Most car doors have the hinges at the front and open from the rear. There is an alternative type of door, though: suicide doors. Suicide doors is a slang term that's widely used to describe any door with a hinge on the rear that opens from the front.
We're about to do a deep dive into suicide doors, examining their origins and where they're making a comeback.
What Are Suicide Doors?
Automakers avoid saying 'suicide' when describing these types of doors. The slang comes from the doors being perceived as less safe than traditional front-hinged doors. Instead, you may see the following terms referring to these types of doors:
- Coach doors
- Freestyle doors
- Rear access doors
- Rear-hinge doors
"Rear-hinge doors" is the widely accepted technical term, while the rest of these terms are typically used by specific automakers.
Any door with a hinge on the rear is what people refer to as a suicide door. This term originated because, when suicide doors were first created, there were no seat belts. If the door accidentally opened, which is more likely with rear-hinged doors, there was a reasonable risk of falling out of the car.
Where Did Suicide Doors Come From?
Suicide doors were relatively standard on vehicles in the first half of the 20th century.
Why put the hinge in the back? It goes back to French style doors, where two adjacent doors would open outwards with hinges on both sides of the door frame. These French doors were associated with higher class people since they were typically only seen in mansions.
Horse-drawn carriage designers incorporated the same design to mimic the association with high-class people. Once automobiles started taking over, it was a natural carry over. They quickly earned their name because the doors could be opened by airflow when driving at high speeds, and passengers could fall out. With horse-drawn carriages, this wasn't a concern.
The last mass-produced sedan with suicide doors was the Ford Thunderbird from 1967 to 1971. Since then, they've faded from the public view.
Where Are Suicide Doors Making a Comeback?
Suicide doors have started dipping their toes back into the automobile world as safety technology and standards have increased. Several models incorporate them in what are often called "clamshell" doors since the suicide doors on the rear cannot be opened until the front doors are opened. The requirement for all cars to have seatbelts has also led more automakers to experiment with suicide doors once more.
Suicide doors are also making a comeback in luxury markets. Rolls Royce and Lincoln both have created models of their popular cars that feature suicide doors. Much like the horse-drawn carriages mimicked French doors, modern luxury vehicles mimic earlier cars that were seen as luxurious with rear-hinge doors.
Will Suicide Doors Go Mainstream Again?</span?
Suicide doors are an exciting alternative to the front-hinged doors that we all have on our cars. With modern safety technology being far more advanced than the early days of automobiles, will we start seeing more suicide doors?