I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here, but sometimes there are little features on old cars that are remarkably useful. Things like floor-mounted dimmer switches, wing windows, and kick panel vents are interesting because they are obsolete features that were once considered modern conveniences. For example, I always thought it was kind of neat that the Tempest’s doors automatically unlock if you shut them with the lock engaged; sure it’s more work to lock the door with the key from the outside, but at least this prevents you from locking the keys in the car, right? An old-car-owning coworker and I were talking about this a while back when he mentioned that if you kept the button on the door handle depressed while shutting the door, it would stay locked. I should have known right then that I would manage to misuse this information.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I’ve regularly started shutting the door in this fashion – apparently putting the key in every time was getting more tedious than I had realized. Left to my own devices, it was only a matter of time before I screwed up and left the keys in the car. Sure enough, I came home from work one day, locked the car, and couldn’t find the keys a few hours later when I needed to run some errands. After checking all of my pockets three times, it dawned on me where they must be – dangling from the dashboard, right where I’d left them. I couldn’t even lie and say that they must have fallen out of my pocket when I got out of the car.
Cursing myself, I grabbed a wire coat hanger and got to work. It’s at this point that I should probably mention that I only have one set of keys (the 1967 originals) to the Tempest. I’d never gotten copies made because the doors have this handy unlocking feature – why would I need a spare set? Anyway, hanger now bent into a long hook, I gingerly inserted it between the weatherstripping where the door glass meets the quarter window. After a few minutes of fishing and a couple adjustments to the hanger, I managed to hook it around the lock knob and pull it up. I would not make a successful car thief.
Thoroughly red-faced, I added an extra stop to my errand-running – the hardware store, to have a duplicate set of keys made. If my past is any guide, I’ll need them eventually.