Rolls-Royce is one of the rare few manufacturers that fit its cars with ‘suicide doors’ that open backward, but why is that?
Rolls-Royce doors open backward because the company sees it as an elegant callback to luxurious stagecoaches of days-gone-by, where doors would open the same way. It also allows a person an instant and easier presence when they step out from their vehicle, and, aesthetically, it’s unique and impressive.
Read on to learn more about Rolls-Royce, its vehicles, and why some of the doors on its cars open backward.
The Inappropriately-Named Suicide Door
It’s said that the ‘backward opening door’, otherwise known as the suicide door, is as old as the motor car itself. It was the original design used well over a century ago, taking inspiration from stagecoaches of the time.
In most cases, stagecoaches were reserved for the rich, the opulent, and the extravagant, and it was their driver who would open the door for them. The backward-opening door allowed an easier egress for a lady in a flowing dress, and an instant presence, unobscured by a cumbersome door.
However, when this style of door was ported to a motor car, it began to exhibit some potentially fatal issues. These new-fangled motor cars were eventually capable of traveling faster than a horse and carriage, a fact that carried with it one major concern.
The backward-opening doors were notoriously unreliable, and if you didn’t latch them closed properly, they could fling open at any given moment. This poor engineering, compounded by the wind pushing back against the door, and a lack of seatbelts, meant the driver or passenger could be flung from the vehicle.
These days, if you’re speeding down the highway and try opening your standard door, you’ll notice it’s a little difficult. The wind rushing past your vehicle effectively pushes the door shut against the body, and if you do open it, it’s likely to snap shut again.
Over time, these backward-opening doors earned themselves a rather inappropriate nickname: suicide doors. Today, there are claims that gangsters even favored these doors because they made pushing someone from a car at speed all that much easier.
With all that in mind, why do Rolls-Royce still use backward-opening doors on their cars today?
Even today, there’s something dramatically stylish and intriguing about a suicide door. It’s a rarely-seen concept that acts as an instant throwback to what now seems like ancient history, some one hundred years ago.
While the vast, dramatic majority of production cars have standard, forward-opening doors, there are a rare few that still use suicide doors. However, the most prominent and luxurious of all these cars are definitely the offerings from Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce has used suicide doors – backward-opening doors – on its vehicles since day one, more or less. Today, almost every car they produce features backward-opening doors, from the Cullinan to the Dawn, and from the Wraith to the Phantom.
It’s mostly an artistic statement; a desire to be unique, stylish, and impactful. In many ways, it’s a similar concept to the falcon-wing doors on a Tesla Model X or the butterfly doors on a Lamborghini.
We’ve explored both of these vehicles at length in other articles, and you can learn much more about them, such as their costs, origins, and rarity.
Ultimately, Rolls-Royce exists to stand out from the crowd, and the backward-opening doors are a great way to do that. They ensure that the driver or passenger enjoys a wide, instantly-observable presence when they step out from their vehicle.
Also, it makes it much easier for a woman in a dress to exit the vehicle and remain modest. It provides a traditional, almost archaic image when a chauffeur opens the door for his passengers, as he would have with a stagecoach many decades before.
Despite these doors still being labeled as suicide doors, Rolls-Royce has long reassured the motoring industry, claiming they’re totally safe. For example, if the doors on a Rolls-Royce aren’t properly secured before driving off, the car physically won’t move.
Taking it to the next level, Rolls-Royce has included an intuitive and dramatically easy system used to close the doors on its cars. Once you’re sitting comfortably, you simply press a button on the control panel, and the doors elegantly swing closed by themselves.
Of course, that’s the kind of feature you’d come to expect from some of the most luxurious vehicles on the planet, with price tags that regularly exceed half a million dollars.