Illuminated Keylights

Which is Best?

By Greg Raven
VW&Porsche magazine
May-June 1986

What do frog gigging, reading comic books under the covers, and roasting marshmallows have in common? They are all best done with the type of ignition key that has the little light built into it. Call them illuminated keys, keylights, or flashlights-on-a-stick, these versatile items are a must for the serious automotive enthusiast.

Although the Sixties and Seventies saw a decline in the popularity of keylights due to EPA regulations and environmental impact report requirements, new manufacturing processes promise to return the keylight to the prominence it once held. Where in the past only the very rich or very powerful could afford the legal machinations it took to procure a keylight, nowadays simple registration (coupled with a fifteen day "cooling off" period) is all it takes for just about anybody to qualify for a keylight. And, it should be pointed out, the gloom-and-doomer’s predictions of mass hysteria in the wake of popular ownership of keylights simply has not come to pass. Because of the resurgence of the keylight, we at VW&Porsche decided to explore the state-of-the-art in keylights, with some surprising results. Listed below are our findings of most of the widely sold keys now available. It should be noted that many industry analysts are predicting a downturn in the market which would of course lead to a shake out. However, we at VW&Porsche feel that the keylight industry is here to stay, and we believe that after you read our comments on the latest offerings, you will know why we are not afraid to say so.

Porsche 928

Without a doubt the most beautiful of all the keys, this Porsche Design key requires a Porsche Design Battery. Although expensive, used batteries can be saved and assembled into a Porsche Design mobile. The impatient can buy a pre-assembled mobile from The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York. Snap-On special tool PPK-380 required to change battery, $389.98.


Lucifer’s Toolbox Ltd. of Alamogordo, New Mexico, sells the brightest of all the keys we tested, with over 1,400,000 candlepower available for .000037 seconds. Intense burst of light allows key to double as self-defense weapon against albinos and others with sensitive eyes. Makes a noise like a United Federation of Planets Type II Phaser on overload when used. No special tools needed to change battery but engineering background helpful.

The Francis Scott

Interesting design by Anthem Corp. of Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The Francis Scott’s strange construction seems to work best at dawn. Plays soothing melody while you fumble in the dark. Solar powered.

Red-Eye Express

From its humble beginnings in theoretical speculation and political letter-writing, The Cold Start Company of Seattle, Washington, has blossomed into an ultra-national corporation. Its Red-Eye Express features light shifted heavily towards the red end of the spectrum. May strip paint from metal surfaces with prolonged use. Can also be used to disprove the "Big Bang" theory. Battery replacement easily effected after splitting the case with a particle accelerator.


In an attempt to expand its market share, SteroidsЯus of Venice Beach California, has developed a key that will appeal to the "wimps in muscle cars" set. The Lightworker is always ready for a workout. All you have to do is flex it back and forth rapidly until the internal friction of the metal of the key creates heat in the visible spectrum. Good for development of wrists, hands, and bust.

Carrot Surrogate

Decrying human subservience to modern technology, Natural Vegetable Systems of Arizona offers an illuminated key with a fail-safe mode. When the battery goes dead, the light can be energized indefinitely by placing the key on your tongue. According to Herb Dressing, President of Natural Vegetable Systems, the slight numbing in the roof of your mouth caused by the Carrot Surrogate is best counteracted with an overdose of rabies serum.

The John Maynard

From Britain comes this wonder of modern thought. You won’t be able to keep your hands off this baby. Programmed to shed lots of light, all of it in the wrong places. Not very economical to operate. Being British, the batteries tend to leak even when new. Replacement is strongly advised.

Glow Worm

Proving once again that one man’s fish is another man’s fancy, the Creative Wastes Company of New Jersey offers this key made of pure Plutonium 235. Battery replacement is never a problem because the half life is 73,000,000 years. However, airport security devices sometimes react negatively to the alpha emissions. The dimmest of the lights we tested in normal use, light output (Mode One) was still sufficient to visually locate the keys in very dark rooms. However, a much brighter light can be generated (Mode Two) for a short time by pressing a number of these keys together, although the noise and general destruction can be annoying. Keys of this type should be arranged on the keyring so as to keep them from reaching critical mass unattended. Pending AEC regulations may require lead shielding of the ignition switch. Helpful for those who always lose their keys but not their Gieger counters. Not advisable for storage in front pants pockets.


Browsing through automotive boutiques, it is easy to get the idea that illuminated keys were the brainchild of the automotive industry. Not so! With a zoomy "delta" shape that fairly screams "Navy surplus," the P/N:82-03-601 is available in either Night Incursion Black or Desert Camo. Strong anti-chordal aerodynamic instability makes easy handling impossible in all but digital fly-by-wire applications. Battery replacement at General Dynamics warranty stations only.


Transient Memory Systems of Moscow, Idaho, makes the only wireless remote key we tested. The Tele-Friend enables you to turn automobile or house lights on and off using electromagnetic pulse technology. Also erases nearby floppy disks, causes squirrels to drop from trees, and may initiate excruciating stabbing pains in new fillings. Code Five security clearance necessary, and key is not available for use within 200km of Eastern Bloc countries. Key self-destructs when battery goes flat.

See No Evil

The See No Evil is the standard government-issue key, affectionately known as the Light Motel — light checks in but it doesn’t check out. Battery can be charged virtually forever with little or no apparent benefit. Costly, bulky, and ponderous. Highest inertia of any object in the known universe. Works best for VIPs; Little People need not apply. Cannot be converted to work on the "one man, one volt" principle.


Just released by Compuvision, of Scotts Valley, California, the Hackerlite is made possible by recent advances in Artificial Intelligence (Al) languages. The bit-mapped graphics display (11 by 9 matrix) is fully programmable using machine code for the revolutionary 255 channel parallel processor incorporated into the Hackerlite. Software is now being written that will allow cross-compiling to native code from most 68020 development systems. Can be used only in super-cooled environments. Requires 25,000 amps of 330 volt three-phase current. A portable version is due out by winter 1986.