Lincoln Continental

Three ads for tailfinned Lincoln Continentals are a reminder that one of the best ways to make something amazingly beautiful is to make a million mediocre and terrible things and wait half a century (or more) until the good ones have risen to the top. The suicide door was incredibly dumb, but it sure looked nice, at least when designers lucked into (or were canny enough to create) a pleasing form for them.

Lincoln Continental - Sunday Sample


  1. Say what you will about suicide doors, but they make it a hell of a lot easier for backseat passengers to get in and out.

    1. And particularly for kids in car seats in the back it would make it ten fold easier than the standard arrangement. 

      1. I wonder how often that actually happened?  Must be often enough, since nobody makes them anymore.  Well, there’s the Mazda RX8, but you couldn’t open those wee rear doorlets without opening the front ones first, so they don’t count.

  2. Why does ‘We have enlarged your private world and provided you with added power’ sound less like a car ad and more like the unwholesome bastard child of GladOS and Strategic Air Command?

      1.  Because when you get in a car like this your penis gets bigger.  You can quite literally feel it.

          1. We have a Hot Wheels version of that car. Like many Hot Wheels, it has inexplicable flame decals on it.  So for a while I wasn’t sure there was a real Phantom Corsair, because who’d sully one with a flame job?

    1.  I knew what they were, but I couldn’t figure out what was “incredibly dumb” about them.  and after reading the link, I still don’t.  the safety issues center around the passenger being incredibly dumb i.e. opening the door into oncoming traffic, exiting the vehicle while in motion.

      there was an episode of the Fugitive on last night where he drove one, it prompted me to remark to myself how smooth this car is.  too bad it burns fossil fuel.

      1. The lack of reinforcement in the Center of the car, where today we would have a diagonal-esque column with buttresses separating the front and rear doors, caused them to crumple and fold in the passenger compartment, which is A Bad Thing. The safety issues of people going out the door at-speed were far distant to the safety issues of other vehicles coming in them at speed.

        1. This lack of reinforcement, the B pillar, is not unique to suicide doors. The 60s-70s cars that were labeled as hardtops as opposed to coupes/sedans also lacked this B pillar. My 72 Pontiac LeMans 4 door was a hardtop and when you had the front and back windows down, man that’s some space.

          I’m not sure if any suicide doored cars had B pillars  but I just wanted to throw in that an easily crushable roof was not exclusive to suicide door design implementation. If other cars crushed as easily it seems like this wouldn’t be the only reason to scrap the door design.

          1. The 1933 Ford had suicide doors, even on the Tudor model (which was Ford’s clever way of spelling “two-door.”  The Fordor was… well, you can guess).  I imagine t-bone collisions weren’t any more of a worry on the Tudors than it would have been on regularly-hinged doors.  But there was still the opportunity for the door to be flung open wide by the wind at speed if the latch failed.

             Here’s one of the more famous suicide-doored Fords in the world.

    2. Suicide doors were especially popular in the gangster era of the 1930s, supposedly due to the ease of pushing passengers out of moving vehicles with the feature…

      The gentleman who lived in the in-law downstairs from me in San Francisco used to knock over casinos in Vegas in the 1950s.  One time, he was being chased by the cops, who shot his partner in the head.  He did indeed reach over, open the door and push the corpse out into the road.  Good times.

  3. If that car could be made with some eco and safety, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.  With my kids’ college fund.

      1.  I never had any trouble parking my ’62 Lincoln anywhere, but you do need to find a fullsize spot.

        Think of it like the difference between a suit and jeans and a t-shirt – the jeans might be a lot easier, but it’s worth the effort to look good in that suit.

  4. I know someone who inadvertently pulled on the door handle while in the back seat and while the car was traveling at 70 MPH. The door, caught by the wind, flung open. He didn’t fall out, but the door would no longer close. It had to be tied shut until they could get to the body shop. Still, a beautiful car.

  5. This model featured prominently in The Matrix, and they had the convertible (!!!) in the  Entourage opening credits. Not sure about the model years. 

    Did they come in any other color than black? 

    1.  follow the link in Cory’s post.  Also, Eddie Albert’s Oliver character drove a beige/grey one on Green Acres.

    2. James Hetfield has a similar Lincoln, but with blue can opener flames down the sides.  His son was in my son’s preschool class a number of years ago, and he drove that and had it parked in the lot when I attended parent’s night.  It certainly did stand out, unlike James himself, who joined right in with the group singing of Duck, Duck, Goose and did his best choir boy impersonation. No slinging of the mic, and no bombastic xylophone playing.

    1. The MINI Cooper Clubman has a suicide door (just one, on the passenger side), although it’s only about 1/3 the size of the passenger door:

      The passenger door has to open before the suicide door can (they interlock), so it’s rather safe and you still get the handy access to the back seat.

  6. Hey those things can be dangerous!  Just remember what happened to the fellow in Goldfinger!

  7. We had a ’63, then a ’65 Continental. I learned to drive with the ’65. The car body was all chrome and steel, and the vehicle weighed a lot. It also had a huge engine and we’d regularly top 110mph during our annual trips across the Mojave desert.

    And while the suicide doors were dangerous, the front hood was just the opposite, with the hinges on the front edge so the driver had full view of the engine when the hood was open, and the added benefit of the hood not smashing the windshield should it accidentally open while driving.

    1. The first time I had the hood fly open on a car, i had to take a break to lie down in the grass and hyperventilate.  The second time it happened I was like “Whatever.”

  8. I was driven home from the hospital as an infant in my grandfather’s mint 1963 Lincoln Continental, in Robin Egg Blue. Pretty damn classy. Glad we didn’t get into a wreck on the way home, though. Car currently resides in a museum in Peoria, IL.

  9. “one of the best ways to make something amazingly beautiful is to make a million mediocre and terrible things and wait half a century (or more) until the good ones have risen to the top.”

    I don’t understand what you mean by this, are you suggesting that this was not a beautiful car in 1963? Or are you saying that only time can judge wether a design is beautiful? (tell it to the apple fanboys)

    Also, suicide doors are not dumb. As the name implies, only the people who open them at speed are.

    1. I think he’s making some sort of vague reference to evolutionary design? Perhaps natural selection also guides car design? Who knows. It’s about as clear as his analogy for removing food coloring from a pool.

  10. Back in the early 70’s I worked at a Car Wash (my first job at 15) right near the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, MI. They had a contract with the Execs from there to wash their cars. One day this dude (a weekly customer) brought in his Lincoln with suicide doors in. I was vacuuming out the back seat area as the car was being pulled along the conveyor and I was a little slow in getting the door closed in time. Subsequently as the car entered the main part of the line, the door got ripped off it’s hinges. Everybody (but the boss) laughed, and amazingly I didn’t get fired.   Lee Iacocca, if you are reading this… Oooops,, sorry dude.
    True story.

  11. I loved my ’62 hardtop.  I only sold it to get cash for a house down payment.  Mine was black on black leather, as designed.  It was a dream to drive and there’s nothing made since with the same amount of class.

    Caddys were brash and Lincolns were understated – like the difference between BMW and Audi today.

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