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The CAR Top 10: weird car door designs

Published: 31 July 2015

► 10 ways to make an entrance
► Concepts, TV stars and supercars
► ...and a French MPV

There must be a better way to open a door than just side hinges and a handle? History suggests probably not.

1) Kaiser Darrin

Kaiser Darrin

Fibreglass American sports car beat the Corvette to market by a year and featured a pair of doors that slid elegantly into the front wings instead of opening outwards. Shame it cost more than a Cadillac and had a radiator grille that looked like a cat’s bum. 

2) BMW Z1

BMW Z1

Thirty-five years later BMW tried something similar with its 3-series-based Z1 two-seater. Nothing to do with cat’s backsides, dummy, we’re talking about the doors, which this time rolled down into the sills. And with only 168bhp under the bonnet, that was the only performance to speak of.

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3) Alfa Romeo Carabo

Bertone Alfa Romeo Carabo

Scissor doors have become a Lamborghini calling card, but the Countach wasn’t the first car to feature vertically opening doors. Its designer, Marcello Gandini, had a trial run with the 1968 Carabo concept car. Probably best to change the struts on your Lambo regularly: losing a limb to a yellow guillotine blade outside a club wouldn’t look that good.

4) Holden Hurricane

Holden Hurricane

A year after the Carabo, Australia’s Holden went one wilder with its Hurricane concept, whose entire cockpit canopy lifted up to allow access. A few years later the Nova kit car put the same idea into production – or at least into your uncle Geoff’s garage surrounded by bits of stripped VW Beetle. Nova had the glam, but with flat-four power, it was all mouth and no V12.

5) Mercedes 300SL

Mercedes 300SL Gullwing

The Godfather of the gullwing door. Looked spectacular and preserved integrity of hi-tech spaceframe chassis, but climbing over vast sill was like getting into a bath. Delorean, Bricklin, Bristol and Gumpert followed the template though, and the new Pagani Huayra proves the idea’s still got wings.

6) Panthermobile

Pink Panthermobile

So it had the straightline stability of a meths-fuelled tramp on roller blades (check the intro on YouTube), but the 1969 Panthermobile’s aircraft-style opening doors make it the coolest way to arrive anywhere – assuming you’re less than 3ft tall. We’re still jealous of that blonde kid. 

7) TVR Cerbera

TVR Cerbera

The doors didn’t look anything special, but to open them you flicked a switch under the wing mirror. Or that was the theory. And once inside, you flicked another one to get out again. Or that was the theory. Too-clever electric fantasies plus iffy TVR electrics equals newfound respect for the good old lock and key. Or the hasp and staple.

8) Peugeot 1007

Peugeot 1007

PSA’s attempt at a premium city car had the looks and performance of one of those inbred-looking little step-thru vans US delivery drivers used to have. The doors were equally sluggish, inching their way open when all you wanted to do was get in and away before anyone clocked you. 

9) Dukes’ Charger

General Lee Dodge Charger

Supposedly welded shut to give the General more structural stiffness – though with steering sloppier than a Michael Buble greatest hits CD it’s a wonder they’d actually notice the difference. In fact, in one episode, they’re tricked into driving a fake General with opening doors but don’t bother opening them.

10) Smart Crossblade

Smart Crossblade

Less a door, more like the barrier to an NCP car park grafted on to the side of this ridiculous cut-down city car that looked like a pod escaped from a Disneyland ride. Lack of tin below said barrier left plenty of scope to be skewered in a side impact.

 

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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