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Viva the key

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In his weekly Ward's World column, John Ward talks about the old fashioned car key...

I was half listening to an item on the radio recently concerning car crime, or rather the removal of vehicles without the owner’s consent or permission, and how it was on the increase despite assorted ‘sophisticated’ devices fitted as once again ‘facts and figures’ were quoted but who really knows for sure as how many offences there are as some go unreported for assorted reasons.

I could associate with the content basically as a friend of mine a few years ago had his car stolen –never recovered– but the sheer inconvenience was another fraught process that involved so much form filling and phone calls in its aftermath that he never, ever thought possible.

Columnist John Ward (52862687)
Columnist John Ward (52862687)

One point he did say was on the bright side (if there is such a thing) it gave so many people ‘jobs in the chain’ with strange supposed job titles that he thought he was in some sort of real life telly sit-com at times as the process was so farcical and long drawn out.

Just when a bit of common sense would have sufficed, there was one question: ‘Tell me – were you in the vehicle at the time it was stolen?’ being a real cracker as the lady then said: ‘I have to ask these questions you know...’

On the car taking side of life, nasty as it is, it never ceases to raise a smile when in films or on the flat screen wonder (telly) when somebody, villain or wotever the plot line is, is seen to get into a vehicle then twist some wires together that are conveniently hanging down from the steering column area – then with a few sparks emitted from the brief joining of the said wires the engine then bursts into life and away they go.

Bearing in mind that since the late 1960s going on early 1970s that steering column/combined ignition switch locks have been a mandatory fitting to most, if not all UK made cars – if I have got it wrong, an anorak will correct me accordingly.

However it’s never explained or shown (thankfully) quite how they manage to drive the car off without dismantling the said ignition/steering column lock mechanism etc as you don’t see them carting a tool box around with them.

Modern day vehicles also contain in most, if not all, ignition keys a ‘chip’ that has to be present in order for the ignition sequence to function otherwise the car engine is immobilised so it’s a ‘no-no’ situation although once again this process seems to be missing in films and flat screen wonder offerings of late.

I noticed one such howler not so long ago that seems to bypass all this modern technology by yet the gud ole ‘twist some wires together, Guv’ as once again off they went.

Recently I was wandering back to a car park where I had left my car – it’s a ritual I go through whereby I leave my car after buying a ticket that entitles me to a space or a theoretical piece of fresh air set aside on a designated marked out area with white lines that is called a parking space – to find somebody attempting to get into a car nearby.

The person saw me, explained he had ‘lost his keys’ as then I was wondering if he was a ‘fallen by the wayside’ possible contestant from TV’s ‘University Challenge’ as he spoiled that illusion quickly as he scurried off.

I assumed it was not his car as he was trying to relieve the real owner of it but was unsuccessful but looking at the make, model and age as being without the right key to gain entry plus to start the engine, he was on a wasted mission but perhaps had been seeing too many films of late that are meaningless in the modern world.

In a similar vein an event happened many years ago when I owned a bog standard HA model Vauxhall Viva, the first boxy shaped one, when one Saturday morning I picked up friend Tony to pop into town where we then lived but I was fortunate for the time of day to park in a street in town with no other cars parked either in front or behind us as I then locked up as we went into the town centre.

We got back about 20 minutes later having brought a few electrical bits and bobs, and then I opened the doors – this was before central door locking days - as we then got in as per the norm.

Tony was then quite excited as he thought the radio fitted in the dashboard was brilliant (in those days radios were not standard fittings, unlike today with about 39 cup holders, laser guided armrests etc. as this was the peasant, bog standard specification model) but to be fair it was amazing, almost miraculous even based on the fact that when we parked we did not have one fitted in the dashboard or anywhere else for that matter.

We looked at one another like idiots with him asking how long I had had it there as I pointed out it was not there when we parked up – had we been parked for about an hour or so longer perhaps a television might have been installed, who knows?

However he was not too keen about the furry tiger hanging from the rear view mirror although it didn’t bother me all that much.

It was then that he looked ahead at the car parked in front of us which was also a Vauxhall Viva, same light blue colour but as he pointed out with his finger shaking, it also had the same registration number as the one – in theory – we were presently sitting in.

We then both came to the rapid conclusion that it WAS my car in front of whatever we were sitting in just as I had started the engine, then quickly stopped it as we got out pronto, locked up and then got into my car and drove off pretty sharpish.

A while later I tried my key in a friend’s Viva at work as while it opened the drivers door it wouldn’t start the engine, which was a blessing of sorts, but he was gobsmacked so went to the local dealer to inquire about this matter.

While he had a sympathetic word from the service manager, he was ‘advised’ to fit an anti-theft device as a ‘back up’ but he said there had been (unofficially) a few ‘teething problems’ regarding locks on some models but not to worry about it too much’ (!) but that was a bygone age and we may well have been pioneers of sorts in those heady days with one key but with so many choices.

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