It's been nearly 50 years since the last time Lincoln offered rear-hinged doors (a.k.a. suicide doors). That's about to change with a limited-edition run of the 2019 Continental. Lincoln has decided it will build 80 of these cars with the old-style doors to commemorate the model's 80th anniversary. The Continentals from the 1960s are still cool, and that's partly because of their unusual rear doors. Today, the only other cars that have non-clamshell rear-hinged doors are Rolls-Royces. Are rear-hinged doors really that difficult to engineer?
Not really, says Tim Sterling, chief program engineer for the Continental. The standard Continental already uses electronic "e-latches with cinch closing," which quells the notion that your door might fly open on the highway because you didn't quite latch it. It's true that you need to beef up the C-pillar to handle the hinges. But really, it's more a question of whether your customers are interested and you've got a car that makes sense for the coach-door treatment. "It seemed right for this vehicle, and the look of it," Sterling says. A stretched Lincoln LS wouldn't have been able to pull this off. A Continental can.
To build the initial 80-car run (and presumably whatever comes after), Lincoln sends a fully loaded 400-hp Black Label Continental straight from its Flat Rock plant to Cabot Coachworks, an upfitter in Massachusetts that builds MKT limos and Transit vans. There the cars are stretched six inches, most of which goes into rear-seat legroom. The door hinges are designed for a favorable tip angle, meaning they'll be easy to close. And while they're not full-power like a Rolls or Tesla, the doors will pull themselves shut if you get them close to the latch. No slamming required.
The Coach Door will debut at the Detroit auto show in January. It’ll also appear at the Beijing auto show in February. No confirmation yet on whether the car will actually be sold across the Pacific, but given that big sedans are still big in China, it’s hard to imagine it won’t be.