Q: What is a Suicide Door?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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In the automotive world, suicide doors are novelties that hail back to the days of horse-drawn carriages. The doors seemed to disappear from factory-produced vehicles in the early 1970s. They made a minor comeback in the new millennium in such vehicles as the Mazda RX-8, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Honda Element and Rolls-Royce Ghost. This is the result of a decades-long evolution of the door that was once seen as a hazard to anyone who sat near it.

Full suicide doors open from the center of the frame, like carriage doors or French doors on a home. Vehicles with suicide doors have front doors that hinge normally and back doors that hinge from the rear.

The first types of the suicide doors created a hazard for the people sitting near them. The danger increased as cars were created to run faster on the road. At high speeds, the rear-hinged doors could fly open. The person leaning on the door or sitting by it could easily roll out. During accidents, the doors would fly open and throw passengers from the vehicle.

Current versions of the suicide door have addressed this threat. Automakers have created doors that remain locked when the car is in motion. The safety mechanisms ensure that the door does not fly open.

Actually, today's suicide doors are known by names that leave the safety stigma behind. You may find them listed as carriage, rear access, or freestyle doors. There are many aftermarket suicide doors that still carry the name. In fact, many pickup truck owners who modify their vehicles with suicide doors carry the name with pride.

If you just gotta have 'em, you can modify almost any vehicle to accommodate suicide doors. Some safety precautions include supports mounted onto the frame for the rear-facing hinges. The doors also must have mechanisms that keep them locked while the vehicle is in motion. Unless you are highly skilled, these doors should be installed by an expert who knows cars and safety mechanisms.

The cool danger, luxury and prestige associated with suicide doors are all reasons why they still find their way onto automobiles of today. Whether they come with a new luxury vehicle as carriage doors directly from the manufacturer or through an aftermarket kit assembled in the garage of a car enthusiast, suicide doors hold a unique place in the hearts of car owners who love auto history.

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