This is The Owner's Manual: a limited series discussing some of the most stunning car designs and details on the road today – or, perhaps, ever. In this edition: cars and parts of cars that represent the love of motoring itself.
Editor's Note: Every car boasts an extremely considered look, but not every car is beautiful. However, certain details and designs sprinkled throughout the modern automotive world are so stunning that they can stand out on their own. Welcome to The Owner's Manual: a limited series discussing some of the most stunning car designs and details on the road today – or, perhaps, ever.
In this edition of The Owner's Manual, we're looking at four cars (or individual elements that many cars feature) that represent the beauty and thrill of motoring itself. Plenty of others could be added to the list – what'd we miss?
This is a cop-out, plain and simple. It's not possible to write this list without including the new four-seater by Koenigsegg, but it isn't possible to highlight just one element therein. The Gemera's most striking design detail isn't a detail: it's the entire car. Christian von Koenigsegg is an engineering genius and an absolute madman, having created some of the highest-performing vehicles in history. But his cars have been lacking just one thing: passenger space. The Gemera, designed by another genius named Sasha Selipanov, easily seats four adults inside a shape that is, in a word, otherworldly (Keonigsegg calls its design "monolithic"). Its doors swing up and out, eventually resting perpendicular to the ground; this movement itself is striking but also functional, as it allows unimpeded access to the rear seat. There are no side mirrors; instead, slender camera stalks gently poke out from beneath the A-pillar. Exhaust is routed so that its titanium tips are mounted vertically and flush with the surrounding carbon-fiber bodywork. The design is every bit as perfect as it is extreme, and will be remembered and revered for generations to come.
Most people can go their whole lives without seeing any part of a car transmission aside from the vinyl-clad handle (or stalk, or button) jutting out from their car's center console. Special performance cars throughout the ages, however, have sported shift levers that aren't just uncovered, but that function as a sort of enthusiast jewelry inside the cabin. Ferrari and Lamborghini have, in the past, been known for their desirable "gated shifters;" the last gated shifter appeared in a previous generation of the Audi R8. But the spirit lives on in extremely exclusive models like the Pagani Huayra hypercar and cult-classic gems like the Spyker C8 which, alongside its exposed shift mechanism, is a rolling aeronautical fever dream of design detail. An exposed shifter broadcasts cleanliness, pristine engineering and an intimate connection between driver and machine – something the shift stalk in your last Uber really can't manage.
It's only right to follow one huge cop-out with one much smaller cop-out. While the Alfa Romeo Giulia is considered one of the most beautiful modern cars available today, it's actually the modern version of the Quadrifoglio badge that we love most. Quadrifoglio is Italian for "four-leaf clover," and the symbol has been used by Alfa since 1923 to signify its racing cars, but has been applied to select production cars since the 1970s. It is, of course, originally a symbol of good luck, which is quite appropriate in context, given that racing is extremely dangerous and that Alfa Romeo road cars are infamous for constantly breaking down. But it's also closely associated with Irish heritage, which makes its addition to an exotic Italian sports sedan a delightful juxtaposition. Regardless, it's the thought–and beauty–that counts, and when the Quadrifoglio badge is applied to the front fender of an Alfa performance model, it feels very at home. We particularly love seeing the triangular badge on a red Giulia, though we'd rather be unable to see the badge at all–you know, from the driver's seat.
Ah yes, the non-standard door: one of the most enduring hallmarks of exceptional motoring. There are many types of car doors; most often, of course, they open on the vertical axis, swinging outward parallel to the ground, like a house door. If you're still in the minivan set, no doubt you love your sliding doors; SUVs and hatchbacks have liftgates. But scissor, gullwing and other door types – butterfly, swan, canopy and even dihedral synchro-helix actuation doors – open straight up, or at an angle, or fold on as they open, or some combination thereof. Lamborghini is famous for its scissor doors, Mercedes-Benz, Delorean and the Aston Martin Valkyrie shown here for their gullwings. (Check out the Wikipedia page "List of cars with non-standard door designs" if you want to nerd out.) Non-standard doors stand for something: amazing cars can (and often are) unconventional and outlandish – but also fun as hell.