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Identifying Buick Delco Ignition Keys — 1914-1921


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The subject of identifying ignition keys has come up on many threads in many forums recently.
I have an original Delco Piece-Parts Catalog for 1914-1921 Buick - all models — and have been asked to copy and send the relevant pages. The Problem with that is: Xeroxed, all you get is dark unidentifiable smudges. Scanning is fine, but printing those scans on anything accessible to me come out WORSE than Xerox. Digital pictures off the phone can be printed — but no larger than 5x7 unless you want to pay $30 per page for a ‘blow up’. I do not.

So I am posting these pics here. Hopefully they are accessible to people with limited email data available.
 

Click on the pics to zoom in and for better resolution.

Edited by Ben P.
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The following 3 photos are the catalog index. To identify the key, find the year and model — then get the number for the applicable ‘ignition switch’ or ‘combination switch’ for that year and model. Disregard everything else.

 

The illustrated pages for each switch/combination switch will follow.

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Edited by Ben P.
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Sure. Interesting to me was the 1923 Packing Slip to the Ohio dealer.

 

The photos aren’t great, but hopefully usable. The pages are glossy and it was a real battle with glare! Actually spent a whole day on this, technology isn’t quite there yet. This silly phone has a scanner app - but of course it isn’t compatible with anything else. Email (which I pay dearly for) threw a fit. Dwindled it down to only the illustrated pages but still couldn’t send all 15 in 1 batch. Hopefully posting them here is more usable than sorting/searching between 5-6 emails.
 

Re. that 1915 only key with the little gear on the end, I did come across this: http://exwisehe.com/magneto_keys.html.

 

Magneto key! Which is where some of this starts to make sense....

 

 

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Edited by Ben P.
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I had several hundred old family photos to copy and had same difficulties with glare.  To solve this I set the photos on a 3 ring binder tipped away from a big window so there was plenty of natural light. Angling the old photo away from the light eliminated most glare.   A pair of rulers and spring clips held down the edges of the warped photos.  This freed up both hands to steady the camera and allowed me to get everything aligned before snapping a digital photo.

Kevin

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Payoff....

For the first time in at least 50 years, the ‘18 now has a Delco key.

When I first got the car I noticed it had 4 ignition keys, but didn’t think much of it until the topic of Delco keys came up in another thread. Well, they were actually barrel keys. Furniture keys. The one that worked the best turned out to be a handcuff key.

(Top pic below: Correct Delco key. Bottom pic below: The 3 furniture keys plus 1 handcuff key that were in car when I got it.)

 

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Edited by Ben P.
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excellent information ben, and thanks for mentioning my website, although it has not been updated in several years...

i have been looking for more detailed information about the early delco ignition switches and you have just provided it... have been devoting most of my time now to writing a book about automobile locks and keys... have seen a lot of mis-information posted on other threads here....

//michael//

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Re. actually finding one of these Delco keys: Terry Wiegand sent some helpful tips - screenshot below.

eBay is the place to go for these keys - they come up regularly. Out of 17,000+ ‘vintage key’ listings on eBay, there are 5-6 of them at any one time - always part of a larger mixed lot. People do not know what these are for. Do exactly what he says — keep your mouth shut and don’t tip anybody off as to which one you are after.

As an evilBay rookie, I’d add just one thing: Your only competition will be ‘steampunkers’. There’s no telling what in a lot they are after — but it’s certainly not this boring Delco key. The moment you sight one, place a bid in on the lot for $1 over open. This will lock it in so some hyena can’t convince the seller to end the auction early. In the final hour of the auction, increase your bid to the maximum you’d be willing to pay. If you increase it to your maximum BEFORE the final hour, it will draw more steampunker attention.

Do NOT do what I did and get frustrated by the steampunkers. For a lot of 10-12 you should be able to get one reasonably. Above that, just let it go. You’d be surprised what they are willing to pay for a particularly ornamental key....

You should also be able to turn around and re-sell that lot -1 for about the same money.

Good luck,

Ben P.

 

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Edited by Ben P.
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  • 5 months later...

I am starting to work on this 1918-1923 prototype Henderson-powered Cyclecar.  The wiring harness is partially fried and this Delco switch assembly needs to come out of the dash for repair (if possible).  How does it come out of its mounting hole?  I see a small tab on the backside at the 6 O'clock position that is in close proximity to the key cylinder.  Is that tab controlled by the key?  And of course I have no key.  Any advice on how to remove the switch assembly?

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These have a U shaped bracket that holds the ignition switch to the dashboard.  Held with 2 bolts that are double ended threads.  I do not see those in the picture.  Let me know if you need any dimensions on those parts. The pot metal housing grows into the dash and has to be broken out.  The pot metal makes the switch lever holes smaller and the levers themselves grow larger.   So you need a new outer housing and both levers, and the paper with the glass (that you can buy as 1 unit with the nickeled grommet) 

Be careful not to bend the tabs on the bezel very far for fear of breakage.  Bob's Automobilia sells replacement parts  or they will rebuild it. 

My photo shows the bracket.   

Jessers classic keys can make you a key if you have the numbers from the tumbler.

 Hugh

 

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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Thank you for the excellent advice and leads.  Yes the U bracket came off just fine but the housing is stuck fast.  I'll figure a way to push it from behind as opposed to prying on the bezel.  It's reassuring to learn the switch can be made functional again. 

 

I like the circuit breaker added by "Bob's".

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This is the photo that I wanted to post, but could not find.  The circuit breaker was my first pass at wanting to protect the wiring.  The good folks on this forum pointed out that if a short occurred, it would continue to trip in and out, and never really shut the power off.  I found this 2 fuse holder on Ebay.  You can also buy small circuit breakers that you have to reset as well.  I just keep a spare fuse on the other side.    The fuse is between the wire from the ammeter and terminal 1.   Bob's did not add the circuit breaker.   Hugh

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Edited by Hubert_25-25 (see edit history)
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The back end of switch housing has expanded larger than the hole due to the poor metal used to make the casting. 

These switch assemblies do show up on ebay, however many of them suffer from the same swelling problems as the one you have.

Replacement housings can be purchased at bobsautomobilia.com though they require some fitting to make them work.

First remove the micarta back plate with the wiring terminals and catch any small parts that might fall out.

Next take a caliper and measure the rear housing diameter at the hole and again at the rear of the casting to see how badly it has swollen.

If the casting has swelled only a little, you might be able to wrap some emery cloth around the protruding end and sand it down enough to  pass back out the hole. If it is badly swollen you might have to start breaking off pieces on the back side with pliers and plan on purchasing a replacement for complete rebuild. Keep all the other pieces for rebuilding. There is another thread on prewar Buicks detailing the rebuild process. 

 

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16 minutes ago, Hubert_25-25 said:

This is the photo that I wanted to post, but could not find.  The circuit breaker was my first pass at wanting to protect the wiring.  The good folks on this forum pointed out that if a short occurred, it would continue to trip in and out, and never really shut the power off.  I found this 2 fuse holder on Ebay.  You can also buy small circuit breakers that you have to reset as well.  I just keep a spare fuse on the other side.    The fuse is between the wire from the ammeter and terminal 1.   Bob's did not add the circuit breaker.   Hugh

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Thanks for the clarification.  I prefer the fuse idea, just like you recommend. Seems like Restoration Supply has a few holders to chose from.

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12 minutes ago, Oregon Desert model 45 said:

The back end of switch housing has expanded larger than the hole due to the poor metal used to make the casting. 

These switch assemblies do show up on ebay, however many of them suffer from the same swelling problems as the one you have.

Replacement housings can be purchased at bobsautomobilia.com though they require some fitting to make them work.

First remove the micarta back plate with the wiring terminals and catch any small parts that might fall out.

Next take a caliper and measure the rear housing diameter at the hole and again at the rear of the casting to see how badly it has swollen.

If the casting has swelled only a little, you might be able to wrap some emery cloth around the protruding end and sand it down enough to  pass back out the hole. If it is badly swollen you might have to start breaking off pieces on the back side with pliers and plan on purchasing a replacement for complete rebuild. Keep all the other pieces for rebuilding. There is another thread on prewar Buicks detailing the rebuild process. 

 

I was wondering about the backing plate and what might drop out if I tried that.  Thanks for the warning and the encouragement.

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