Vehicles Then, Now & Tomorrow

Aug. 19, 2014

There was a day when every motorcycle and even some foreign cars had a key code printed on the plug next to the keyway. It is hard to believe these days but foreign cars were really foreign until the mid '70s. German cars and Japanese motorcycles had little more than a cult following and few people knew that the number printed on lock plugs was actually information which could be used to originate an operating key.  Taylor and Curtis were big names at the time. These companies seemed to have the widest variety of available key blanks for foreign vehicles while Baxter did a good job of furnishing key codes and foreign car lock & key information.

Old timers will remember the gas shortage in the mid 1970s. People quickly lost interest in big gas guzzlers from Detroit and turned to the foreign imports with smaller engines and better fuel economy. Detroit was caught by surprise with few dependable small cars in their inventories.  Small engine, high mileage foreign cars have continued to increase their market share right up until today. An indicator of how far foreign competition has come was when Fiat purchased a once-mighty Chrysler car line

Key code numbers on vehicle locks and locks using single-sided keys began disappearing by 1980. Increased amounts of tumblers and double-sided keys soon became the order of the day for both cars and motorcycles.  A final step in the progression of mechanical lock types for vehicles was the introduction of sidewinder keys for Mercedes cars in 1979.

Electronic security (VATS) was first used in the 1986 Corvette. Almost every vehicle sold in the U.S. and every vehicle sold in Canada today has some form of transponder security.

Motorcycles retained a standard mechanical key system for a longer period of time but that is rapidly changing. Names like Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Indian, Moto-Guzzi, Piaggio, Vespa and Victory all have at least some models which use transponder security. Some 2011+ Harley-Davidson models require the use of a  mechanical key plus an electronic fob must be present before the cycle will start.  A fob must be present to start some late model Indian motorcycles. These Indian models have push button start and no key operated locks at all.  Most other models listed here have some normal form of transponder electronics embedded in the keybow.

If vehicle and cycle security continues the same trend, one day  soon vehicle security codes for every car and cycle may be saved in the 'cloud', cell phones will instantly retrieve the information to operate the vehicle and  key rings will become collectibles. It could happen.