A Canadian man accidentally stole a car 21 years ago and is still sorry about it

It’s probably safe to say that most of us have accidentally broken the law at one point or another. Maybe as a child you walked out of the store with a piece of candy hidden from your parents. Perhaps you’ve inadvertently parked your car in front of a fire hydrant. How about accidentally committing grand theft auto? That last one might be hard to believe, but a Canadian man did just that, 21 years ago, while making a Slurpee run to the local 7-Eleven.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/04/10/canadian-steals-vehicle-21-years-ago

I had a similar thing happen to me. I owned a '71 Ford Pinto sedan painted “medium gray metallic gold”. I once drove it to a shopping center. When I was done shopping, I went to the parking lot to what I thought was my car. I unlocked it, and sat down inside. It was then that I noticed there was stuff on the passenger seat that did not look familiar. As I further examined the interior, it dawned on me that I was in someone else’s car. Same color and style as mine, but it belonged to someone else.
Apparently, in the 70’s they did not use a large number of different keys, so it was possible to accidentally open a different car.
In my case, the car was the same year, color and style, and the key worked perfectly.

In the 60s and 70s, my grandfather worked at the GM Toledo transmission assembly plant as a tool and die maker. He said a group of guys would walk around the parking lots at lunch trying their keys on other employees cars, and when they would unlock the car, they would move them to other spots. They definitely did not use a lot of different patterns.

Think of how a key was made back then-five cut positions top to bottom, 5 cut locations right to left. The keycode a dealer would give you would be “53341” meaning the first location was cut at the 5th position, 3 was the second and third position, etc. Not a lot of sequences. Plus a lot of door and trunk keys were “sloppy” and just by jiggling a key it would turn. When the column switches came out about 69/70 they were harder to jiggle the keys to get them to turn.

My wife likes to tell a story about how in her early 20’s, she accidentally got into a stranger’s car after visiting the bank. She was driving a sage green 1999 Civic at the time, and got into the car (she had a key fob, but speculates that the other driver must have left his car unlocked). She sat in the car and put the key in the ignition but it wouldn’t turn at all. So she was moving the steering wheel and jiggling the key (assuming something had happened with the steering lock) when she saw an angry man standing next to the driver’s side door, shouting something to the effect of “get out of my car! What are you doing in my car!”

She said she looked around, bewildered, and realized that while it was the same color interior as her car, there was stuff in there that she didn’t recognize. She got out of the car, looked around, and spotted her car in the next row. She apologized and explained, and pointed at her identical car nearby, and they both shared a good laugh about it.

No they didn’t. He remained completely, irrationally irate and shouted something at her about respecting other people’s property as she walked over to her completely identical car, got in, started it, and drove off.

1 Like

Had a friend in the late 90’s after a good night of libations left for work. Being there had been a large party at the apartment complex the night prior many cars were not in there regular spots. He jumped in his 89 Cultas Ciera, white with red velour interior. In a bit of a stopper he paid little attention to the condition of his surroundings. It was only after leaving work 8hr later that he realized this car was quite a bit cleaner and better maintained than his. Unfortunately for him the little old lady (80 something) that lived in the building next door had reported her car stolen that morning. Most days it would have never been known but it was grocery and pharmacy day for her every Saturday morning. On his way home, at 23 mile trip, the county deputy that met him recognized the car from that mornings APB. The cop still didn’t believe both the door and ignition keys worked in an identical car as his even after it was demonstrated. After a full felony stop and a trip to jail everything was sorted out and charges were dropped.

1 Like

And what’s the deal with Winnipeg and the Slurpee? Love the city, but it’s colder than the drink about eight months of the year.

I went to Home Depot in my 92 Taurus. I came out, unlocked the door and got in. It seemed that my car somehow smelled like an old lady. Then I realized I had unlocked the wrong car. Two cars over was my manly-smelling car. I learned that the key situation with Tauri in those days was an actual thing.

1 Like

I am surprised that the locks were that loose. However the issue was very common with GM products. GM used a 4 pin lock making recycled combinations very common, both across GM brands and within models.

I was in a Walmart parking lot in my 99 Chrysler 300m and as I walked to the car, I hit the unlock button on the key fob, and a Jeep one row over beeped at the same time as my car. I guess it wasn’t only keys that have limited combinations!

I had the same situation at work. We had ten or so vanpool vans. We came out to leave and no van. There was only one van left in the parking lot. So we tried the keys, and they worked. So some group took our van home, so we took theirs as well. Everybody got the their vans back the next day. Although, the other van must have been wondering how a crockpot burn ended up in their carpet.

In the early 2000’s I had my 1984 Chevy Pick-Up stolen while I was working the night shift in downtown Detroit. While on the phone, explaining this to my mother(now my ride home). I noticed a 84’ Chevy Pick Up across the street in a parking lot from where my truck was stolen. As I approached the vehicle & realized it was running & was mine. I hopped in it to discover the steering column tore up & I proceeded to drive it away. I never reported to the police, just got it fixed & never parked there again. To this day, I still wonder what the the original thief thought when they realized someone stole their stolen vehicle from them.

I drove my sisters 87 Plymouth Horizon to the store and when I came out, I unlocked the door, hopped in and fired it up. It was then I realized it was an automatic and my sisters car was a stick…oops. I laughed and moved to the next car (it was literally parked right next to my sisters car). Same color, same interior, same key code, different trans.

Did that with our old Volvo 245 wagon. We were at a mall, got turned around in the dark parking lot and found “our” car, light blue with dark blue vinyl, automatic. We opened it, loaded in our stuff and drove off. Didn’t realize till my wife popped open the glovebox and a bunch of cassettes that obviously weren’t ours fell out.

Turned around and drove back to find the bewildered owner with a cart full of groceries staring at his empty parking spot. We found our car three rows over. Experimentation showed that his keys worked just fine in ours as well. Our car was a 1976 and his was a 1978. Otherwise identical Swedish bricks…