You and I probably pay little attention to how we get in and out of our cars. Every time we go for a ride, we unlock our car, open the door, sit down and close it again. Simple, right? However, I recently came across a Rolls Royce with a rather strange door that rekindled some old memories. Memories of when I was collecting miniature cars years before I had my driving license. I remember owning a miniature Delorean DMC-12, and along with that Rolls Royce, sent me on a quest to discover more unusual doors on cars. And of course, we all know about the McLaren F1’s butterfly doors, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing doors, and Lamborghini’s scissor-style doors, but there are far stranger set-ups out there!
1954 Kaiser Darrin
Have you ever considered the option of a sliding door for your car? It would be great in small areas like car parks, for instance, to make getting in and out of your car that little bit easier, right? However, American industrialist Henri J. Kaiser thought it was a good idea to build such a door on the 1954 Kaiser Darrin. Aimed to compete head-to-head with small European sports cars like the Triumph TR2 at the time, the Darrin featured a patented set of doors that slid forward into the front fenders.
The door assembly was kept rather simple, as it lacked any form of windows. Another unusual element was the Landau top, but as the car is never fully enclosed, you’re best taking it out for a cruise on sunny days only. The peculiar design of the vehicle, combined with a lack of performance, meant it was never a sales hit, and only 435 were produced. All but one used a 2.6-litre six-cylinder engine producing 90 horsepower.
In a similar vein to the Kaiser Darrin above, the BMW Z1 is known for its doors disappearing inside its bodywork. But where the Kaiser’s doors slide forward, the BMW Z1’s doors slide into the bottom of the car. It was the first Z-series labelled car produced for just over two years, from March 1989 to June 1991. As a result, production numbers are rather low, and sourcing one nowadays can be tricky, despite being a rather modern car.
The small car featured a low-slung bodywork with several quirky design elements. Most notably, of course, are the half doors that slide down into the base of the car. Also, note the glass-covered headlights and the sharp, vertical rear. The car’s party trick is that you can drive around with the doors lowered, with the door sills providing a bit of side-impact protection. Only one engine type was available, BMW’s 2.5-litre M20 straight-six unit, producing 168bhp. More than enough to make it into a nippy little roadster.
Tesla Model X
Falcon Doors. That sounds quite exciting, right? And that’s exactly what the Tesla Model X provides, exciting doos! If you scour through social media and check out a few YouTube clips, you will immediately identify a flaw in its design. Much like Mercedes’ Gullwing doors, the doors on the Tesla Model X open upwards. The drawback is the size of the door and the apparent lack of common sense in some people. Drive away with the door open, and it might end in disaster.
All jokes aside, it does look quite cool the way the doors on the Model X open. It captures the spirit of cars like the 300SL, the DeLorean MC12, or the Pagani Huayra. It adds a touch of drama and flair to the otherwise mundane style of most cars on the road today. Just close them before you start moving!
We could have just as well included every single Koenigsegg ever made since the CC8S on this list. Instead, the best choice is the recently introduced Gemera. This super-exclusive, super-fast four-seater hypercar is the proud owner of an extraordinary set of doors. They are called Dihedral Synchro-Helix Actuation doors and are a signature styling element on any Koenigsegg. Look closely at the opening scene of the clip below;
The system is rather complex yet looks quite simple when in motion. Upon opening the door, they move out a little and swivel up vertically. For the Gemera, the doors give access to the brilliant interior, which can seat four adults easily. And those four people can travel at a top speed of 400kph thanks to the 1,700 horsepower produced by the 2.0-litre inline three-cylinder engine paired with three electric motors. Pretty wild, right?
The Saab Aero-X is a concept car by the Swedish manufacturer, built-in 2006. This was at a time when Saab was seriously struggling to survive under the ownership of General Motors. The company was attempting to rekindle some of its “mojo” through a series of sleek, modern concept cars, one of which was the spectacular Aero-X.
Presented at the 2006 Geneva International Motor Show, the Saab Aero-X’s party trick was the cockpit canopy. The door, roof and windshield were connected and opened up in spectacular fashion. As the windshield and roof moved upwards and forwards, the doors moved alongside it and gave way to the cockpit. When closed, the wrap-around windshield offered an almost unobstructed 180-degree field of vision. Power came from a 2.8 litre V6 producing 400bhp. It proved to be one of the last truly exciting products by Saab before the company was taken over by Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker in 2010. Just a year later, Saab would go bust.
1925 Rolls Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe
This is the actual car I am referring to in the intro, the one that triggered this “deep dive” into some of the weirdest car doors ever made. It may not be as odd as others on the list, but considering it is shaped in a perfect circle, it is a worthy candidate. The 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom Jonckheere Coupe comes from the era known as the pinnacle in coachbuilding.
Clients would often acquire a rolling chassis to have a coachbuilder create a uniquely shaped body for it. After the original Rolls Royce Phantom I this is based on was never delivered to its intended owner, the car changed ownership a couple of times. By 1932, it found its way to Belgium and eventually to Henri Jonckheere from Jonckheere Carroseriers. They re-bodied the 1925 Phantom I Coupe with a sleek, somewhat streamlined body. The most noticeable characteristics are the bullet-shaped headlights, the perfectly round doors, and the long vertical fin running from the roof down to the back of the car.
Know of any other unusual, weird or spectacular car door systems? Feel free to share in the comment section below.