Car Storage in a Derelict Sock Factory, Part 2: Teen Vandals and Forever Chemicals

against all oddities sock factory part two
Matt Anderson

As I was listening to the radio on the way to work, the station hosts speaking through my car stereo were talking about “forever” chemicals like PFAS and microplastics, like glitter. These substances, once they get into the water supply, never leave. This notion led to a bit of personal introspection: What if my garage were the metaphorical water supply? Are some of my cars …  dangerous forever chemicals?

Well, for one, I’ll never sell the blue Ami. The Moskvich tried to kill me and I defeated it; I’d have trouble parting with it. I also recently inherited a Studebaker to which I am feeling rather attached. My emotional connections to even the crappiest cars is proving a powerful force.

But… where can I put it all? That nagging question lef to my acquisition of additional storage, which regular readers will recall turned into me renting an abandoned former sock factory. After some sprucing up, the next step was to assess the security of the property.

A third world scene. Matthew Anderson

In order to assess the security of the structure—intended to keep out ne’er-do-wells, thieves, and looky-loos—I needed a bait car. For that purpose, I shoved one of my two Citroën Amis in the back of the forlorn structure and rolled the newly built door to a rumbling close. The bait Ami was not a particularly nice Citroën; in fact, I’m reasonably confident it is the worst one in America.

It didn’t take long to return a result. One day after work I popped by and noticed the tin on the flimsy man door had been pulled back enough for a small person to sneak in. Nothing was missing, but things were moved around and the hatch of the Ami was wide open.

This surprised me for two reasons. 1) I really thought the hatch shocks were toast, and 2) Why would an intruder not do the simplest thing to cover tracks, such as, I don’t know, closing the hatch they opened? Dumb.

I also stumbled across an unused can of spray paint next to my (apparently moved) hammer. As a former high schooler with his own territorial hangouts, I smelled the putrid stink of teenage rebellion.

I promise, it’s way worse than it looks. Matthew Anderson

My initial planned response was to reproduce a Home Alone-like honey pot trap. But in the face of tomfoolery by truants, animals, or seasoned criminals, cooler heads needed to prevail. I paused to gather more intel.

Video evidence would be especially valuable. Remember, I had previously abandoned a plan to install WiFi out at the sock factory—the thought was to use a pair of repeaters originating from my pasture (which didn’t work)—so something more autonomous was in order.

I brought my conundrum to the meeting of the minds at the local farm and garden supply. Trail cams were the resounding suggestion, and I walked out of there with two of them on loan. They weren’t the fanciest 4G- and/or cloud-enabled versions, but the cameras worked, and I could get up on my ladder and pull the memory cards for review.

Don’t worry, it’s just me, your neighborhood sketchball. Matthew Anderson

To add to the urgency, Christmas was less than a week away and I had plans to host about 13 people at my house. Aside from the Hobby 600 being used as a place for our nephews to crash, the rest of my cars were taking up valuable parking on my property and needed to go somewhere. To further complicate matters, my storage arrangement for my VL Holden Commodore was running out at the end of the year.

Priority 1 was to further secure the sock factory structure and regularly monitor video. A few school days later, I noticed that the window frame had been pulled free of its rotten 2×4 rough opening. I felt simultaneously wronged and excited as I entered the factory and shimmied my ladder over to the camera to snag the card. (Who was it?!) Interestingly, the hatch of the Ami was up again!

I pulled the card from the not-very-concealed trail cam, whose olive drab and oak leaf pattern stood out in front of a white background. So, who did I catch doing what?

Matthew Anderson

The footage started with three roughly 16-year-old teens—two guys and a girl—awkwardly falling through the window opening with a backpack. “Why are they trying to hide this from us?” the mic caught the ringleader querying. I had seen him around before, usually rambling around with his same flat-brim hat and skateboard, poofy hair, and backpack. He immediately went over to the hatch of the Citroen, lifted it, and left it hanging high. Exactly the way it had been done when cameras weren’t yet on site. It had to be the same guy. “He’s not planning to fix this up, is he?”

Ouch. Low blow, Flat Brim.

In order to impress his friends, he walked around acting tough, as though he hadn’t already scoped the place out days ahead of time. “Hey, grab me the spray paint,” he requested of the girl. She tossed him a can of purple and he proceeded to tag the Ami. (Joke’s on him, I had not even noticed it when I was in the building.) Sure enough, a smiley face adorned the hatch and a few replicas of it were drawn around the building.

This, mes amis, was a declaration of war.

The real neighborhood sketchballs. Matthew Anderson

The first thing I did was take screenshots and send them to Lee, who confirmed that he’d seen this crew before. The second thing I did was print off and laminate blown-up images of the teens and post them on the sides of the building—that ought to freak them out.

Lee also posted on Nextdoor, which brought to light the street on which they lived. But perhaps the most effective deterrent was Lee himself. Seeing the kids going up to the building a second time two days later, he busted out of the farm and garden store and let out an expletive-laden tirade complete with threats of violence and jail. That did the trick for several days, during which there was no activity other than a few cats and raccoons.

Matthew Anderson

Sensing that, in some small way, I had made this dark corner a little safer, in went my Renault with a locked cover protecting its paint. Obviously, this wouldn’t deflect a cinderblock or jumping adolescent, but I didn’t get the feeling this crew was hungry for that level of destruction. Over Christmas, I enlisted the help of bored relatives to get some motion-sensing LED lights put in place, as well as a cloud-based security camera that pings my phone whenever it senses activity.

Sleep tight, VL. Don’t get vandalized. Matthew Anderson

Drawing in a big breath, I went to get my most precious vehicle—an Australian VL Commodore in nearly perfect condition—from its Quonset hut in the country. I slid the big door open, positioned my ramps, and maneuvered it into place. Looking at the vehicles in there—two that were worth anything at all—I just had the feeling that this may never really be the kind of storage I want it to be.

My forever cars couldn’t live here forever. (Though forever chemicals almost certainly did.)

A few days after Christmas, my brother and his wife left us with his two-year-old dog that, unlike our 13-year-old Romanian street dog, actually needs to be walked for miles to bring its energy reserves down to an acceptable level. About 3/4 mile from the house, we waltzed into the warehouse district where a big yellow FOR SALE sign caught my eye.

Forever, perhaps, was right around the corner.

Matthew Anderson


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    Even though I swore I’d never do it… My count just went up to 6… but so far I can store them all on home turf

    I am now up to 10 vehicles, 9 of which are driveable, registered, insured, and smogged. I feel like I should receive some kind of award for this, since it took a long time and a lot of effort to achieve. The one non-runner is a dry-sumped race car that will never be street driveable, which is probably why it’s so low on the priority list. But maybe that’s the one I’ll fix when I retire…

    11 for me. (10 registered & insured) 9 in Australia with me; 2 in North Carolina in relatives garage waiting for the shipping prices to come down to pre-COVID reasonableness.

    As a retired guy, I encourage you to drive your cars. A lot. The memories created while driving are much more tree-like than memories of working on them. One drive can branch into 3 branches by letting little adventures happen. Missed a turn? Bad for the Drive? Or RoadStory opportunity? The day-to-day things and the day-trips and vacations in old cars become generational lore with any luck. Breakdown on the side of the road? Nobody likes them, but with old cars, may be inevitable. Bummer or RoadStory? They won’t all be RoadStories, but some will.

    I’m loving this ongoing story and was so excited to see the second part! Now I’m looking forward to the third 😀

    The greatest mistake people make is collecting cars to restore before they have a place to keep them. That is why we see so many cars lost and damaged by nature and theft.

    To get a building that is secure and safe should be the first priority before growing a collection even if it limits its size.

    One can not take a building full of holes that is somewhat isolated and expect to not see problems. Be it human or rodent you wil l have issues.

    When I built my garage I made sure to have property for it. I located it right behind my house in my sight, I made sure it was secure with no windows and exposed doors. Security lights and even a ring doorbell on the house keeps an eye on it while I am not home.

    Also locating in a safe area. Where I used to work we got broken into often and also we would have random bullet holes often. We even had a truck stolen in the middle of the day right behind the building open for business.

    We also had a rep for weapons so nothing ever happened out front when we were there but at night all bets off.

    My point is you will never restore or save a car properly if you never have a clean, safe and secure place to work on it or store it. You will be like a man with as boat with holes that keeps bailing but still never keeps it afloat. I know it cost money but it is a wise investment if you plan to be in the hobby.

    I tend to agree with you, but I will say that if I had waited to have a good place to put things before I started collecting, I would have had less fun.

    If the first thing they do is always raise the hatch on the Ami, I suggest you view the many YouTube videos on how to rig a device to douse Porch Pirates in dye…
    A purple teen should be easy for the police to identify.

    Be sure to check your local laws regarding booby traps before setting anything up. Some locales have laws on the books that make the person who set the booby trap liable for injury that results.

    Part 4 might get more interesting! If you don’t see Part 3 in the next month please come to the Iredell County Corrections Facility with $1500.

    Are these vehicles insured by Hagerty? Isn’t locked, secure parking one of the requirements for coverage in most places?

    The sock factory meets the technical definition. Mischievous teens with a penchant for B&E are hard to address with any locked building

    I know back 15 years or so ago they wouldn’t accept my “driveway” parked vehicles. But that changed at some point. Only one of my Hagerty vehicles is stored in a garage. It is on file with them as being garaged. The others are on file with them as being parked in the driveway, even though during bad weather the daily drivers on our regular insurance policy get kicked out and the Hagerty driveway vehicles get moved in. I sure wish I had an old sock factory building nearby.

    I have 3 cars insured by Hagerty. One is garaged (Nova), two others are semi-daily driven and parked in the driveway (1999 Z28 and 2008 Solstice). The Z28 and the Solstice have higher yearly premiums because I told them they weren’t garaged and were driven regularly.

    And here I was worrying about how many tubs of Damp Rid are needed to keep mold out of my locked and secured stored Florida car for the summer! Now I have to worry about finding a smiley face painted on the side of it. It’s a scary world out there!

    Reach out to YouTube star Mark Rober, famous for his porch-pirate defeating devices. Could give you some great ideas for homegrown deterrents.

    Like Hyperv6, my hobby shop is behind the house, locked, lit up with dusk to dawn lights, and an internet camera watches from the house. My neighborhood recently had a team of teenage hoodlums visiting cars parked outside to steal whatever was available. The next door neighbor caught a video of one on his back deck approaching the back door. When the motion sensor light came on the kid hauled a$$. I guess the night lighting around our property dissuaded a visit. I’m glad there was little damage in the neighborhood and no one ended up on the business end of Mr. Glock.

    Locks stop honest thieves/vandals . But just slow down real ones. My garage like others is on my property unfortunately out of sight of house but like others no windows, motion activated lights and cameras. So far no issues. That’s if you don’t count my smart a$$ neighbours walking up to the camera and waving at it. 😁

    I think the family fleet will require either selling vehicles or finding parking. Our son currently has three vehicles in the US plus one in Japan and too much junk in his garage to park a car. This is sad because his garage is so enormous that on move in day we parked a Suburban and my long bed pickup in there with room to spare. My house is also tight since I have two motorcycles, six bicycles and couple of kayaks in the garage. plus two cars and a pickup. I think a shed is in order since rentals are budget busters where we live.

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