Where do "suicide doors" get their name?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

Do you remember the old four-door Lincoln Continentals where the front and back doors both opened out from the same spot in the middle of the car? They used to call those "suicide doors." How did they get that name?

RAY: They weren't actually named for the Lincoln Continental, John. The 1961-1967 Continentals just happened to be the last in a long line of American cars to use doors hinged at the back instead of the front.

TOM: Yeah. Haven't you seen any of those old gangster movies from the 1930's? Typically, a 1930's Ford would drive up, four shots would be fired, and a limp body would be pushed out of one of these "suicide doors" into the gutter.

RAY: My brother remembers these movies because he was IN them. He was a sort of character actor. He played the guy in the gutter.

TOM: Actually, the best answer we could come up with, John, is that in the old days, these doors were prone to open in a crash. And since this was before the time of seatbelts (and practically before the time of seats!), a driver or passenger could easily be thrown forward, right out of the car and onto the street in an accident. So driving a car this dangerous was said to be "suicidal." And that's where they got the name "suicide doors."

RAY: We're not sure that's where the name really came from. But we searched far and wide, and of all the explanations we heard, that one seems the most plausible. And if it's not correct, I'm sure one of our many knowledgable readers will write to us and straighten us out....again.

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