Losses and Lessons: Thieves use wire hanger and a little luck to swipe classic AMCs


WHAT WENT WRONG: For most classic car owners, a locked garage in a safe neighborhood is all that’s needed to keep their precious automobiles safe. But as crooks prove time and again, if there’s a will there’s a way. The owner of two American Motors muscle cars – a 1968 Javelin with 343 V-8 and a 1970 AMX Big Bad Green 390 – went out of town for a few days, leaving his cars in a locked garage. When he returned, they were gone. There were no broken locks or windows, so police surmised that the thieves gained access by sliding a wire hanger between the door and frame of the electric overhead garage door, hooking the emergency lever and releasing it with a tug. The keys for both cars were hanging in a wall cabinet.

DAMAGE/LOSS: Hagerty paid the owner $59,000 – $17,000 for the Javelin and $42,000 for the AMX.

LESSON: Several lessons here. First of all, always keep your cars and keys in separate locations – maybe even consider hiding the keys in a place known only to you (and perhaps another person you trust). Second, use a plastic zip tie to secure the emergency lever and make it virtually impossible for thieves to release it from outside. Thread the zip tie through the hole in the carriage assembly and around the bottom where the pull-rope attaches (see diagram above). In an actual emergency, you’ll be able to use your weight to break the zip tie when you pull down, but thieves won’t have the same leverage with a wire hanger stretched over the top of the door. Finally, never reveal on social media that you’re going out of town. And it’s always a good idea to ask a trusted friend or relative to check on your property while you’re away.

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