How to Prevent Auto Theft of Vintage Cars

Tips on how to make your classic car harder to steal

Ownership of a vintage or collectible vehicle is a considerable investment of time and money for many. Many owners spend a lot of time to find, acquire, restore and maintain the object of their passion. 

Loss of ownership through theft can then be a devastating personal event for the collector, to say the least.

Any vintage or collectible car owner has to not only be aware of, but properly manage the risks inherent in having a desirable property. The best defense is a good offense – here are some pointers to keep your car where it belongs.

Who steals cars?

1. The Amateur.

The amateur is the one that steals a car for a joyride, an easy ride home, or a vehicle to be used in the commission of a crime. This thief does not care if you have a Toyota Corolla or a Borgward-Isabella – to him it is just a car. Oftentimes this person will destroy a car after he is finished with it. The best way to guard against the amateur thief is by visual deterrence, such as a steering wheel club. Your objective is to have him look elsewhere for an easy ride. This type of thief will seek the path of least resistance.

2. The Pro.

The Professional is out there looking for a particular car to heist. His jobs are usually performed on order. The car may be stolen for resale or for parts. The pro only steals what the market asks him to and will be less deterred by your efforts. He is much more calculating and will only pass by your car if confronted by multiple security countermeasures that increase his chances of discovery and arrest.

What is stolen?

Vintage, classic, antique and collectible cars are stolen simply on supply and demand. Most are irreplaceable, desirable and usually appreciate in value. Although some may be stolen for parts, the real value for many is resale at a fraction of what they would sell for legitimately.

But a stolen ’55 Corvette would be very visible. The classic car community would be alerted and the police informed. A thief foolish enough to drive or sell the car would be arrested in no time.

The answer for the thieves is to ship the car overseas. A car can be transported in a covered car trailer to a port in a day or two, loaded on a shipping container (listing it as spare parts) and shipped to a foreign port. With proper connections the car can end up in South America, Asia, the Caribbean or in Eastern Europe. The new owner has papers forged and the car simply disappears.

How to protect your car

Simple tips to enhance car security

What can you do to protect your car?

Security specialists recommend that you develop a “circle of protection” around your vehicle.

At Home:

  • Avoid storing the car in a secluded location
  • Ensure adequate lighting around the structure.
  • Cut back vegetation to ensure lines of sight.
  • Consider having a dog or a random guard patrol.
  • Lock the car with the keys not in the garage.
  • Set transmission in gear and handbrake on.
  • Disable any electric garage door openers.
  • Install an alarm system that pages a security company or police.
  • Reinforce the lower parts of an overhead door.
  • Use deadbolts and extra long screws for the door frame.
  • Remove wheels or battery if long term storage.

On the road:

  • Car jacking is deadly serious – drive with doors locked and windows up.
  • When parking ensure it is in a well populated, illuminated or secure location.
  • If you tow your car always ensure that the trailer is locked to the hitch, the hitch locked to the pulling vehicle and that vehicle is properly secured.
  • If the car is to be transported via truck ensure that the company is bonded, reputable and fully insured for fire, theft and damage.
  • Never drive with the original paperwork. Keep them locked up at home. Install an alarm and display visible stickers.

What else?

Modern security technology can include a transmitter that can be activated via remote control, allowing police to home into the car’s location. Alarm systems can incorporate fuel, ignition and starter immobilizers. To gain deterrent value warning signs should be highly visible. Window glass and other parts of the car can be etched with the serial number. These measures allow the vehicle to be recovered quickly and increase the risk to the thief, making your vehicle a less desirable target.

The popularity of mobile GPS devices in cars has risen in the past decade. GPS can be used to track the location of a stolen car if not disabled. Several standalone GPS units exist that can be used to track the location of your vehicle. These devices can be installed in a hidden location in your car and are separate from your car’s normal GPS unit, which most likely would be turned off by a potential car thief to avoid detection.

Be careful about listing your home address in your GPS. If a thief steals your car while you are at a restaraunt, for example, all they would have to do is have the GPS direct them to the "home" adress, and they could be on their way to rob your house as well. They would have a pretty good idea that the home may be unoccupied given the fact that they stole your car while you were out.

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