The name pertains to any door that is front-latched, whether it opens to the front or the back seats. Other names include "Rear-Hinged" and "Freestyle Doors". The current $412,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is a two-door, hinged at the back; Rolls-Royce calls these "Coach Doors". One touch of a button closes them, as there is no way that one could reach out and grab these behemoths, and also since Jeeves or Bitterman may not be around all the time to handle these affairs.
Suicide doors did not get their name because, if you opened the door and fell out, they would probably drag you to your death. There are, however, some safety concerns--when a car with suicide doors is at speed, low pressure on the sides of the vehicle causes rear-hinged doors to open easier than front-hinged ones. Pressure helps keep front-hinged doors closed, but it tries to force rear-hinged doors open.
Several cars and trucks today use rear-hinged doors. Mazda's RX-8, the Mini Clubman, and every known new stretched-cab (not crew cab) pickup truck offers them. However, for safety, the front doors have to first be opened before the rear ones can be. An electronic device on the Rolls-Royce two- and four-door Phantoms helps ensure safe closing, and does not allow the doors to be opened while the vehicle is in motion.
Custom kits are available to convert nearly any car into a car with suicide doors. These are not to be confused with scissors-style doors, such as on the Countach, or gull-wing doors like on Dr. Emmett Brown's DeLorean time machine.
I have a 2003 F-150 Super Crew that has the lines to look great with them. Maybe a rear suicide door kit is in the future. ...
The Rolls-Royce photo is from their home site. The Secretary disavows any knowledge of the second photo. The 4-door Ranger is from a Kijiji ad.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)