Whatever happened to suicide doors?

Hi! How are ya?

Whatever became of cars with "suicide" doors? And why were they called suicide doors? I've heard a couple of different stories, but figured you'd know the real poop.

-- Meyers, the net

Unfortunately suicide doors had a tendency to kill off their best customers. They began disappearing in the 1940s, but after some government scrutiny 20 years later, the style went away completely. The 1971 Ford Thunderbird was the last production car with suicide doors.

Suicide doors you ask? A car door that's hinged on the opposite side from what we're used to today. It opens toward the bow, not the stern. On most of the early body styles, only the back doors would be suicided. (The idea may have come from the construction of the doors on horse-drawn coaches, since many car body makers once were coach makers.) Suicide doors made exiting a car from the back seat very easy, so it was a good sales point for buyers. Unfortunately, it also made exiting the car at high speeds easy too. If a door came unlatched, because it was hinged at the back the air moving past the car flung the door open, and passengers often fell out. In crashes the door latches tended to fail, and the backseat passenger would fly out of the vehicle. Hence, the nickname. Though it sounds more like negligent homicide to me.

One place that suicide doors never went away is on low riders. Since the first low rider cars (late 20s-40s) were customized from older American models, it's likely the back doors on many were already suicided. But now it's common for an owner to intentionally suicide the doors, trunk, and even the hood. And of course, everything old is new again. At car shows, you'll be seeing more and more suicide doors on concept cars. Not only have they moved the back door hinges and handles, most of these cars no longer have the center pillar between back and front that usually holds the door locks. So you'll be able to walk up to your car, grab the front and back door handles, and open it up wide, like you're raiding the kitchen cabinets for chips and beer.

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