How Do I Get In? A Look at Some Funky Car Doors

Renault Trezor Concept

Renault’s Trezor Concept

This year’s Mondial De L’Automobile Paris (Paris Motor Show) featured many automakers’ takes on the future of automobiles, but we wanted to take a moment to reflect on one of the more outlandish unveilings. While these shows tend to feature out-there concept cars and future iterations that never see production, the Renault Trezor electric concept has definitely been one of the more unique concept cars to hit the show floor. Just look at that “door.”

Concept cars aren’t much different than runway fashion—they are completely outlandish, impractical, and sometimes unattractive in the traditional sense in order to inspire more practical products in the future. A canopy top, like that found on the Trezor, is an extremely rare feature, one often reserved for concept cars and custom kits. There’s a good chance you won’t see a Trezor with a liftable-canopy doorway on the consumer market, just like you didn’t see the Maserati Birdcage 75th Concept and its similar canopy opening after the 2005 Geneva Auto Show. But the Trezor has inspired us to look at some funky doors that have actually made it into production.

1986 Lamborghini Countach

More formally known as scissor doors, “Lambo doors” have been a staple of expensive sports cars and unnecessary car mods since they were introduced in 1968 on the Alfa Romeo Carabo concept car. It took half a decade for those scissor doors to make it onto a production car, but they arrived on the Lamborghini Countach in 1974 and have been a cornerstone of Lamborghini’s design ever since. Interestingly enough, the doors’ style was dictated by an engineering necessity—both the Carabo concept and the Countach were too low and wide for the cars to have proper rear visibility. To alleviate this, the doors were designed to allow the driver to lift the door and lean out of the hatch to see behind the car.

2015 Jeep Wrangler

To be completely frank, one of our favorite types of doors is the one that’s not even there. The best thing about a Jeep Wrangler isn’t what Jeep puts on the small SUV, but what you can remove from it. Most Wrangler owners occasionally indulge in removing the convertible hard top, but the truly dedicated off-roading enthusiast will also pop those doors right off. Jeep may be the only manufacturer to encourage completely unscrewing those hinges, though it clearly warns that’s for off-road use only. The Jeep Wrangler is certainly a fan favorite, and those doors are definitely two of the big reasons why.

1991 BMW Z1

Sliding doors are a common occurrence on certain types of automobiles. Cargo vans, passenger wagons, and MPVs and minivans utilize sliding rear doors to offer better access for passengers and cargo. But you certainly don’t see many sports cars with sliding retractable doors. The Kaiser Darrin was the exception, and to this day, it is the only sports car manufacturer to have featured “pocket doors,” doors that displace horizontally into the front fender. However, BMW had its own take on this sliding-door concept, and introduced a unique vertically displacing sliding door on the BMW Z1. The doors slid down into the car’s chassis, allowing access over the large sills on the bottom of the doorway that provide structural integrity and increased safety. Lincoln featured a similar system on the 1993 Lincoln Mark VII concept car, but it has not found its way into a production car since.

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Gull-wing doors, named for their seagull-like silhouette while open, were introduced in 1952 with the Mercedes-Benz 300SL race car. A road-legal production variant of the 300SL hit the market just two years later. Influencing just a handful of cars that decided to adopt the door design over a few decades, gull-wing doors appeared only on concepts, supercars, and limited-run vehicles. Production cars with gull-wing doors include the Bricklin SV-1 in 1975, the DeLorean DMC-12 in 1981, and Mercedes-Benz’s own SLS-Class AMG in 2010. The Tesla Model X takes considerable inspiration from this design with its “falcon-wing” rear door system, which features a more practical double-hinge design. The most obvious flaw in the gull-wing door system is the question of what happens in the event of a rollover if exiting the car becomes impossible. Mercedes answered this for the SLS AMG by fitting explosive bolts on the door hinges that would dislodge the door in the event of a rollover.

1965 Lincoln Continental

Possibly the best thing about suicide doors is their simplicity. They have no complex mechanical mechanism, no unique rotating hinges, and no need to have a specially designed frame or chassis. It’s just a door with hinges at the rear instead of the front. A rear-hinged door system (the preferred technical term) was a common feature on cars in the first half of the 20th century, taking its design from horse-drawn carriages. Probably the most well-known example of the rear-hinged door system was found on the 1960s Lincoln Continental. Suicide doors have fallen in and out of vogue over the decades, mainly due to safety concerns. But recently vehicles such as the Honda Element, Toyota FJ Cruiser, BMW i3, and Mazda RX-8 have been using suicide-door systems for their rear seats. Probably the most prominent manufacturer to still consistently produce suicide doors is Roll-Royce, which has suicide doors installed across most of its lineup, including its coupes.

What’s your favorite car door?

–John Harrington

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Used Lamborghini Countach
Used Jeep Wrangler
Used BMW Z3 M
Used Mercedes-Benz SLS-Class
Used Lincoln Continental

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