September 2012: My Favourite Car Comes with Push-Button Start!
Old things are new again. That's what goes through my mind every time I see a car commercial showing off the new "Push to Start" button. Yes, there are some great electronic security systems behind that simple, made of plastic, backlit by LED's, "Push to Start" button, (read "more things that can go wrong"), and to most new drivers, it appears to be new and cool.
But, as I work on the fuel pump for our latest acquisition, a 1957 Series 1 107" Station Wagon, I have to laugh because this 55 year-old vehicle, like our other Series 1's and 2a's, comes with a "Push to Start" button. Series Land Rovers came with Push-Button Start from their very first Series 1 in 1948. Wow! Land Rover was way ahead of their time! Not really... through the 30's and 40's some cars used a direct button on the starter that was pushed by your foot. Starter solenoids became smaller and came with the manual push-switch, so many cars had them on the dash. Land Rover continued this simple and effective starter mechanism right through the Series 2a models, up until 1966.
The new Start Buttons on today's cars are typically part of a keyless entry system, eliminating any potential mechanical failures, like your key not turning in the door. Very convenient; although I have to question the reliability of electronic systems over mechanical systems. When your key didn't work, you jiggled it. When your key fob doesn't work, you take out the battery, stare at it in the hopes that all will be miraculously fixed, put it back, call the tow truck using your cell phone, (if you get a signal), and have your dealer hook up a computer to reset your car's computer. That's convenient...
Most of the Series Land Rover buttons are metal, not plastic; they last... well, so far 55 or more years. There is no backlighting to show you where it is, (by the third or fourth push you should be familiar with it's location). For electronic security... well, you do need to have an ignition key in place and turned on.
An old concept has come back as a new idea; but does it really serve any purpose? Electronic versus mechanical, convenience versus reliability. I think someone needs to do a study. Oh wait... maybe there's an app for that!