, but you should be commended for providing one that covers (nearly) every era, shape, and type imaginable.
This is sick bruh, ill be sending this link out to a few of my peoples so they can read this too.
Your car is - just head-breakaway.
It definitely has an exceptional spirit, thus in it car will be a pleasure to travel. Thanks for the comprehensive guide to the door handles. Indeed, it is quite important. You’ve listed the important aspects here - ergonomics, design, comfort, appearance and dimensions. I will allow to note that some types are more prone to body scratches.
Around the CornerMRM's simple guide to wraparound bumpers, lights, and more
Step 1: Pick out some fixture you’d like to wrap around a corner. Headlights, taillights, and bumpers work great!
Fixtures can sometimes be wrapped around corners without this trick, but results are often smeary.
Step 1b (optional): Set fixture to cardinal lock.
This step is not always necessary, but is usually recommended unless you’re going for a specific effect.
Step 2: Set fixture to 3D mode.
Step 3: Move and rotate fixture over the desired corner.
Step 4: Set fixture to 2D mode.
Experiment with different placements and angles to affect the final shape of the fixture.
More ways to use the corner trick:
Smoother splitters on rounded bodies…
…and perfectly fitting dash fillers.
i fucking love you
Glad I could help!
Yeah you just changed the whole game for me. swapping to 3d and then back to 2d literally adds an extra dimension to the game’s fixtures.
This is a godsend for players who have found out the hard way that some fixtures look awkward on some bodies when they try to wrap them around corners.
It also works to rotate in other axes, and then go back to 2d. So, yeah it’s a total game changer!
I’ve tried the 2D-to-3D trick with body moldings and lips on bodies where they usually don’t conform well otherwise, and it worked wonders.