Exposed: our favourite cars with crazy doors

Koenigsegg doesn’t do ordinary. Almost everything about the recently unveiled Jesko hypercar is extraordinary, right down to its ‘dihedral synchro-helix doors’. The Swedish company has re-engineered the system to allow for a better opening angle and improved protection from high kerbs. We’re using the Jesko as an excuse to look at some of our favourite crazy door mechanisms. It’s not an open and shut case – you might have some other favourites of your own.

Koenigsegg Agera RS

The doors on the Jesko are a development of the dihedral synchro-helix party pieces found on the Koenigsegg Agera RS. The system opens the door outwards and upwards in one smooth, sweeping motion. It uses up less external horizontal space than a traditional door and less vertical space than a gullwing or scissor door. The hinge might be heavier than traditional door hinge, but the weight is offset by the fact that the doors are as light as a feather.

Cadillac Ciel

Cadillac has been teasing us with delightful concepts for years, only to see to it that hardly any of them make production. One such example is the stunning Ciel concept of 2011: a four-door convertible that was “the ultimate open-air expression of American luxury”. At the back you’ll find a pair of large rear-hinged doors, providing access to a pair of individual bucket seats.

Autozam AZ-1

Had we been asked to prepare a list of our favourite kei cars, the Autozam AZ-1 would be somewhere near the top. The tiny lovechild of Suzuki and Mazda featured a pair of gullwing doors, delivering as much kerb appeal as a Mercedes 300 SL, a Gumpert Apollo or a DeLorean DMC-12.

Saab Aero-X

Named by Jalopnik as ‘the greatest Saab that never was’, the Saab Aero-X concept was about as close as the Swedish car company came to emulating its airborne roots. The aircraft-style cockpit canopy was forged from a single piece that lifted up and forwards using hydraulics and a solitary hinge. Sadly, the concept never got off the ground.

Kaiser Darrin

The elegant Kaiser Darrin of the 1950s was an American sports car that launched around the same time as the Chevrolet Corvette. But while the ’Vette went on to become one of America’s most successful and iconic cars, the Darrin’s lasting legacy is a pair of sliding doors that ‘disappeared’ into the front wings. They weren’t perfect – the rollers were ineffective and the door opening was too small – but they gave the pretty Darrin a standout feature.

BMW Z1

BMW resurrected the sliding doors recipe in the 1980s, but while the doors in the Darrin slid vertically, the Z1’s dropped down into the car’s body. The sliding doors gave the Z1 a unique selling point, not least because you could legally drive with the doors open, meaning it was possible to reach out and touch the asphalt if you so wished. It was still a pain to get in and out of, but the BMW ‘Gwyneth Paltrow’ remains one of the coolest sports cars of the modern era.

Maserati Birdcage 75th

Beneath the sensuous and sumptuous lines of the Pininfarina-designed Birdcage 75th lies the beating heart of a Maserati MC12 supercar. The central cell is divided into two parts: a transparent upper section and a structural aerodynamic ‘sideskirt’. The 2005 concept looks sublime from any angle, but the way in which the bubble canopy removes itself from the lower section simply adds to the theatre.

BMW Isetta

The BMW Isetta – originally launched by Iso of Italy in 1953 – featured a single door at the front, designed specifically for use at the drive-thru cauliflower stall.

Mazda RX-8

Speak to anybody who has ever clambered into the back of a two-door coupe and they’ll tell you that it’s about as easy as posting John Prescott through a letterbox. Mazda’s answer to this perennial problem was to add a pair of ‘suicide’ rear doors to the RX-8. Former Deputy Prime Ministers might struggle to get in there, but junior cabinet ministers should be fine.

Ford B-Max

“My dog Fudge loved to jump in, trot through and out the other side – and he’s no whippet, let me tell you. You could easily lug a mountain bike or something big from Ikea: just open up the side and fold all the seats flat.” Not our words, Carol. The words of celebrity chef James Martin, who reviewed the Ford B-Max in 2013.

Messerschmitt KR 200

The Messerschmitt KR 200 – or Kabinenroller – featured a canopy door mounted on the side of the vehicle. This gave it the look of a coffin. Which is rather apt, because some people wouldn’t be seen dead in this bobsleigh on wheels. We, on the other hand, think it’s adorable.

Renault Avantime

There was nothing inherently wrong with the Renault Avantime, it’s just that the world wasn’t ready for a ‘Grand Touring GT Coupe’. The 1.4-metre length door provided access to both the front and the rear, but was so wide, Renault had to develop a double-kinematic hinge system, designed to reduce the swing of the furthest edge of the door.

Yo-Auto Yo-Mobile

Yo-Mobile might sound the like the name of a company you’d turn to for a smartphone contract, but it’s actually a 2011 concept built by Russian carmaker Yo-Auto. The concept was rather forward thinking in terms of looking back – it used digital cameras in place of door mirrors – but on reflection, the sliding doors were its chief party trick. The doors cut through the body like Edward Scissorhands through Lurpak.

Rezvani Beast Alpha

Rezvani Motors is a California-based supercar manufacturer founded by the Iranian-American entrepreneur Ferris Rezvani. When Ferris isn’t taking a day off, he’s creating some extreme and reasonably priced cars, including the Beast Alpha with its trademark ‘SideWinder doors’. With 500hp and a 0-60mph time of 3.5 seconds, this SideWinder won’t be sleeping tonight.

Alfa Romeo Pandion

Google ‘Pandion’ and you’ll discover that it’s the name of a legendary king of Athens and a genus of birds of prey. It’s also the name of a Bertone concept designed to mark Alfa Romeo’s 100th anniversary. The scissor doors were three metres in length and hinged over the rear wheels. When closed, the huge expanse of glass within the doors lent the Pandion some motor show glamour. When open, the doors stood 3.6 metres high, delivering pure theatre.

Holden Hurricane

In 1969, few cars could rock you quite like the Holden Hurricane. This wizard from Oz was so futuristic, it would be many years before its arsenal of tech would make it into mainstream models. Rather brilliantly, its automatic air conditioning system was called Comfortron, but its pièce de résistance was its canopy, which rose along with the seats to make it easier to enter and exit the cabin. Strewth, mate.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

The gullwing doors might be the trademark feature of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, but they weren’t designed with Hollywood glamour in mind. The spaceframe delivered maximum rigidity and weighed just 50kg, but it was incompatible with conventional doors. The solution: a pair of upswinging gullwing doors. A problem was sorted and an icon was born.

Ford Evos

If you wait long enough, there’s every chance that the Ford Evos will transform itself into a humanoid-type robot. The 2011 concept was pure Transformers, featuring not two but for gullwing doors. Eat your heart out, Tesla Model X.

Lincoln Mk VIII concept

The Lincoln Mk VIII concept with the ‘disappearing doors’ is the stuff of internet legend. At the time of writing, the YouTube video from which our screengrab was taken is approaching 18 million views, making it more famous than Justin Bieber’s kitten. Or something. We’re not sure if Bieber has a cat, but we do know that a rolling door that ‘disappears’ beneath the car is very, very cool.

Toyota Sera

Rumour has it that McLaren design chief Gordon Murray borrowed his neighbour’s Toyota Sera back in 1990 and reverse-engineered the design as the basis for the doors in the McLaren F1. We also understand the butterfly doors are a little like a supermodel wife. They both require high maintenance.

Bond Bug

The name’s Bond. Bond Bug. It’s essentially a Reliant Regal that disappeared to a festival one summer, smoked some marijuana, and returned wearing hippy clothing. The upper part of the body tilted forward for entry and exit, but some road testers thought the novelty would soon wear off. “This is all right for the first half dozen times but then it becomes rather a bore, and the physical effort required to open the top is appreciable, despite the assistance of the damper. Add to this the fact that if it’s raining, the seats get wet every time you climb in, and you’ll wonder about the practicality of such a system,” said Motor in 1970.

Smart Crossblade

The Smart Crossblade was way too cool for doors. Instead, the automotive rollerskate featured a pair of steel safety blades. A roof wasn’t part of the package, but that didn’t stop Robbie Williams snapping up the first Crossblade sold. We guess he was entertained by the radical roadster.

Renault Nepta

If you love the idea of sneaking a peek at your V6 engine every time you get into the car, the Renault Nepta is your automotive nirvana. The motor-driven gullwing doors opened to reveal the cabin and the engine, which was cocooned in its own chamber. “We thought the symbolism of the motorcar is linked to the engine. So, we thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if these large doors could open to reveal the engine as if it were a jewel presented in a display case?’” said Patrick Le Quément, then Renault’s vice president of corporate design.

Bristol Fighter

We love Bristols, especially the Fighter with its pair of gullwing doors. If only Bristol had spent the same amount of time and effort perfecting its press photos.

Renault DeZir

Nearly a decade on, the Renault DeZir concept remains breathtakingly gorgeous. The designers couldn’t decide which way to mount the doors, so they opted for both. Well, why not? There are hints of Audi R8 and McLaren from this angle – if only the electric concept had made it into production.

Peugeot EX1

What you can’t see from this overhead photo of the Peugeot EX1 electric concept car are the rear-hinged doors. Rather ingeniously, each door contained a bucket seat, so you sat down before entering the car. If Peugeot built theme park rides…

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

The Alfa Romeo Stradale: when form meets function. This was the first production vehicle to feature dihedral doors with side windows that cut into the shape of the roof. We doubt you’ll see anything prettier today, unless you’re walking through a field of irises with Eva Green, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and watching a hummingbird in flight.

Ford GT40

Doors would be a problem in a car as low as the Ford GT40, especially when you have Le Mans starts to consider. The solution was to fit a pair of gullwing doors that cut deep into the roofline. Clever, although helmet bashing was a problem when you lowered the doors.

Ferrari Modulo

In truth, the Ferrari Modulo shouldn’t feature in this gallery, because it didn’t have a door. Instead, the canopy slid forward over the car’s nose, giving the 1970 concept a straight outta space vibe.

Volvo S60 Concept

“The unique rear parallelogram doors offer a spectacular show when they are opened and shut. Door opening is initiated by pressing on a button and the movement starts off in the traditional way. In the next phase, the forward section also swings out away from the car’s body and the door glides parallel with the side of the car until it reaches its end position by the rear wheel.” Volvo’s description of the doors of the S60 Concept makes us wish they had made it into the production version.

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