Does Porsche Classic’s new anti-theft tech really protect your vintage ride?

Porsche classic models

After years of saving for a classic car, or if you’ve maybe had one in the family for generations, it makes sense to take measures against theft. Regular maintenance and storage can protect against damage, and even if something gets broken it can be fixed. If your car is stolen, however, that’s a whole different can of worms.

Porsche is now aiming to arm classic owners with the anti-theft technology available in its new cars, a multi-faceted device called the Porsche Classic Vehicle Tracking System. (To start, it will be available only in Europe beginning in spring 2018.) To understand how effective this system might be in the real world, we asked the Hagerty Special Investigative Unit for its take.

Covering all classic Porsches from the 356 all the way to the 911, 914, 944, and even the Carrera GT, the system is designed to discourage theft, track a stolen vehicle, and prevent false alarms. It works using a suite of sensors hidden throughout the car, which connects to a security network across Europe. If a battery is disconnected or the alarm is tripped, a signal goes out to the customer via an app, and authorities can be informed. From there, the security center can track the vehicle with a GPS signal. You’ll even be able to wirelessly prevent the engine from being restarted if the thief shuts it off, or control the vehicle’s top speed.

Porsche 356
993-generation Porsche 911

“Most interesting is there are many concealed sensors, instead of just one,” Hagerty Special Investigative Unit manager Joe Stephenson says. “Most systems rely on a single transmitter, which means a thief will have a harder time finding and disabling the whole system.”

Porsche’s technology has other features as well, including a geofencing functionality that will alert the owner if the car exits a certain defined area. That means no joy rides for valets, mechanics, or friends “just taking it out for a spin.” And if you’re having your Porsche serviced or transported, the system can be customized and preset to not sound an alarm.

“It sounds like an internally monitored, OnStar-like product, but with vastly improved offerings,” Stephenson says. “I applaud Porsche for building a security system that can not only be installed in pre-computer-aged vehicles, but one that can be specifically retrofitted to classics. That takes foresight and presents major development hurdles that most companies wouldn’t have bothered with.”

Stephenson is keen to point out, however, that no system is foolproof. “OnStar lacks coverage in some small areas of the U.S., LoJack doesn’t work in areas without receivers, and GPS has its own limitations. Whatever the technology is behind the Porsche system—cellular, radio, microwave, or other—it could have weaknesses. But it’s better than nothing.”

Rick Worm, Overseas Manager of Hagerty Private Client Services, is similarly enthusiastic—and realistic. “The Porsche system sounds quite nice, like a combination of LoJack and OnStar in some respects. Though over time, we can be sure someone will figure out how to get around the security walls, so I think it’s still important to remember the basics of secure storage, building alarming, and the like.”