List: Car Doors Throughout the Ages

By Seyth Miersma

August 27, 2008


Butterfly Doors A slight improvement on the exotic scissor door (if one level more complicated can be considered an improvement), the butterfly door moves not only up, but also away from the body of the fantastically expensive machine it’s attached to.


Canopy Door Another automotive take-away from the world of aeronautics, the canopy door consists of a large portion of a vehicle’s top that lifts or folds over to allow driver access. This door can be hinged at the side, front, or back, but has rarely made it onto a production vehicle – with some adorable exceptions built by Messerschmitt. Most Famously Found On: Various Messerschmitt Microcars


Standard Car Doors Front-hinged, side apertures found on almost every car ever made since the beginning of time. Safe, strong, reliable, and yet Mom always says not to slam them. Most Famously Found On: Volkswagen Beetle (maybe famous is the wrong word here, but more of these were sold than anything else so…)


Vertical Doors Found on only two models that we know of – the European-only BMW Z1 and the Lincoln Mark VIII concept car – these doors which drop vertically into a car’s side body work have nonetheless made a huge splash with the advent of the internet. The hugely popular YouTube video of the Lincoln concept has no doubt helped to fuel this, making the trick Mark VIII opening the very first image offered via a Google search for “car door.” Most Famously Found On: Lincoln Mark VIII Concept


Cutaway Doors “Cutaway” is the best we could come up with for the head-easing units found originally on Ford’s GT40, and later on the Ford GT. Designed to allow simpler access to the ultra-low confines of the race car, these doors take a piece of the roof away that might otherwise be a prime target for one’s unsuspecting forehead. Most Famously Found On: Ford GT40


Front Opening Doors Same idea as the canopy door, but in this case the whole front of the car is able to open rather than the top. The access afforded by this style of door is great, but structural integrity during a crash may be of the third-rate variety. Most Famously Found On: BMW Isetta


Gull-Wing Doors The “standard” choice for making a statement with the doors on your exotic sports car. Gull-wing doors, so named for the avian silhouette they make when raised, have historically been able to add sex appeal to even the most ill-conceived of vehicles. DMC-12 anyone? Most Famously Found On: Mercedes-Benz 300SL


Hatchback Doors The odd man out back in three- and five-door configurations, a hatchback is any number of a variety of rear-mounted doors that allow access to the back of the vehicle. Though they’ve traditionally struggled to sell in the U.S., hatchback door cars offer a measure of utility that can be traced back to (we think) use on the seminal Citroën Traction Avant. Most Famously Found On: Volkswagen Golf


No Doors Sometimes simple can be best, and simpler even than traditional doors, is the option of leaving them off altogether. Open-wheel race cars of many stripes can attest to the elegance of this layout, and it’s hard to beat when it comes to getting in and out as fast as possible. Most Famously Found On: Jeep


Pocket Doors Close in form to both sliding doors and vertical doors, pocket doors have a huge place in the world of architecture and a tiny one in the realm automotive. The kissy-faced Kaiser Darrin made use of these slide-away items, though they were poorly engineered and often got stuck on the fiberglass sports car’s rather fluid bodywork. Most Famously Found On: Kaiser Darrin


Dihedral Synchro-Helix Doors Believe it or not, that’s how exotic automaker Koenigsegg lables the complex door system that moves up and forward to allow entry. Fittingly stunning for the massively expensive marquee, the same sort of doors has been offered in the aftermarket as “raptor doors,” though our own Editor-In-Chief prefers the evocative, “gunslinger doors.” Most Famously Found On: Koenigsegg CCR


Scissor Doors Known in certain circles as switchblade, jack-knife, or beetle-wing doors, perhaps the most revealing alternate moniker for this vertically rotating items is the omnipresent “Lambo” doors tag. Shown most memorably on the original Countach, Lamborghini hasn’t looked back since. Most Famously Found On: Lamborghini Countach


Sliding Doors The automotive equivalent of Mother’s Little Helper, the sliding door is a giant part of the reasons for the minivan boom of the eighties and early nineties. Offering a massive hole in which to stick, kids, the shopping, and really all of life’s detritus, sliding doors only got better (and easier) with the advent of automation. Most Famously Found On: Dodge Caravan


Suicide Doors Reportedly so named because of the danger they’d present if they opened at speed, rear-hinged suicide doors have been kicking around the motor industry since its birth. Their potential for offering easy ingress is usually offset by the added complexity and expense when compared to conventional doors, but suicide doors do well at adding a touch of “wow” factor to more mundane vehicles. Most Famously Found On: Lincoln Continental

Butterfly Canopy Standard Vertical Cutaway Front Gull-Wing Hatchback No Pocket Dihedral Scissor Sliding Suicide

Used almost completely without thought by most of us every day, the humble car door has taken on a remarkable number of forms and functions throughout the years. Click through the gallery above to see a sampling of them – both banal and bizarre – and then tell us which we’ve forgotten, in comments.