By on December 18, 2018

Considering they’re only making 160 of them, the suicide doors on the eighty Coach Door Edition Lincoln Continentals to be sold next year have garnered quite a bit of attention.

The use of rear-hinged doors on vehicles dates to the horse age. It seems that sometime in the 1930s the moniker “suicide doors” was applied to them, apparently due to people’s propensity  for falling out of cars in the decades before Ford introduced the seat belt (as an option in 1956). There’s also, at least according to something frequently reproduced online, a connection with gangsters pushing people out of cars — though to my ears, that would be more like homicide doors.

I’m not convinced, though, it’s any easier to fall (or be pushed) out of a car with such doors, other than the fact that aerodynamics will help keep the door open while you’re falling (or being pushed).

In any case, rear-hinged doors became known as suicide doors, though it seems to have originally been applied to cars with front doors that were hinged at the back, usually two-door coupes or convertibles, like the current Rolls-Royce Dawn and Wraith, not the back doors of a four-door sedan. People aren’t particularly careful about the meanings of words, so in time the term also came to include what were originally called coach doors.

Again dating to the horse age, “coach doors” are when a four-door vehicle has front doors hinged at the front and back doors hinged at the rear. In a horse drawn coach without a car’s B pillar in the way, when both side doors are open, that creates a huge opening and easy entry into the passenger compartment, particularly if you’re a woman wearing a bustled dress with petticoats and skirts.

While the truly iconic 1961 Continental had no B-pillar, for just 80 cars, Ford wasn’t going to completely reengineer the unibody, so the 2020 Coach Door Edition Continental would still hamper a lady wearing a hoop skirt. But, as you can see from the model name, even though the term is in common use, Lincoln’s avoiding the S word.

Even before today’s hypersensitivity, no car company run by sane people would have used the term “suicide doors,” with good reason. Rolls-Royce doesn’t use the term for their production cars and no recent concept vehicle with coach doors has called them suicide doors.

Though no official communications from Lincoln or Ford use the term “suicide doors,” just about every news report on the new Conti called them exactly that. Autoweek, Road & Track, used the term in their tweets about the car. CNN, Fox News, and CBS News all used “suicide doors” in their headlines. Since few people these days seem to actually read, the Twitter mob was provoked by the headlines to inveigh against the automaker for being insensitive about suicide, even though Lincoln isn’t using the word.

Some implicitly criticized the auto industry for the design itself, due to its supposed association with suicide.

I’m tempted to say these are an example of Poe’s Law, but I’m pretty sure these guys were joking.

Interestingly, none of the folks outraged about Lincoln’s non-existent faux-pas used their tweets to mention that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK).

[Image Lincoln Motor Co.]

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45 Comments on “When Cultures Clash: Coach Door Edition Conti Triggers Folks Worried About Suicide...”

  • avatar

    ‘While the truly iconic 1961 Continental had no B-pillar, ‘

    Only the convertible had no B pillar until the 66 2 door hardtop.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Marketing magic! When was the last time that Lincoln received such mainstream publicity? When was the last time that people took Lincoln seriously as a ‘luxury car’ maker?

    Changing the rear hinges on 160 cars, appears to have given Lincoln a higher profile than a previous half-dozen concept cars and new car unveilings.

  • avatar

    Lincoln Continental “Suicide Doors” in an age where we don’t accept certain terms. Yep I’m going to take offence. Thank you #MentalHealth #KeepTalkingMH

    — (@danielhortonseo) December 17, 2018

    Who is this “we” you are referring to? I like to think people are smart enough to differentiate a term used for a styling exercise versus taking one;s own life or condoning/encouraging such actions.

    Just, wow.

  • avatar

    Twitter is a brain virus.

  • avatar

    It seems there is no end to some people’s stupidity and/or their ability to be offended by anything whatsoever.

  • avatar

    It is a cretinous term from times gone by. just slang and better forgotten.

  • avatar

    Twitter is Hell on Earth and it will almost certainly result in more harm and suicides than 80 Lincolns.

  • avatar

    AAAAHAHAHAAHAHA! But on a serious note, I really really really hope this doesnt cause anyone with such a weak mind to off themselves, that would just be super duper terrible.

  • avatar

    Don’t tell them a die or two were used in the making of those new suicide doors. The horror of it all.

  • avatar

    A couple complaining on twitter isn’t worth an article in my opinion, especially when basically none of them has any likes or retweets or whatever.

    People being idiots on twitter isn’t news, ever.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, it’s great for the endorphin release of dunking on the other side (whichever other side that is, because both sides do it because both sides have some little irrelevant things they get twitchy over), it’s not news that a few people are offended by… something.

  • avatar

    Twitter is for twits. Social media is a social disease.

  • avatar
    FWD Donuts

    I want to open all the doors then drive a golf ball through them.

  • avatar

    Perhaps our friend Sajeev could use a kind word or two upon learning that his beloved Lincoln’s new flagship is now the DLO FAIL world champion.

  • avatar

    It’s a wonderful life for some…

    “Let me log in.. ok.. there must be something I can complain about.. nope.. no.. naaah.. there it is.. suicide what?” type type type type

    God help us…

  • avatar
    FWD Donuts

    Too bad Ford didn’t release this as the Smith & Wesson edition with a .45 in the trunk. Would’ve been the equivalent of the brown noise to some of those knuckleheads out there.

  • avatar

    I’d bet that there are already more than 160 donk modified Lincolns out there with aftermarket suicide doors, so good for the Lincoln folks who must have said, “Why don’t we do this ourselves?” and ran from there.

    The free publicity, care of the twittiots, is just a bonus.

  • avatar

    On Instagram yesterday, Automobile magazine called this feature “Coach Doors”–not sure if they made that up or if that’s something that Ford is using.

    I’ve always hated the term “suicide doors” for the simple reason that I had a relative who took his own life many years ago now, and it’s true that most people never forget those who do that, no matter how much time goes by.

    It always seemed to be kind of a harsh word to use in describing car doors.

    That is all.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I remember after my brother-in-law took his own life, his roommate related to me (in some detail) what he saw when he walked in the bathroom after hearing the gunshot.

      It’s fun to complain about “internet idiots” but a little imagination is all it takes. “Coach Doors” is the correct term and does just fine.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see these cars’ advertising use the instrumental part of Bowie’s Rock and Roll Suicide, just to subtly taunt the twittiots.

    (I’m sure Ziggy Stardust and those spiders from Mars would approve.)

  • avatar

    Putting suicide doors on a car with a B pillar is like wearing Depends under a bikini.

  • avatar

    Hmm, if we HAVE to have a B-pillar, would we be better served by making REVERSE suicide doors? Where the rear door opens normally, and the front door opens at the front? Similar to what Rolls Royce has done with the Dawn.

  • avatar

    Just imagine the outrage when they find out about midget car racing, or that some motorcycles have a suicide shifter.

    That Dan Horton guy is about the snowflakiest of snowflakes. Most people on Twitter who uses a special font for their name are completely insufferable.

  • avatar

    Twitter changed political system of United State for the worse, blame Putin. The upcoming fall of American Empire will be attributed to Twitter by future historians. Disclaimer: I do not have Twitter account and change channels as soon as hear the word “Twitter” or “twitted” or “twit”.

  • avatar

    Democrats all.

  • avatar

    I’m 65 yrs old, and my dad was a auto mechanic in the 50s and 60s.

    I can remember as a small child, asking him why they called them suicide doors. He explained that if someone was exiting the rear seat on the traffic side, and a car came from behind and hit the door, then you would be hit by the door. Lose a foot? Decapitation?

    Conversely, if the door is the usual swing and a car hit the door, it would swing away from the person.

    Made sense to me.

    • 0 avatar

      That makes sense. It might be one of those explanations that people make after the fact (I think it’s called “post hoc” although I might be using that term incorrectly) but it could have just as easily be how the phrase was coined.

  • avatar

    Ford didn’t introduce seatbelts, Nash did, in 1949. Ford offered them as an option in ’55, Saab was first to make them standard, in ’58, and Volvo first offered modern 3-point ones in ’59 as standard equipment.

    I’ve also seen photos of 20’s and 30’s Duesenbergs with lap belts. Of course they could’ve been retrofit later, and all that I can say is these cars otherwise look very period-correct.

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