A "suicide door" is the slang term for a door hinged at its rear rather than the front. Such doors were originally used on horse-drawn carriages, but are rarely found on modern vehicles due primarily to safety concerns.
Popularized in the custom car trade, the term is avoided by major automobile manufacturers in favor of alternatives such as "coach doors" (Rolls-Royce), "FlexDoors" (Opel), "freestyle doors" (Mazda), "rear access doors" (Saturn), and "rear-hinged doors".
Suicide doors were common on cars manufactured in the first half of the 20th century. In the era before seat belts, the accidental opening of such doors meant that there was a greater risk of falling out of the vehicle compared to front-hinged doors, where airflow pushed the doors closed rather than opening them further. Suicide doors were especially popular with mobsters in the gangster era of the 1930s, supposedly due to the ease of pushing passengers out of moving vehicles, according to Dave Brownell, the former editor of Hemmings Motor News.
After World War II, the use of suicide doors was mostly limited to rear doors of four-door sedans. The best-known use of suicide doors on post-World War II automobiles was the Lincoln Continental sedans and convertibles in the 1960s.
Due to increasing safety concerns, the last mass-produced car model with independently opening suicide doors was the Ford Thunderbird four-door sedan from 1967 to 1971. In recent years 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, the Saturn SC, the Saturn Ion QuadCoupe, the Honda Element, the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the BMW i3 and the Mazda RX-8. In 2003, the new Rolls-Royce Phantom reintroduced independent suicide doors. Other models with classic suicide doors include the Spyker D8 and the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe four-seat convertible.
Several concept cars have featured suicide doors, such as the Carbon Motors Corporation E7, a police car with rear suicide doors designed to aid officers getting handcuffed passenges in and out of the back seat. The Kia Naimo, an electric concept car, also has rear suicide doors.
Rear-hinged doors make entering and exiting a vehicle easier, allowing a passenger to enter by turning to sit and exit by stepping forward and out. In combination with traditional front doors, they allow chauffeurs easier access to the rear door. In Austin FX4 taxis, drivers were able to reach the rear door handle through the driver's window without getting out of the vehicle.
There are a number of safety hazards :
- Being struck on the calves if the car starts moving forward before all passengers have entered
- Passengers falling from moving vehicles can be hit by the door
- When stopped on or near a road, cars passing from behind can hit and slam the door into passengers getting in or out
- Aerodynamic factors forcing rear-hinged doors open at speed. In 1969, Consumer Reports reported this problem on a Subaru 360.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Automobiles with suicide doors.|
- Butterfly doors
- Canopy doors
- Gull-wing doors
- List of cars with non-standard door designs
- Scissor doors
- Sliding doors
- "Suicide Doors". Diseno-Art.com. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- "Dictionary of Historic Automotive Terms". Chalk Hill Media. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Mayersohn, Norman (11 July 2003). "Don't Call Them Suicide Doors". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Anthony Bird & Francis Hutton-Stott, Lanchester Motorcars, A History, page 96, Cassell, London 1965
- Zimmerman, Martin (15 September 2007). "'Suicide doors' resurrected by car designers despite safety concerns". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
- "New Meriva: unhinged". Top Gear. 5 January 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
- "Suicide Doors". Auto Brevity. Automotive Mileposts. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Gorman, Michael (1 April 2011). "Kia Naimo concept EV debuts: 93mph, 124-mile range, and suicide doors". Engadget. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- "FAQ – Exotic Door Tutorial". DeftRacing.com. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- "The Subaru 360 (Not Acceptable)" (PDF). Consumer Reports. April 1969. pp. 220–222. Retrieved 24 January 2011.