5 Top Iconic Cars with Gullwing Doors: Origin, Appeal & Challenges

Falcon-wing doors are one of the most striking design features a car can have. They open upwards rather than outwards, resembling the wings of a seagull in flight. This unique design not only adds a dramatic flair but also often signifies a car’s high performance and luxury status. 

Over the years, several iconic cars have sported doors, making them memorable and highly sought after by enthusiasts and collectors alike. In this detailed guide, we’ll explore some of the most notable cars with open upward doors, their features, and what makes them stand out.


Before diving into specific models, it’s important to understand the origins of gullwing doors. The concept was first popularized by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, introduced in the 1950s. 

This car’s gullwing doors were not just a design statement but a necessity due to its innovative spaceframe chassis, which made traditional doors impractical. The unique doors allowed for easier entry and exit while maintaining the car’s structural integrity.

Top Picks With Notable Design

1. Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (1954-1957)

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is perhaps the most famous car with doors open upward and is often considered the original gullwing vehicle.

  • Design: The 300 SL’s gullwing doors were a solution to the high sills of its innovative spaceframe chassis. The doors opened upwards, making it easier to get in and out of the low-slung sports car.
  • Performance: At its launch, the 300 SL was the fastest production car in the world, thanks to its 3.0-liter straight-six engine with direct fuel injection, which was revolutionary at the time.
  • Legacy: The 300 SL remains a highly coveted classic car, renowned for its design, engineering, and performance. It is a centerpiece of many car collections and frequently appears at prestigious car shows and auctions.

2. DeLorean DMC-12 (1981-1983)

The DeLorean DMC-12 gained worldwide fame as the time machine in the “Back to the Future” film trilogy.

  • Design: The DMC-12’s stainless steel body and gullwing doors give it a futuristic appearance. The doors are supported by gas struts and torsion bars to make opening and closing them easier.
  • Performance: While its performance was modest compared to other sports cars of its time, the DMC-12 featured a 2.85-liter V6 engine. Its distinctive design and movie fame are its primary selling points.
  • Legacy: Despite a short production run and financial troubles for the DeLorean Motor Company, the DMC-12 remains a cultural icon. Its unique design and association with the “Back to the Future” films ensure its place in automotive history.

3. Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (2010-2015)

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was introduced as a modern homage to the original 300 SL, featuring updated open upward doors and advanced technology.

  • Design: The SLS AMG’s gullwing doors are a tribute to the 300 SL. The modern design includes lightweight materials and advanced engineering to ensure safety and ease of use.
  • Performance: Equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 engine producing 563 horsepower, the SLS AMG delivers exceptional performance, with a top speed of around 197 mph and a 0-60 mph time of about 3.7 seconds.
  • Legacy: The SLS AMG is celebrated for its blend of classic design cues and modern performance. It stands as a pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz engineering and design, cherished by collectors and enthusiasts.

4. Pagani Huayra (2012-Present)

The Pagani Huayra is a hypercar known for its breathtaking design,and incredible performance.

  • Design: The Huayra’s gullwing doors are part of its striking design, which includes aerodynamic elements and a luxurious interior crafted from premium materials. The doors open wide, providing easy access to the cabin.
  • Performance: Powered by a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 engine developed by AMG, the Huayra produces over 700 horsepower, allowing it to reach speeds exceeding 230 mph.
  • Legacy: As a limited-production hypercar, the Huayra represents the pinnacle of automotive engineering and design. Its unique combination of performance and artistry makes it a highly desirable vehicle among the world’s elite car collectors.

5. Tesla Model X (2015-Present)

The Tesla Model X is an all-electric SUV that incorporates falcon-wing doors, a variation of the traditional design.

  • Design: The Model X’s falcon-wing doors are designed to open in tight spaces, with double hinges allowing them to fold upwards and outwards. This innovative design provides practicality and ease of access to the rear seats.
  • Performance: The Model X offers impressive performance for an SUV, with some variants capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in under 3 seconds. It combines this with an extensive range of up to 360 miles on a single charge.
  • Legacy: The Model X has set new standards for electric SUVs, combining advanced technology with innovative design. Its falcon-wing doors are a distinctive feature that adds to its appeal and practicality.

Considerations When Buying a Car

If you’re considering purchasing a falcon-wing door vehicle, there are several factors to take into account:

1. Practicality

These doors, while visually striking, can have practical limitations. Consider the following:

  • Parking Space: Ensure you have adequate vertical clearance in your garage or parking area to accommodate the doors when they are open.
  • Ease of Use: Check how easy it is to open and close the doors, especially in confined spaces or under low ceilings.

2. Maintenance and Repairs

These vehicles require special maintenance:

  • Mechanism: The door opening mechanism can be complex and may need regular maintenance to ensure smooth operation.
  • Replacement Parts: Parts for up-door can be expensive and may not be readily available, particularly for older or rare models.

3. Resale Value

Consider the car’s resale value:

  • Collectibility: Most cars of this design often have strong resale value due to their unique design and desirability among collectors.
  • Condition: Ensure the car is well-maintained to preserve its value. Keep service records and address any issues promptly.

Appeal of these Cars

Falcon-wing doors are more than just a design feature; they represent a blend of form and function that captures the imagination. Here’s why they continue to fascinate car enthusiasts:

1. Aesthetic Appeal

These doors create a dramatic and futuristic look that sets a car apart. They add an element of excitement and exclusivity, making a strong visual statement.

2. Historical Significance

Many cars with up-door have historical significance, such as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and the DeLorean DMC-12. Owning such a vehicle is like owning a piece of automotive history.

3. Innovation and Engineering

The engineering required to design and implement gullwing doors showcases automotive innovation. These doors often highlight a manufacturer’s ability to push boundaries and create something extraordinary.

4. Exclusivity

Cars with up-door are often produced in limited numbers, adding to their exclusivity and desirability. They are symbols of luxury and performance, often associated with high-end brands.

Modern Innovations and Future Prospects

As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more innovations in car design. Advances in materials and engineering may lead to more practical and widespread use of these iconic doors.

1. Material Advances

The use of lightweight and strong materials like carbon fiber and aluminum can make gullwing doors more practical and reliable. These materials can reduce the weight and improve the ease of use of the doors.

2. Automated Systems

Future gullwing doors might feature advanced automation, allowing them to open and close with the push of a button or even respond to voice commands. This would enhance their convenience and user experience.

3. Electric and Hybrid Models

As the automotive industry shifts towards electric and hybrid vehicles, we may see more eco-friendly cars featuring gullwing doors. These models will combine sustainability with cutting-edge design and performance.


Whether you’re drawn to their aesthetic appeal, historical significance, or engineering prowess, these cars offer a unique driving experience that is hard to match. When considering such a vehicle, it’s important to weigh the practical considerations alongside the allure of owning an iconic piece of automotive history.

As technology advances, we can look forward to seeing new and innovative uses of gullwing doors in future models, continuing to push the boundaries of design and performance. 

Whether you’re a collector, an enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates extraordinary cars, open upward door vehicles provide a fascinating and exciting addition to the automotive world.

Stephen Madison
Follow me
Share This Post

Leave a Reply