Ignition Key on Right (American Cars)

All modern American Cars and cars imported into the U.S. have the key to the right of the steering column. This seems to go back at least until the early 60s with one exception that I know of.

Ford trucks and vans had a dashboard ignition on the left until the early to mid-70s. The Mustang always had it to the right from 1965 up.

Why did they put the key on the left in the trucks and vans? Was it only cars with manual choke that had the key on the left?

Actually, cars had it on the left up until the 1960s/1970s. I know that the Tucker has it on the left, as does my 1969 Chrysler Newport. Frankly, I can’t understand why they ever put them there to begin with.

Oh yeah, my 1965 Ranchero had it on the dash as well, but I don’t remember what side it was on.

Is your '69 Newport a manual choke? A friend of mine has a '66 Newport with automatic choke and it’s on the right. I’m thinking the choke is the big reason…one hand on the choke, the other on the key…but why not put the choke on the left?

Nope. Automatic choke. 1969 was when smog controls first started showing up on cars.

It goes back farther than that. Here’s a pic of a 1946 Jeep with the ignition key and starter on the left.

Was there a technical reason for this? Or was there simply a left-handed engineer early on?

My mid-90s SAAB (and all of my earlier SAABs) has the ignition between the stick shift and the emergency brake.

This confuses people who need to start the ignition and won’t let me do it for them.

I think that the reason for this might have been because when electric starters first appeared on cars, they were mounted on the floor (on the left side, IIRC). You put the key in the ignition, turned it, then pressed the starter with your foot until the car started, when they integrated the starter into the ignition, they probably just put it on the side where they’d always put it, except on the dash. The concept of ergonomics didn’t show up until the 1970s, so it’s not like they would have been inclined to think of such things back then.

Porsche traditionally puts the ignition key on the left because it allows the driver to start the car faster (left hand on the key, right hand putting the car into gear). That would save the driver a couple of seconds in old style races where the drivers had to run to their cars (Le Mans, etc.)

Used to have a SAAB. One of the more entertaining features, indeed. SAAB used to claim it made more sense there, because the dangling keys weren’t poking your legs. It also meant you did not have a steering lock. Instead, the anti-theft device was a transmission lock - a manual had to be put in reverse to take the key out. At first that annoyed the hell out of me when I was parked pointing uphill - yeah, I know, you don’t REALLY need to set the transmission opposite the direction of roll, but not doing so was counter to the habit of a lifetime.

I’m just curious why the '66 Newport had the key on the right and the '69 had it on the left. Those Newports didn’t just have a hole drilled in the dash…the dash was molded and trimmed in chrome.

When did Chrysler go to column locks and starters?

I had two Cadillacs, 1962 and 1964 and both had the key on the right.

My mother and grandmother had early Toyota Corollas…1967 and 1968 with keys on the left…the 1968 had a column lock with a column ignition on the left side behind the blinker stalk. I always assumed this was because they just used the same dash and column as they produced in Japan and just moved it to the other side.

It makes sense for the key to be on the side away from the window so someone can’t reach in and take your keys…not that I can think of a reason why someone would do that.

And that left which hand on the wheel??

Don’t you always steer with your knees?

Federal regulations required some type of ignition anti-theft starting in 1968. Most cars started using steering column locks in MY 1968. As has been mentioned, SAAB used a transmission lock.
What does your Newport have?

Prepare to be more curious, as my family had both a '62 Newport and a '69.

They both had the ignition on the left side of the dash.

That means that Chrysler HAD put the ignition on the left, then MOVED it to the right for at least the '66 model, then RETURNED it to the left.

Just in time to put it in the usual anti-theft position. :confused:

I dunno, I can’t find anything in the factory service manual about it and the wheel doesn’t like turning without the engine on to drive the powersteering, so simply trying to get it to move won’t tell me anything, but the ignition switches didn’t navigate to the column until 1970.

My grandmother had a 69 Chrysler New Yorker and it had the ignition in the column. She had somehow broke the key off in the ignition and for years all you had to do was jump in, turn the ignition and go. I still remember what a dog that car was, someone had dropped a 318 in place of the original 440. I put that 318 in an old Dodge truck I had about 20 years ago, I sold the truck about 15 years ago and I still see it running around today.

Well just to add to the complexity, I learned to drive on a 1963 Newport, which I will swear had the key on the right. I did a Google search and found a picture of the dash, which when blown up appears to show the key on the right, just to the left of the radio.

My 1968 Plymouth Fury had a column lock. That is what made me go :confused: when I read Tuckerfan’s post

Couldn’t have been a 69. My manual covers Newports, Imperials, 300s, and New Yorker (the cars are all identical, save minor differences between them) and it mentions nothing about the ignition being on the column on any models. I don’t doubt the car was a dog with a 318 installed. The smallest engine Chrysler would put in them was a 360, and they didn’t do that until the 70s models came out.