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Butterfly Doors: One-Owner 1991 Toyota Sera

There are many vehicles that can draw a crowd with features that may seem gimmicky to some, but there may not be a cheaper way to draw a crowd with those gimmicky features than with this 1991 Toyota Sera. Those butterfly doors are really something to see on a car that’s otherwise fairly tame looking. The seller has this one listed here on eBay in Paterson, New Jersey. The current bid is $5,700 and there is no reserve.

See, you’d hardly notice this car in a parking lot or driving by you on the street, especially if you were fiddling with your phone as most people do. Wait, that’s not legal so that never happens, never mind. The Toyota Sera was made for the Japanese market and they were never officially imported to the US or Canada but a few of them snuck over here now that they’re over 25 years old.

I really like these cars, obviously for the unusual factor which is what I normally look for in a vehicle. The unusual doors are commonly called gullwing doors and I have fallen into that trap. They are more officially known as butterfly doors. Although, it could be argued that they’re somewhat of a combination of gullwing doors and butterfly doors because they’re attached to both the A-pillar and the roof, or the windshield frame which is technically the roof. What are your thoughts on the exact type of doors these are? I vote for butterfly doors.

In any case, here is what that right rear 3/4 view looks like with the doors closed. in this photo above. It looks very Toyota Paseo or Mazda MX-3’ish, doesn’t it? Maybe a bit of Eagle Talon thrown in there? Although, didn’t I recently say that I don’t normally try to relate a car’s design to other cars? Sorry. Next slide…

The interior looks great in this example and as you can see, this one has an automatic transmission as most of them do. A 5-speed manual was available but they’re rare. The automatic may make it easier for someone who is used to driving on the right-hand side of the road because there’s no shifting involved. Other than being claustrophobically tight, the back seat looks like new.

This engine is the only one that was available, it’s Toyota’s 5E-FHE, a 1.5L inline-four with just over 100 horsepower. The seller says that this one has 60,000 miles and it starts and runs perfectly, has cold AC, and a clean US title so it’s ready to go. Have any of you seen a Toyota Sera?


  1. Todd Fitch Staff

    Wow! Never heard of it. Thanks, Scotty, for polishing this shiny object and tossing it out into the light! Neat find!

    Like 7
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    Duncan Imports in Christiansburg,VA has at least one of these.

    Like 4
  3. JohnnyH

    I think I’m seeing a re-occurring trend with the narrow headlights. Makes the car look pretty sleek in my opinion. Toyota is definitely using some old styling tricks on their cars today…

    Like 1
  4. JimmyJ

    How can it be 1 owner if you have to import it used from japan?

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      Legitimate dealers aren’t considered owners. They don’t have to put the car in their name, unlike flippers. When dealing with a flipper you are generally on your own if there are problems with the paperwork, they just walk away and the buyer has no recourse. Dealers operate under a specific set of rules set by the state and local governments.

      Steve R

      Like 5
    • SubGothius

      1 owner who actually used the car; I wouldn’t count the dealer who merely bought it for import.

      Like 3
  5. JolietJake Member

    The window treatment on the doors reminds me of that Subaru sportscar from 30 years ago (I forget the name of it…you had one on Barn Finds about a month ago, kind of rare). Funny how these gullwing treatments are a problem area at some point in the future (like the Bricklin, or DeLorean)

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      You’re thinking of the ’91-96 Subaru SVX, tho’ that had doors that operated normally aside from the window-in-window glass.

      Like 4
  6. mike b

    Loved this when I saw it as production-ready prototype at the new car show back when. The show car had very cool dash mount ball shaped tweeters. I think the sound system was the big feature; environment rather than performance approach. Sadly, they all seem to come in meh colors and auto transmission. I think it would have made a more interesting base for the Supra of the era.

    Like 1
  7. SMS

    Drove one in Japan. I’m 6’ 175lbs. Was a tight fit. Most cars in Japan are auto. Makes sense with the traffic and they like convenience. The doors are not so easy to work with getting in and out of the car. The big negative for me was the air flow and greenhouse combination. Any sunshine heated up the car very quickly and the aircon would absolutely freeze the spots on your body that it was directed at. Could not get any fresh air flow to help.

    With all that it is a nice car and so cool when you see a mini corolla pull up and these doors open.

    Like 2
  8. Mark

    I had one of these as a fun every day car about 8 years ago, it was a black one with 5 speed manual. Great little car and super economical on fuel. Ran it for a year with no issues except needing to replace the rams on the two doors. Very comfortable in the front, bit tight for the rear seat passengers although we had the inlaws in the back once and they didn’t complain. Certainly got a few looks and quite a bit of interest even in comparison to some of the exotic stuff I own. Replaced it with a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 but still miss the old Sera.

    Like 1
  9. Elanguy

    I am guessing that the first “butterfly door” use was the Alfa T33 Stradale, seen here with Gina Lollobrigida
    This Toyota? well,……………….

    Like 1
    • Motorsport Whse

      hand it to Toyota to bring it to a mainstream car anyone could buy… and because of the SERA, the McLaren F1 got the same style door treament…true story

      Like 1
  10. Motorsport Whse

    I have a 5 speed Sera, and live in Az. Ive owned it just a few months. I have several unusual somewhat exotic cars, but this car is one of my favs. As for alot of sun exposure as one of the other comments refer to, its not all bad, even here in Az, due to the fact the car comes with 2 snap in overhead panels that act as a headliner when needed. Keeps most of the heat out like any other car (and my windows are tinted which helps) but with the panels out, you have a view from any seat, front or rear, unlike any other car. I love mine, and not sure Ill ever sell it.

    Like 5
  11. Matt c

    Looks a lot like the paseo other than the doors

  12. ChallengerChick

    Reminds me of a baby sister to the Subaru SVX. Super cute but the right hand drive and automatic counts me out.

  13. ChallengerChick

    Subaru SVX

    Like 1
    • Motorsport Whse

      how do you add pics ???

  14. TBAU Member

    Hey Scotty,
    Please keep the odd-balls ( and motorcycles ) coming.
    Love to read about something I’ve never heard of or never seen in the wild.

    Like 1
  15. JoeNYWF64

    Hope the a/c is powerful enough becuase imagine driving this in death valley with the sun beating down through all that glass! – i think the fishbowl amc pacer would be more comfy inside with working R12 a/c.

    • Motorsport Whse

      the large snap in roof panels solve that problem, and the AC works great. I drove mine all Summer here in Az, we have over 3 months of temps over 100 degrees…the snap in panels by day, pop off at nite,those along with tinted windows (20%) and its not an issue.

  16. Robert Kirkpatrick

    Alfa calls them dihedral doors on the 33 Stradale. Regardless of what you call them, they’re cool.

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