Most of the time, you notice car doors for only two reasons: either they’re intentionally flamboyant, or they’re unintentionally problematic. For instance, the two-door and four-door Volkswagen Golfs have the same wheelbase and overall length. So on the former model, the doors themselves seem to be about 95 percent of the length of the car. If you open the door quickly, you’ll hear a sharp crack as the leading edge of the frame breaks the sound barrier — and then dings a light pole three spaces over.
I noticed the doors of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid because they feel like they weigh about 900 pounds each. Maybe that’s where they put the batteries.
I noticed the rear doors of the Acura ZDX when my wife flipped the front passenger seat forward to let some friends in the back. The ZDX’s rear doors are apparently so covert that she didn’t think it had any. Then again, my wife’s eyesight isn’t so good, as people often point out when they see who she married.
But generally, you only pay attention to car doors when they do something novel. If you ask a car-savvy person the difference between Lamborghini’s Gallardo and Murcielago, you might prompt a discussion of V-10 versus V-12 power, the effect of VW corporate ownership on HVAC controls, and the aesthetic merit of eighteen-inch wheels on a supercar. Ask casual bystanders the difference, though, and they’ll point to the doors. Both cars are Lambos with doors, but only one of them has Lambo doors.
Thanks to its scissor doors, it’s impossible to casually exit a Murcielago. Opening a Lambo door is like jumping off a stack of amplifiers while wailing a guitar solo in front of 30,000 people — while you’re naked and being chased by Montecore the tiger. What I’m saying is, it’s kind of a spectacle — which is great when you’re pulling up to a trendy club with a monosyllabic name like Grope or Pie but a little inappropriate when you just want to get out of your car and into the funeral service.
On Aston Martins, the doors sweep upward slightly as they open. It’s subtle but very cool. With the Phantom Drophead Coupe, Rolls-Royce wasn’t content to merely give it rear-hinged doors (or, to use the vulgar and politically incorrect term, “Saturn Ion Quad Coupe rear doors”). No, Rolls gave it power rear-hinged doors, because many wealthy people have very short arms — as you’ll find when you try to get them to pick up the tab for dinner.
On the late Ford GT, a big section of the roof is connected to the doors. This was originally done for ergonomic reasons, since the 1960s GT40 was an extremely small car. Thanks to its unique doors, however, tall drivers could exit the GT40 and smash their heads on the roof, eventually compressing their spines enough that they could comfortably fit behind the wheel. Dan Gurney shrank three inches in 1967 alone.
Mercedes takes a different approach to race-car ingress and egress. I recently visited a middle school to talk to seventh-graders about writing and, hopefully, dissuade them from trying it, because frankly I don’t need any more competition. I drove to the school in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, a car with a 563-hp V-8, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and a 197-mph top speed. More important, it has gull-wing doors. And when I opened those doors, I nearly caused a riot at the school. I’d been pondering the appeal of the SLS based on its performance, its value, and whether it would garner a prime valet spot at Grope. It turns out that I was overthinking the subject. Just look at the doors, man.
But they’re not the best doors you can get. A neighbor of mine recently crammed a solid front axle under his GMC S15 Jimmy, allowing him to lift it and install a nice set of thirty-five-inch SwampPunisher Terrain Violators. As a finishing touch, he removed the doors. (In my neighborhood, a doorless Jimmy is not incongruent.) And it turns out that the open-air look is supremely cool. Which is why the 2010 Best Doors Award goes not to the SLS AMG or the Murcielago but to the Jeep Wrangler. Not only is the Wrangler available as a four-door convertible, but with a Torx tool you can make it a no-door convertible in about ten minutes. Jeep Wrangler, you’re the wind beneath my wings. And up my shorts.
Written by: Ezra Dyer
Illustration by: Tim Marrs