More exclusive than a Ford GT? A Lincoln Continental with suicide doors

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
The most distinguishing feature on the stretch version of the marque’s flagship sedan will be distinctive center-opening doors — more commonly referred to as “suicide doors.”

Ford Motor Co. will offer a car that's more exclusive than the Ford GT supercar. Sort of. It's a Lincoln Continental with suicide doors.

Ford's luxury arm will sell only 80 Lincoln Continental 80th Anniversary Coach Door Edition vehicles for the 2019 model year. The suicide doors on the cars are so-named because the passenger doors are hinged at the rear rather than the front. They've been largely abandoned because of safety concerns: If the doors are opened at speed, the wind can violently swing the doors open and bring the backseat passenger with them.

However, the new Continental's electronically controlled doors cannot be opened if the car is moving more than 2 miles per hour, Lincoln officials said.

The doors, originally used on horse-drawn carriages, were offered at various times in the Continental's history.

Lincoln marketing manager Trevor Scott said, "It shows a combination of our commitment to the vehicle and the rich history of the brand,"

There won't be a formal application process, but anyone who wants the vehicles will have to work with a Lincoln dealer to get their hands on one. Lincoln will vet each order to ensure the person buying the car intends to keep it — not just resell it for a profit.

The new Continental's electronically controlled doors cannot be opened if the car is moving more than 2 miles per hour. That's because wind can swing suicide doors open and imperil the backseat passenger.

Similar restrictions were placed on the Ford GT. Celebrities and car enthusiasts had to prove their bona fides in order to be consider for one of the supercars.

Scott said the vehicles will retail for slightly more than $100,000 when they go on sale next summer. A top-of-the-line Black Label Lincoln Continental retails for $70,000.

The suicide-door Continentals will roll off Ford's assembly line in Flat Rock as Black Label Continentals. Ford will then ship the cars to Massachusetts-based Cabot Coach Builders, an aftermarket modification company.

Cabot will cut the vehicles in half, stretch them 6 inches, fit the suicide doors, and build out a custom second row with extra leg room, larger seats and a center console with controls, tray tables, wireless charging and other perks. 

The automaker plans to sell the cars exclusively in the U.S. for the first run in 2019. Lincoln will showcase the vehicle at one of the 2019 auto shows in China, Scott said, and could sell the vehicles there in 2020. The spacious backseat is primed for the Chinese market, where many luxury buyers purchase cars with a longer wheelbase and spacious backseats, because they have chauffeurs. 

The specialty vehicle has popped up on the drawing board of Lincoln design director David Woodhouse multiple times since he's been with the company.

"We've always idealized the Continental to have center-opening doors," Woodhouse said.

80th Anniversary Lincoln Continental Coach Door Edition.

The automaker has a penchant for rolling out concept vehicles with eye-catching doors. Before the Lincoln Navigator launched last year, the automaker in 2016 had debuted a concept at the New York auto show that had massive gull-wing doors.

The special-edition Continental is a tribute to the history of the nameplate. The 1961 Continental had center-opening doors, too. And it's one of the vehicles Lincoln holds up as one of its best, historically.

The 2019 model will have a few other perks. Officials said the heads-up display that projects on the windshield for the driver will be the first that people can see while wearing polarized sunglasses.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau