Your typical car door is pretty basic, there’s a handle and it opens horizontally. A simple and functional design, but there’s better car doors out there.
The run-of-the-mill car door design can be seen everywhere. These doors open left to right with the hinge found positioned towards the front of the vehicle. This type of door is also known for being the weapon of choice for careless people in parking lots that scratch and dent the cars next to them when leaving or entering the vehicle.
It shouldn’t be that hard to take care when using a regular car door, but even I have trouble squeezing in and out when parked next to my Dodge Charger in the garage. Probably should lay off the donuts, but it’d take less effort if I had a better designed door. Plus, regular doors are pretty boring. Sure, they perform their basic vehicle function fine, but I kind of want something eye-catching and divergent. We brought together some of the different, unique, and cool car doors out there that put regular ones to shame.
Now, this car door is cheating in a way since it’s basically just doing away with the doors, but it’s been a pretty big design aspect for vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco. While these vehicles come standard with regular car doors, they’re easily removable for those hot summer months and can let the air circulate through the vehicle better.
The sliding door can be commonly found on minivans and mail trucks today. Rather than use a hinge, sliding doors use a rail system and slide along the track to allow occupants to get in and out. It’s no wonder they’re found on those kid hauling minivans, since this design basically removes any potential risk of damage to adjacent vehicles when in use. There are also some classic cars, like the Kaiser Darrin, that used a sliding door design in a flashier way.
The swan door can be commonly found on Aston Martin vehicles like the DB11 and Vantage. These doors are similar to regular car doors with the hinge point towards the front of the vehicle, but they open outwards at an upwards angle. This raises the ends of the doors upwards resembling a swan’s wings and also helps prevent the low sitting vehicles from hitting a raised curb when parked.
The reverse functioning, horizontally opposed car door setup was more common in the beginnings of the automobile, but can still be found installed on modern day cars like the Rolls Royce Ghost. Rear-hinged car doors are also infamously known as “suicide doors”. They got this nickname because if the door were opened while moving, passengers could be sucked out of the vehicle. Not enforcing the use of seatbelts back then didn’t help this issue either. Rear-hinged car doors also posed a safety hazard if you were to exit the vehicle on the street side, since the door would slam shut rather than breakaway if it were hit by a vehicle.
Gullwing car doors were popularized by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. This car door design opens vertically with the hinge point found at the top of the door. The doors themselves using a gullwing setup typically extend farther into the roof of the vehicle. These doors don’t require much room next to them to open and the door position allows passengers to easily enter or exit the vehicle. Just be careful opening them inside with a low ceiling, otherwise these gullwing doors could be damaged.
While falcon doors are essentially the same as gullwing doors, Tesla’s Model X car door design further expands upon the car door concept. While the falcon doors still have their hinge point at the top of the door and they also extend into the roof, Tesla added a central hinge to their doors. This second hinge in the design allows the Model X falcon doors to dynamically adjust itself while opening or closing thanks to some high-tech sensors built into the doors. These sensors can also detect if there is enough clearance above them when they open as well, alleviating an issue with hitting low ceilings. The extra hinges also add some flair when they open up and then fully extend at the top like, well, falcon wings.
Back in the 1990s, car companies toyed with the idea of disappearing or vertical sliding doors. Lincoln had sub-contracted an engineering firm to create a vertical sliding car door concept on their Mark VIII and videos have circulated online since then of the working prototype, but Lincoln never picked it up the design and scrapped it entirely. BMW on the other hand had already sold a car with the design, although in a less expansive way. The BMW Z1 debuted in 1989 featuring vertical sliding doors that opened and closed at the press of a button. They didn’t open all the way to the floor line of the vehicle leaving passengers to step in over a half door, but they look awesome in use. It’s a shame BMW quit using the car door design.
Scissor doors are also known as Lambo doors since they’re commonly found on Lamborghini cars like the Countach, Murciélago, or any of their models featuring a V12 engine. The scissor car door design has a fixed hinge towards the front of the vehicle that allows the door to rotate itself vertically. This car door not only looks great, but also works well for tight parking spots thanks to their vertical opening design. Scissor door kits are also commonly found as an aftermarket product that can be retrofitted to basically any car, so you can experience scissor doors on your own car with a little DIY.
Butterfly car doors can be found on vehicles like the Ferrari Enzo, Mercedes-Benz SLR, or basically anything coming out of McLaren. Butterfly doors have hinges along the A-pillar of the vehicle and open at an upwards and outwards angle. This car door is just as eye-catching as scissor doors, don’t need as much vertical space to open as scissor doors, and even provide more room for entering or exiting the vehicle, but they do lose a little bit of parking space practicality since they open outwards.
Koenigsegg has their very own car door design called a dihedral synchro-helix door. This door mechanism sweeps the door outwards and rotates vertically in one smooth motion. The Koenigsegg door has enough height to avoid curbs, is not too tall when open to hit low ceilings, and allows for easy exit or entry. They do poke out a little bit when parked, especially with Koenigsegg’s racing sidemirrors attached to the doors, but it’s still pretty decent side clearance next to other vehicles. Plus, that opening motion is super unique.
A hydraulic canopy technically removes any need for a door since they break away the entire top part of the vehicle to allow passengers inside. It’s rare to see a hydraulic canopy car design out on the streets, but has been a continuing trend in concept car and prototype showcases. Concept cars like 1969 Holden Hurricane, 1985 Buick Wildcat, and 2013 Lamborghini Egoista all had hydraulic canopy designs; and that’s just a sampling of the hundreds of concepts that have featured this unique type of vehicle entry. KTM has pre-orders open for their KTM X-BOW vehicle featuring a hydraulic canopy, so hopefully this futuristic concept will catch on with others in the car industry and soon be a common reality.
The front opening car door is specific to one model in particular, the BMW Isetta. The Isetta was a mini car from the 1950s that could fit 2 passengers, ran off a 2-stroke 236 cc engine, and had just 3 wheels. This odd little car was made even more interesting thanks to its front oriented car door. It was hinged on the driver’s side and opened outward to reveal the steering wheel and the small bench seat. Recently the front car door design has been revived on the Microlino electric car, but is limited to European audiences.