Today, car keys come in all shapes and sizes. Indeed, some are not even keys at all – the one for my daily driver, for example, which is a German mid-size estate car, is a blob of plastic that has buttons to lock and unlock the doors and another to release its gimmicky electric tailgate, but to start the thing you have to dip the clutch and press a starter button on the dash.
The ‘key’, meanwhile, floats around in your door pocket or cupholder as there’s no convenient slot into which it can be inserted – best not start me on the subject, though, or I’ll go all ‘grumpy old man’ about it. Let’s just say that, like many blokes, I have anatomical issues that make driving around with a hard chunk of plastic buried in my trouser pocket a little uncomfortable.
Indeed, it was when having such a ‘grumpy old man’ moment with a work colleague, who runs a similar company car and is equally irritated by this ultimate of first world problems, that we got round to discussing the good old Austin-Rover bendy key.
As regular AROnline readers will know, I’ve had (and still have) many Austin Rover cars, but have never really, truly appreciated the bendy key for its simple design practicality.
Remember, these were cars that came out before the dawn of the now mandatory ‘flip key’, where the blade disappears into its own plastic housing. Indeed, I recall my dad, when I was a kid, frequently having to ask my mum to sew his trouser pockets back together where the keys to the family Avenger had worked their way through the fabric, dived down his leg and landed on his shoe – a problem that most modern motorists will never encounter.
The bendy key, then, was dual purpose. First of all, it would protect your clothing by bending with your upper leg as you sat down, rather than jabbing its way through your pocket fabric. Secondly, and of benefit more to men than to women, it would avoid the pointy end of your car key jabbing you in the crown jewels – never a pleasant experience, yet one I’m occasionally reminded of when I have the key to my wife’s 2000 Discovery Td5 in my pocket. Long blades, pointy edges and no bendy bits are a bad combination and, when Rover moved away from the bendy key for the 75 and aforementioned Discovery, I can’t help but think it was a retrograde step.
If you’ll excuse the pun, I think they should have had the balls to keep it…
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