5 May 2005

Collector Car Thievery: Don't Let It Happen To You

According to The Press-Enterprise newspaper (Riverside, Calif.), on a recent Saturday morning, neighbors watched as three collector cars were pilfered from an out-of-town collector’s garage. For three hours, uniformed drivers removed the cars from the garage and loaded them onto a flatbed tow truck. The tow trucks had been stolen from a defunct business, and the thieves were wearing uniforms adorned with the AAA logo, according to witnesses.

A 2-door maroon 1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan convertible, a light-blue ’57 Ford T-bird convertible and a black ’66 Mercedes Benz 600 Limousine probably won’t be seen again, at least in Southern California. Nobody called police until the next day because nothing seemed suspicious.

And it wasn’t a one-time thing. It happened a couple weeks earlier in Yucaipa, Calif., at a business. A ’56 and ’57 Bel Air, and a ’59 Impala were the victims that time.  Authorities aren’t sure if the incidents are related, but it’s still great cause for concern.

So how do you prevent this from happening if you’re out of town? The following tips will help keep your garage as theft-free and your vehicle as safe as possible.

  • It might sound elementary, but remember to remove keys from the ignition and close/lock all windows and doors.
  • Don’t keep the car’s title in the vehicle. If the car is stolen, the title can be altered and your signature can be forged.
  • Never hide a spare key on the vehicle – or in the garaged location.
  • Don’t give anyone spare keys.
  • Park with wheels turned, which makes it hard for a thief to drag the car out of the garage.
  • Use a visible and/or audible device, such as a car alarm, steering wheel or brake pedal locks, wheel/tire locks, theft deterrent decals or ID markers on the vehicle (like window etching or laminated glass).
  • A dedicated theft-recovery system like LoJack is a good idea, and you’ll have a better chance of seeing your classic again if it gets stolen.
  • Consider removing the steering wheel, tires or key engine parts when you’re gone for an extended timeframe.
  • Cover garage windows with heavy drapes or blinds.
  • Have an alarm system installed in your garage, preferably a central station system.
  • The garage/storage door should have a dead bolt lock on it, even if there’s an automatic garage door opener (which should be shut off when the door is locked and when you’re out of town).
  • Inform trusted neighbors when you’re heading out of town so they can watch for any suspicious activity and inform local authorities.
  • Ask the local police or sheriff department to drive by the location during regular patrols while you’re out of town (it doesn’t hurt to ask).

Nothing can guarantee that your collector vehicle won’t be targeted for theft. But following these steps can guarantee that your vehicle isn’t an attractive target. Anti-Theft Measures: What our Hobby Survey Revealed see what other hobbyists use.

2 Reader Comments

  • 1
    fensterlips Santa Rosa CA September 18, 2014 at 14:15
    These steps sound like a good first start but a strong list of protections needs to be socialized and then put in place. A carrier like Hagerty is one of the best places to start. The list is good but I would add a healthy chain around the differential to an eye in the concrete floor as well as an audible alarm when the garage is opened as well as the central alarm.
  • 2
    Thomas San Jose, Ca December 10, 2014 at 22:30
    I'd say prey on thieves fears. Put a fake Python, Rattlesnake and Trantulla on the floor in front of the go fast pedal. Then put a note on the wheel that you have lost 2 or 3 other pets. This will really make them thing twice. Also, for a thief to steal your car, they must know where it is. Whenever you come home from shows, but willing to take a different route. And there is always survelliance systems with LARGE visible signs everywhere that they are being recorded... That's a nickles worth of advice.

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