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.
The door arrangement also 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. The result of the door being hit by another vehicle would likely be more catastrophic, since the door would be slammed shut onto the passenger, even if merely nicked the outside edge. In contrast, a door hinged at the front would be pushed away from the passenger and possibly torn off entirely.
Another problem presented by conventionally hinged doors in front and suicide doors in the rear (on a four door vehicle) is a passenger traffic conflict. It is almost impossible for passengers to exit from the front and rear seats simultaneously due to the limited space between the front edge of the rear door and the rear edge of the front door.
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.
The advantage of rear hinged doors is that it makes it easier to get in or out of the vehicle. An additional advantage of rear-hinged rear doors (especially with front-hinged front doors) is that this arrangement makes it easier for a person in the front seat (for example, a chauffeur) to exit the car and get to the handle of the back door to open it for the passenger.
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 the 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, the Saturn Ion QuadCoupe, 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. The upcoming Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe 4-seat convertible based on the 100EX show car has suicide front doors.
The song "First Kiss" by Tom Waits (which can be found on Waits' 2006 relaese "Orphams") begins with the line, "She drove a big old Lincoln with suicide doors and sewing machine in the back..."
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
- Fiat 600
- 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
- Honda Element — 2003-present. Has conventional front, with suicide half doors in rear
- 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
- Mazda RX-8 — Has conventional front doors, with suicide half-doors in rear.
- 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
- Syrena — early models
- Toyota FJ Cruiser — Conventional front doors, suicide half doors in rear
- Adler 2,5 (1938)
- Bugatti Type 57 (1934)
- Bugatti T57 Aerolithe (1935)
- Bugatti Atlantic (1937)
- Buick Gold (1940) (Back door)
- Citroën Action Travant (1937 - 1953)
- DKW F7 (1936)
- DKW 1000s (Front door) (1958 - 1961)
- EMW 340 (1951) (Front door)
- Fiat Camareno 1100 (1932)
- Fiat 508 Balilla (1936)
- Fiat 500 (1936)
- Fiat 500 Spyder Bertone 1947)
- Fiat FS (1946)
- Fiat 1200 (1955) (Front door)
- Fiat 1100 (1960) (Front door)
- Fiat AR 55 Campagnola (1963)
- Ford V8 (1932)
- Goggomobile (1955)
- Jaguar MK4 (1946) (Front door)
- Mercedes Benz 170 (1928 – 1948)
- Mercedes Benz 200t (1934)
- Mercedes Benz 500
- Mercedes Benz 540 (1938)
- MG TF (1953)
- Opel Kapitaen (1938) (Back door)
- Packard 110 Sedan (Back door) (1941)
- Peugeot 301 (1935)
- Peugeot 202 (1938)
- Peugeot 302 (1937)
- Peugeot 402 (1938 - 1950)
- Peugeot 402 Darlmat (1950)
- Peugeot 203 (1936 - 1950)
- Peugeot 601 (1940)
- Praga Piccolo Furgon (1938)
- Rover SF12 (Both doors rear hinged) (1946)
- Skoda 110 Cabriolet (1938)
- Skoda 2 (1950)
- Vespa 400 (1960)