13 June 2014

Losses and Lessons: Five stolen Harleys ride off in the night

MOTORCYCLES COVERED: Five classic Harley Davidsons – two 1917 JDs and a 1919 JD, 1920 JD and 1948 Panhead.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Car and motorcycle shows are fun for enthusiasts and owners alike. They’re also a magnet for thieves. The proud owner of five classic Harley Davidson motorcycles loaded them into an enclosed trailer and drove to South Carolina for a show. He arrived the night before and rented a motel room, leaving the truck and trailer parked nearby – seemingly safe for the night. The following morning, however, the trailer and its precious cargo were gone.

DAMAGE/LOSS: It’s never easy being the victim of a crime, but when thieves make off with something very special – like a motorcycle (or five) that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into – it’s heart wrenching. The insured Guaranteed Value of the five Harleys totaled $171,500, which Hagerty paid (less any deductibles).

LESSON: An enclosed trailer in a motel parking lot, especially one that shows up the night before a classic motorcycle show, might as well have bay windows revealing what’s inside. It’s going to be a target. Knowing that a good thief can swipe just about anything no matter how many precautions we take, here are a few suggestions to make it as difficult as possible. Whenever you park your trailer for the night, back it against a light post or wall so that the rear doors cannot be opened without moving the trailer. To prevent thieves from detaching the trailer from the hitch, use heavy duty chain to link the trailer to a solid/immovable object on the truck, and secure it with an industrial lock. Better yet, if there's enough room, after you’ve backed the trailer as close to an immovable object as possible so the doors can’t be opened, unhitch the trailer from the truck and park the truck perpendicular to the tongue of the trailer so the truck will have to be moved before the trailer can go anywhere.

14 Reader Comments

  • 1
    JJ Norhern Michigan June 25, 2014 at 15:57
    These wise precautions apply equally to a trailer (open or enclosed) with a beloved classic car as well!
  • 2
    John E.(Eddie) Atkins Candler, NC June 25, 2014 at 16:07
    If you own classic cars or motorcycles, I own both, 3 street rods and a custom Harley that won at the Rat's Hole Show in Daytona during Biketoberfest, you need to seriously consider hidden GPS tracking devices that alert you via your cell phone if they are armed and detect movement!!! They also provide real time tracking so the police can locate and apprehend these lowlife's before they destroy the fruits of your labor and huge monetary investment!!! Thieves have no morals or values and respect no one's property or rights and will do anything to get your valuables this will immediately alert you if someone is tampering with your property!!! If you enjoy going to shows and seeing new places you never know what kind of area you may be in and this along with a battery powered security system that has an extremely loud siren and flashes the trailer and truck lights if tripped and I have went one step farther and also have a movement sensor that will detect it being jacked or even jarred will give you valuable seconds to catch them in the act if alerted by the noise or GPS that something is not right!!! Sadly if stolen and not recovered very quickly your pride and joy will be dismantled and never seen again and all of the tremendous amount of hours and money you have spent to make it yours and something you are proud of will never be seen or be the same again and these precautions are another step to prevent this from happening!!!
  • 3
    Jimmy Dorsey Naples, Fl. June 25, 2014 at 16:24
    Isn't having a sign on the trailer a give-away as to the contents? Maybe something like 'Johnny's Septic Service' would be a better way of detering thieves. :)
  • 4
    HAROLD SoCal June 25, 2014 at 17:26
    Get a GPS system for your trailer -- $171K worth of MC's and won't invest in a tracker system for your trailer/car -- BEST $$$$ you can spend, if you ever want to see your stuff again -- some of the systems will notify you the second it starts to move .....
  • 5
    Gene E. Balch Arkansas June 25, 2014 at 18:04
    Naaaahhhh, Here in Arkansas we would leave it unlocked, and sit inside with a 12 gage pump, with 5 each 00 buckshot loads. Just think.... you could stop a thief, prevent a crime, and keep the SOB from breeding and leaving offspring..... improving the gene pool.
  • 6
    Nick spokane WA June 25, 2014 at 18:40
    they will steal your trailer AND your truck, have a hidden kill switch on your truck, so it can not start, chain the trailer up at least two ways, use hitch locks, and a loud motion alarm in the trailer, separate from the truck.
  • 7
    Pete CA June 25, 2014 at 19:15
    Good suggestions. Just one comment, a truck that's going to tow an enclosed trailer could easily drag a vehicle that's parked perpendicular to the hitch.
  • 8
    Eric Orangeburg,SC q29118 June 25, 2014 at 19:43
    I live a couple of miles from the motel where this crime took place. This not the only thefts that have occurred at this motel and other hotels nearby the numbers are astounding! The owner will not contract a security officer to monitor his premises. Our local Orangeburg County Development Commision has addressed this issue with the owner to no avail. I personally feel for these owners and it makes our community look bad.
  • 9
    Pete Schuerhoff Lynnwood, WA. June 25, 2014 at 21:12
    If they want in, they'll find a way. Locate a GPS tracker on each item you want saved and is attach the alert software of your android or "i" phone. When moved, it'll send the alarm to another phone, perhaps a friend and it will show a map where it is located. cost: $25.00 a month. A cheap way is to use a cell phone and have another that tracks it's movements and alerts when it's moving or gone. And-you'll likely get it back o short order with the police knowing where and who to go to. Out smart them
  • 10
    James Dains Amana, IA June 25, 2014 at 21:33
    Good advice. I might also use a ball hitch lock that fills the ball opening on the trailer. They also make padlocks for doors that do not have exposed bolts that can be cut by bolt cutters.
  • 11
    Mark Gig Harbor June 26, 2014 at 00:05
    I had a friend who took his truck, trailer and very expensive vintage race car to Canada to race. The hotel he stayed in required that he give them his truck key. That night, the night teller, loaned the keys to his car thief buddy, who brought the keys back before dawn. Truck, trailer and car gone. It gets worse. My buddy was then contacted by the thief and asked to pay a ransom to get the car and trailer back. What about the truck? That had already been chopped. The Canadian police were of little help and after an agonizing time period he paid the ransom and learned a very expensive lesson. I say sleep in the truck!
  • 12
    wayne Fl. June 27, 2014 at 20:34
    I would NEVER put HD stickers on anything that would tell everyone there is a HD in it!!!!!. I live in Fl, I tell my friends when they come down for bike week, if they trailer there HD's, DON'T put any decals/stickers on the trailer or truck, if anything put Honda, they won't steal it, LOL
  • 13
    Bill Korteland Ontario April 2, 2017 at 21:27
    Chains, locks, no problem, less than a minute with a portable cut-off grinder. A good floor jack under the differential, and you can push any vehicle out of the way . I suggest remote alarms that page you when disturbed. Better yet, get a cot and sleep with your motorcycles!
  • 14
    scott ABQ April 17, 2017 at 22:01
    I worked the gun show circuit which has some of the same risks. My partner & I would always arrive during set up time to unload, so our goods never stayed in our truck overnight. When the show closed we loaded out & never drove less than a full tank of fuel before stopping. With two drivers we never spent a night on the road with a loaded truck. We ate gas station food & always had at least one of us in the truck, even at fuel stops. This may seem a bit much but we kept it up for ten years with an average of 12 shows a year without incident.

Join the Discussion