Suicide Doors are automobile doors that are hinged on the trailing edge, the edge closer to the rear of the vehicle. The term reflects a perceived increased danger of the door falling open if it becomes unlatched while the car is moving. Because of the obviously negative connotations, the term is avoided in major automobile manufacturers' promotional literature, although it is familiar to many English-speakers and often used openly in the custom-car trade.
In addition, the door arrangement instills other negative perceptions. While the vehicle is parked, such a door would hide an entering or exiting passenger from the view of passing cars. Furthermore, the result of the door actually being hit would likely be more catastrophic, since the door would be slammed shut onto the passenger even if merely nicked at the outside edge. A door hinged at the front, in contrast, would be pushed away from the passenger and possibly torn off entirely.
An arrangement where only the rear doors on a four door vehicle open in this fashion is sometimes called "kidnapping doors", presumably because it would make it easier to drag a victim into the car.
Such doors were commonly seen on cars manufactured in the first half of the 20th century. Post-World War II examples are almost universally the rear doors of four-door cars.
The most well-known use of suicide doors on post-World War II automobiles was the glamorous Lincoln Continental sedan from 1961 through 1969, and even more dramatically, on the unique Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible from 1961 through 1967 (the last 4-door convertible built in United States.) Since the 4-door Lincoln convertible did not have a center "B" pillar, the rear door glass was designed to electrically retract a few inches when the rear doors were opened in order for the weatherstripping to clear the front door glass. This meant that if the battery was dead, the only way out of the back seat was to crawl over the front seat.
For a time, the last true, independently opening suicide doors were fitted on the Ford Thunderbird 4-door sedan from 1967 through 1971, after which their use ceased due to safety concerns. More recently, rear suicide doors that cannot be opened until the regular front doors are opened have been appearing on a number of vehicles, including extended cab pickup trucks and the Mazda RX-8. Nevertheless, in 2003, true independent suicide doors reappeared, this time on the new Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Spyker D12, officially presented in 2006, also has suicide doors.
Suicide doors should not be confused with Clam Shell Doors. (see article)
Models of automobile that featured suicide doors include:
- Austin FX4 — the classic London black cab
- Bentley State Limousine
- Citroën 2CV — early models
- Citroën Traction Avant
- Citroën H Van
- Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton
- Chrysler Royal
- Facel Vega Excellence
- Fiat Topolino
- Ford Ford F-150 — 1997-2003 . The front doors are conventional, with suicide in the rear ones
- Ford Ranger — 2000-present. Supercab version has two rear suicide doors
- Ford Thunderbird — 1967-1971 4-door models
- Lincoln Continental — 1961-1969 4-door sedans, 1961-1967 4-door convertibles
- Mazda B-Series — On the Freestyle version (based on extended cab) since 2002
- MINI Clubman — Has conventional front doors, with one rear suicide half-door
- Panhard Dyna
- Pierce Silver Arrow
- Renault 4CV
- Rolls-Royce Phantom
- Rover P4 — Cars like the Rover 90 had conventional front doors, with suicide rear doors
- SAAB (92, 93 and 95/96 early models)
- Saturn ION coupe — Has conventional front doors, with suicide half-doors in the rear.
- Saturn SC series — Predecessor to ION coupe; second-generation models feature one rear suicide half-door on driver's side
- Spyker D12
- Subaru 360