The History of the Car Key

Cadillac Type 53
Cadillac Type 53

Gone are the good old days when car keys used to consist of one metal key which you insert, turn and hey presto! Now there are keys with codes, alarms, buttons, etc, and it is true that car keys are getting more and more complex by the year! But a good hundred or so years ago, car keys didn’t even exist. Forget unlocking your car from 10 metres away, you couldn’t even lock it!

The first car to be introduced to the world was the Benz Patent Motorwagen, in 1885, but it was not until the 20th century that they really became a ‘thing’, when people started to truly believe that this could be a much better way of getting around then a horse and carriage! It was at this time that car manufacturing companies started popping up, like Renault (1899), Ford (1903), Mercedes (1902) and Stanley (also 1902). Slowly, the world took to the road!

Now, back then, you had to physically crank up your car in order to start it, there were no keys to speak of! This required strength, patience and the strong likelihood of sustaining an injury! The increasing power and size of car-engines as the 1900s progressed, meant that it began to take more and more strength to crank start a car and eventually, electric starter-motors were introduced. At this time, taking your car out for a family day out was no doubt a thrill, but even if you found a nice road to drive on, when you parked your car, you had to make sure that nobody tried to pinch it! Henry Ford used to have to chain his car to a lamppost everytime he parked it and secure it there with a padlock!

“Vintage” cars were cars manufactured from after the end of WWI to the Wall Street Crash, so, from 1919-1929, and it was at this time that cars also started being widely manufactured with self-starters; such as electric starter-buttons. But, it was not until the production of the Cadillac Type 53 that gave us one of the greatest pieces of metal in the world. The car-key! And with that, cars became safer, easier to start and more fun to drive!

And now, most modern car keys are three keys in one! A mechanical key to release the steering lock, a coded ‘electronic transponder chip’ read by the car when the key is inserted into the ignition, and a remote control to unlock doors and turn off the alarm.

So there you have it, the brief history of car keys!