Car theft is a blight on the hobby we love, but there are ways to ensure your precious classic is kept out of reach from the gloves of undesirables. Classic cars are prime targets for thieves: usually easier to enter, quicker to move and simpler to dismantle or hide the identity of than modern vehicles. Sadly, a bulging spares market is a tempting avenue to quick cash for stolen parts.
According to the Home Office, a car is stolen every five minutes in Britain with almost 112k being unlawfully taken in 2017-18. The majority of these are modern cars, but there are steps that you can take to minimise the risk of having the one you love (no, not that one) being added to these statistics. If it is, you can also help ensure it’s quickly recovered. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Considering safety, there is action that you can take which costs nothing. Basics such as keeping your keys safe, out of view and certainly away from windows, doors or letterboxes automatically make your car more difficult to steal. Remember, thieves are looking for an easy target. It’s an old-school technique, but even parking your car with its wheels turned into the curb or towards another vehicle or obstacle make it more difficult to steal, as does parking in a well-lit area if you’re out and about at night. It should go without saying, but don’t leave your car unattended with the engine running or windows open unless you’ve a particularly fearsome looking dog waiting to pounce on an intruder.
Think about your social media presence, too. Getting a thousand ‘likes’ may be an important ambition, but make sure you’re not giving away the location of your car if that’s where it is kept overnight. No street names or easily identifiable landmarks in the background and don’t leave anything in the car with your personal details on – it’s all too easy to find an address and return when you’re out.
While common sense can go a long way to ensuring your classic stays where you left it, there’s a wide selection of devices that can help. If your pride and joy is garaged then deadlocks or an alarm can hinder entry and increase the likelihood of perpetrators being caught, as can simply blocking the garage door by parking another vehicle outside. A battery or fuel pump isolator, especially one hidden, could buy you the time needed to stop a theft. An effective vehicle alarm and immobiliser is still considered to be one of the best deterrents and, if you’ve fitted such a device, then don’t forget to advertise this fact with a window sticker. The thought of sounding an alarm is enough to put off many a would-be crook.
Traditional, visible deterrents are still a very effective solution. A decent wheel clamp, steering wheel lock or similar device that physically immobilises a vehicle offers a clear disincentive. There are plenty of variations of this theme, for example an increasingly popular option among the Land Rover Series/Defender community is to box off the pedal area when not in use. Additional door deadlocks were popular in the ’90s but are still an effective, if rather unsightly, option. An alternative could be to ensure your original locks still work as intended and cannot be opened using a lolly stick. If so, it could be time for replacement.
In the worst-case scenario of your classic being stolen, there are still steps you can take to reduce the chance of it being gone forever. Trackers used to be a costly subscription-only service but there are now options to suit most budgets. Highly personalised systems are available, but so too are lower cost options that are linked to your mobile phone, enabling you to see exactly where your car is at all times with a quick glance at an app. Finally, UV marking components can help make your vehicle traceable, both deterring criminals and increasing the chance of having it returned to you.
The last line of defence is your classic car or bike insurance. If the worst should happen and your vehicle is stolen, it’s important to have the correct cover in place. At Footman James, we offer Agreed Value as an FJ+ add-on, providing clients peace of mind that the true value of their vehicle has been assessed at the outset of the policy.
If you’ve any additional ideas, or a positive experience of enhancing your classic’s safety, then we’d love to hear from you in the comments.