Ignition Key on Right (American Cars)

1964 Rambler American: Key on right.

If I may share one anecdote on this:

The key on the left has become one of Porsche’s most recognizable brand marks, and the company likes to play on this to distinguish itself from other manufacturers. When Porsche sponsored the restauration of the organ in the Nikolaikirche, a church in Leipzig, Saxony, a few years ago, they did so under the condition that one of the levers which is usually attached on the right was put on the left.

Column locks are, unfortuantely, ludicrously easy to bypass, as the mechanism is typically explosed right under the column cover. I’d guess the tranny lock is significantly harder to access. In general, putting the ignition on the center column–where it is visible, the keys aren’t dangling, and the ignition key won’t split your kneecap if you get in an impact–makes a lot more sense to me. But I expect in the next five to ten years inigition keys on new cars will be an anachronism as keyless ignition becomes the next standard convenience feature.


Having changed more than one column lock assembly due to malfunctions of one sort or another, if this is your idea of ludicrously easy, I do not want to ever see what you consider damn difficult.

Oh, replacing them is a pain in the ass. But just bypassing or deactivating it, a piece of cake. Well, if you don’t mind breaking a couple of things.


I had a 63 Mercedes 300SE and the ignition was to the right of the column, on the dash. My 68 Charger had it on the column, IIRC. Remember, Tuckerfan that the 340 and 360 both evolved from the 318 block, just as the 400 evolved from the 383. The jump in Plymouth and Dodge from the 318/383 to the 360/400 was in the very late 60’s-my 68 had a 383, but the 70 Charger my Dad bought had a 400, IIRC.

I know for sure that GM had gone to a column key by 1969…not sure about '68 or earlier. It seems like I remember seeing an old car that had a factory lock on the steering column (possibly a Mercury) that was separate from the ignition. The starter was located on the dash, but you could lock the column separately when you parked the car.

I had a '72 Ford F100 that had the ignition on the left on the dashboard, 3 speed column shift and absolutely nothing to lock the shift or the column. It could be hotwired in seconds and driven around all day. It also had no factory shoulder belts…just lap belts.

BTW, a picture of a '68 Charger RT with the key on the dash http://www.allpar.com/model/charger.html (on the right, I might add). Can’t find any info if the column lock was an option.

Also, at
you can see a 1962 Fury was dash ignition and pushbutton transmission on the right (a keychain is hanging down in the picture). (We can save the fact that some of those pushbutton transmissions were located on the left for another thread.)

After looking at hundreds of pictures on eBay Motors (good place to find dash shots), I found:

1968 Chrysler New Yorker & 300; Dodge Charger & Monaco
All had the key on the right dash.

1969 Chrysler New Yorker and Dodge Dart, Key on the right dash.

Only the 1969 New Yorker had the key on the left.

1970 Dodge Coronet, Charger and Polara; Imperial LeBaron; Plymouth Barracuda, Roadrunner, Duster, Satellite…all column locks.

GM seems to have been pretty standard in the key on the right side dashboard from 1960 & up with everything moving to the column in 1969…with the exception of one 1968 Corvette which had a column ignition.

Ford seems to have preferred the left dash until 1964 when the Falcon had it on the right along with the so-called 64 1/2 Mustang which had the same dashboard. They all were on the right dash in 1965 to 1969 with the exception of the F-Series Trucks. In 1970, the keys had moved to the column with the exception of the F-Series trucks and the Bronco. It looks like the keys moved to the right dash on the 1973 F-Series but from 1974 thru 1979 the E-Series vans still had the key on the left dash. The latest F-Series I can find with a dashboard starter is 1978 and the earliest column lock I can find is 1983. (The later the car, the crappier the pictures on eBay for some reason.)

Anyway, that’s the info I could get from 3+ hours of looking at pictures. Still really doesn’t answer my original question though. :smack:

Odd, I was just discussing this with someone tonight. My first car was a 1976 504 Diesel Peugeot. Not many Americans can say that!

However, the key was on the left side and the turn signals were on the right. I am left handed and to this day, 21 years later, it is still more natural for me to try to put the key in on the left side. Of course, it gets very unnatural when there is no actual ignition there. (You know, I can’t actually say what side the turn signals are on my car now, or what side they are usually on, I just know that the Peugeot was backwards from whatever was “standard” at the time.)

I’ve never seen a car in Australia or NZ with the ignition on the left hand side of the steering wheel- they’ve always been on the right hand side, much like the indicator lever.

Having said that, Holden Astras have the indicator levers on the left, which is very confusing and takes a bit of getting used to- in most other cars here, the windscreen wiper lever is on the left side of the steering wheel.

Then again, I’ve also had people from the US ask me with amazement how I change gears with my left hand, as if it’s some kind of Nobel Prize worthy feat…

Our Datsun roadsters had the turn signal on the right. Took a little getting used to.

Now that’s something I never would’ve thought of…turn signal levers on the right.

Over the years I have worked on lots of RHD cars here in the US. Mostly old British sports cars. However we had one Diplomat that had a RHD stick shift Volvo here in LA. None of the other techs wanted to go near it, they were afraid to drive it. :rolleyes: Whatever, I never had a problem driving it or shifting it.
It was way fun, when you stopped to let a pedestrian cross the street, to see them do a double take when they went to check if the “driver” was paying attention, and there was no “driver” on the left side of the car. :smiley:
If it was my car I would have gotten a great big dog to sit in that seat.

Or do what Alex Tremulis did with his RHD Zephyr and have the person in the passenger seat suddenly start waving around a steering wheel as if it had come off in their hands when an oncoming car approached. :smiley:

Talked to a cousin about Grandma’s car last night and he thinks that the car had a different steering column in it, the steering wheel had a Plymouth symbol. We also remembered a hole in the dash on the left side, everyone always assumed it was from someone’s attempt to install something.