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Suicide Doors

I'm not sure why, but I love suicide doors. Maybe because I remember the 1960s when they were available only on a few cars and were so expensive! If memory serves, during that time, the only American cars with suicide doors were the Lincoln Continental and Ford Thunderbird.

Rolls Royce Coach Doors

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.

Suicide doors 02 05 001 President John F. Kennedy loved the Lincoln Continental, so much that Ford Motor Company and Hess & Eisenhardt built the Midnight Blue parade limousine that carried him in Dallas, called the "X-100" (Sometimes also called the SS-100-X). After being repaired, fitted with a hardtop, and painted black, that same car served Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. The now-modified car is on display at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., as well as the later custom-built Lincoln limousine usually associated with President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan was shot while entering this car. This limo was used by Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, and also has (custom!) suicide doors. All Presidential cars since then have been Cadillac-style with conventional front-hinged doors.

Four-door Ranger 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)

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My grandfather had a 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton that had suicide doors. They (and the rest of the car, of course) were very cool.

I think RR is the only modern car to use doors like this that are independent. As you noted, several coupes (the first was the Saturn SC, I think) and trucks (plus the Honda Element and Toyota FJ SUVs) do today.

The problem with the tandem style is, when exiting the back seat, you end up trapped between the two doors and the car next to you. It takes a little dance between the front passenger, the two doors and the rear passenger to exit the vehicle. Loading groceries into the back seat means constantly opening and closing the half door to access the shopping cart.

Flag on the play.
You mentioned "gull wing doors" WITHOUT mentioning the 1950's Mercedes 300SLC!
Ten yard penalty for not using automotive cliche.

I have a vague memory of learning that Lincoln adopted suicide doors for the revoutionary 1961 restyle because doing so required fewer modifications to the host Thunderbird platform. The configuration also made it easier for Lincoln to build the striking four-door convertible version. (Rent "Hair" for a good look at one.)

My own experience with suicide doors began early. As a lad growing up in Brooklyn I often rode in the Saab 93 and 47 Chrysler owned by friends of my parents.

I thought nothing of it at the time, but some years later double-dated with a friend who drove us to Coney Island in his dad's brand new '66 Lincoln Continental. The first time I stepped -- as opposed to folded myself -- into the back seat a light went off in my head. I'd been getting in and out of back seats for some time by then, and the Lincoln made it so much easier.

I always had it in the back of my mind to own one of those Lincolns one day, but I was sidetracked by a couple of similarly massive Imperials (www.carlustblog.com/2008/03/our-cars--1966.html).

But I digress.

I like the idea of refitting the F-150 with these doors, but only if it's not too difficult. I'd hate to see you kill yourself installing a set of suicide doors. :-)

For my money the most beautiful suicide doors are the ones on the 1932 Ford 3-window coupe. Ford continued them on the Model 40s (1933 and 1934) but never again used them on two-doors.

My favorite suicide-door car is simply known as "The Sinatra Car", a 1957 Eldorado Brougham Cadillac with a stainless steel top, once Frankie's New Jersey car. Fuhghettaboutit... Make sure you check out the special glove-box. http://tinyurl.com/l9mfph

Our Honda Element has suicide doors. The nice thing about them is you can completely open both sides of the car to fit and maneuver Big Things inside. This is especially good when we put it in "econoline van" mode with only a driver-side seat for hauling.

The downside (in our model, at least): you have to open the front door to open the door behind it.

That '57 Brougham -- could it have been Sinatra's own? -- made a cameo appearance in "Ocean's Eleven." The scene features an uncredited Shirley MacLaine as "Tipsy Girl."

As to retrofitting an F-150... yikes. Just think about how awful most aftermarket mods look a few years down the road, when the corner-cutting begins to show. Some of the worst offenders are the "Miami Vice" era Benzes, with hideous air dams flapping in the breeze and faded no-longer-monochrome paint schemes. Of course, YMMV!

My dad cherished a 1957 MG TF1500. It was a roadster with suicide doors. I've also seen photos of 1930's limousines with suicide doors in the front as well as the back.

I always thought they were called suicide doors because, if you were parked at the curb, opened one streetside and it got sideswiped, you'd be pureed. With a front-hinged door, you'd probably escape death if the other car hit only the door.

There's one major advantage to suicide doors -- it makes it much easier for a lady in a skirt to get out without making a Brittney/Lindsey style "show".

I loved the 61 Lincoln Continental convertible when I was a pre-teen. That was the car I wanted when I grew up. My father bought as a second car a 1948 DeSoto with suicide doors and a 3 on the stalk. It was slower than molasses but it was almost indestructible. We were once rear ended by a 57 Ford Fairlane and the Fairlane, which was by no means an aluminum can, was badly smashed up but the old DeSoto only had the black and avocado paint colors from the Fairlane. Occasionally, I see 48 DeSoto's as New York City Taxi cabs in old movies on TCM.

We currently have a 1964 Lincoln in our shop that is getting restored with the suicide doors. It is definitely one of the coolest vehicles here. Now you can put suicide doors on almost anything, and we have, but it is just not the same as the vehicles that came like that.

The last automobile my late grandfather owned was a yellow Continental convertible with those suicide doors. Since he was old and wealthy and my parents were young and not, I thought it was the coolest, most exotic, most expensive, and most amazing car in the world. Whenever I see one of those, like on the HBO series Entourage, I think of those times. I wouldn't even mind having a nicely restored one.

I'm doing a post on 1957, which will include the Caddy with suicide doors... they only made 400 of them. Please stay tuned! (There's one in "Driving Miss Daisy"!)

The most beautiful Eldorado Brougham I've seen was a couple years ago at the Arthritis foundation show here in Columbus. There are 6-7 shots of it on my blog, starting here. Check out the suicide doors, with no center pillar.

I have to say I agree completely with everything in this article, Suicide Doors are by far the classiest door mod available, no question. I installed a kit that I bought from Scissor Door Inc. ( www.scissor-doors.com ) and I have to say that it was really easy to install. This company will custom make your the complete kit and engineer it to spec for your vehicle. The kicker is that they don't charge extra for this making it a very reasonably priced modification. We did it to my Chrysler 300C in a weekend following the installation guide they provided. The trick to it is to leave the door on the vehicles factory door hinges during the majority of the installation. We got a perfect fit. Actually I'm going to email them and suggest they call them Coach Door instead of suicide doors because the kit came with safety solenoids that won't let you open the door at speed making them safe and stylish. I recommend this mod to anyone. I did this because I'm in a wheelchair and have mobility issues. This has given me my independence back and I purchased there remote automatic upgrade and now I get into the drivers seat and hit a button on my keys so I can turn and put my wheelchair in the backseat. Very slick indeed.

Cool posts...Does anyone know GM's list of 2 door suicide door cars? My father owns an unrestored '35 Chevy Master Coach which I believe is the only 2 door suicide-doored mass produced Chevy. Any thoughts or info where I can obtain other info?

The suicide doors are great. I'm a sucker for them myself, even when its on a car like the mini clubman. But imagine for a second an Audi A4 Convertible with suicide doors. That would really be great.

i AM SURE MY fATHER WOULD LIKE HIS BACK NOW!!!

I have to say I agree completely with everything in this article, Suicide Doors are by far the classiest door mod available, no question. I installed a kit that I bought from Scissor Door Inc. ( http://www.scissor-doors.com/suicide-doors.php ) and I have to say that it was really easy to install. This company will custom make your the complete kit and engineer it to spec for your vehicle. The kicker is that they don't charge extra for this making it a very reasonably priced modification. We did it to my Chrysler 300C in a weekend following the installation guide they provided. The trick to it is to leave the door on the vehicles factory door hinges during the majority of the installation. We got a perfect fit. Actually I'm going to email them and suggest they call them Coach Door instead of suicide doors because the kit came with safety solenoids that won't let you open the door at speed making them safe and stylish. I recommend this mod to anyone. I did this because I'm in a wheelchair and have mobility issues. This has given me my independence back and I purchased there remote automatic upgrade and now I get into the drivers seat and hit a button on my keys so I can turn and put my wheelchair in the backseat. Very slick indeed.

I own a 2002 Saturn SC1 with 175k on it and I tell you EVERYONE asked me what the weird little line behind my driver's door was when I first got it. I would often be in traffic and be asked by a person in the car going the other way what it was. I opened that little door for anyone. It has it's advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: Not having to get out of the car to let someone out behind you and still drive a coupe.... disadvantage: putting anything in the back seat including passangers when parked in a mall or shopping center. I could never understand why it was done on the driver's side, I would have thought the passanger sider would have been a better choice or like the Saturn Ion... both sides.

I have owned for approx. 25 years a very fine 1934 Plymouth PFXX coupe which has suicide doors. My coupe is totaly restored and looks like new. Looks very close to a 1934 Ford. There are only a few coupes like mine left. The man who restored my coupe was blowen away that it had almost no rust. The suicide doors makes it look awesome.

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