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Tips for Protecting Your Classic Cars from Theft

If you have an extraordinary car, it makes sense to take extraordinary measures to protect it – both by deterring thieves and by actively foiling their attempts at stealing the automobile. That said, most classic and restoration car owners also want to balance deterrence against being discreet and preserving the original condition of the car.

Aside from the obvious precautions like keeping your car locked and stored discreetly, here are some of the most effective devices and concepts that can help you protect your high-end custom, classic or hot rod automobile.

Steering wheel, brake pedal and wheel locks. These are quality, visible deterrents to theft that will thwart all but the most determined and prepared car thieves. They are inexpensive, and they are removable for car shows and competitions. You don’t need to drill any holes in the dash, and they don’t need stickers on the windows to provide a significant deterrent. In addition, you can try some basic mechanical tricks:

  • Disconnect the battery cable
  • Pulling a critical fuse, such as the fuel pump fuse

Note that basic mechanical tricks like this won’t usually defeat a determined, professional car thief. The pros know all the basic tricks. All they have to do is show up with a tow truck and any of these measures can be easily defeated until they get the car back to their shop – where they usually just want the parts, anyway.

Electronic immobilizers
These are electronic devices that send a signal to key components to lock up or shut down unless you the car owner, flip a ‘kill switch’ or use a special key. In recent years, RFID technology has enabled advanced kill switches that detect when your RFID or Bluetooth-enabled key fob or wallet is inside or within a few feet of the vehicle. If someone tries to start your vehicle without your external device, the car won’t start.

If you want a state-of-the-art car ignition system and you’re willing to make a semi-permanent installation in your car, then the Ravelco anti-theft device might be for you. The Ravelco relies on two 16-digit connectors unique to that car to complete the ignition circuit. One is installed in your vehicle, and the other goes with you in your pocket when you leave the car. Each set of connectors is unique. With over 100,000 different possible ‘combinations,’ the Ravelco is nearly impossible for most thieves to hack. It doesn’t require batteries, and there are no master plugs in existence – so professional thieves can’t acquire one to facilitate their crimes. The Ravelco comes with a hidden armored steel cable into the engine compartment, and all connections are camouflaged and hidden from thieves. Different installations can disable different circuits – the fuel pump, starter circuit, or even the computer can be disabled, unless the driver connector is present and properly connected. Installation on exotic cars runs from $499.95 and up. And thus far, we’re not aware of a Ravelco car that’s been successfully stolen yet.

Tire and wheel locks
Many thieves aren’t interested in the whole car: They’re going after custom rims and high-end tires. And with a bit of practice, they can roll up with a rolling jack, a star wrench and a little elbow grease, and can have your wheels in the back of their van and on the way to their chop shop in minutes.

You can defeat these thieves in two ways:

  • A locking lug nut, which you can install for as little as $10 (though the $50 to $70 ones are a lot tougher).
  • A wheel lock, or “boot.”

If you’re defending some high-end custom rims and maintaining authenticity of a classic car is not a consideration, you might consider something like “The System,” from Gorilla Auto. It costs some money, but every single wheel lug is a wheel lock – which should be enough to confound and frustrate most professional thieves, who would much rather be on their way within a few minutes.

Tracking and recovery systems
It’s one thing to prevent a theft. But when the thief is able to defeat your front-end systems, or circumvents them by simply towing your classic car back to the chop shop, chances are you’ll want a GPS tracking device to alert you to the theft, alert law enforcement, and lead them directly to the location of your car.

LoJack has been providing GPS tracking systems for cars and computers for years, and has recently developed a system designed for classic, custom and collectible cars.

The latest version of LoJack for Classic Cars has the following features and benefits:

  • Self-powered. The newer LoJacks won’t drain your battery, and render themselves ineffective when they’ve been parked for a long time.
  • Installation is discreet, with no drilling required.
  • LoJack will send you a text or email if your car is moved without an Early Warning Key, which you should store away from your car.
  • Thus far, LoJack has the only system that’s directly integrated with state and local police (though not in every market). Police cars and helicopters in these areas are often equipped with trackers that enable them to follow your car’s unique signal.
  • Radio frequency technology – works in areas that don’t have GPS or cell service.
  • 90 percent of LoJack-equipped cars, trucks and SUVs are successfully recovered.
  • No ongoing monthly fees.

Other vendors, like Fleetminder and Tracknstop, have created Web-enabled devices and apps that enable you to remotely disable your vehicle’s engine from your cell phone within seconds of discovering a theft.

For the best protection, combine systems and approaches
Most law enforcement experts recommend a multi-layered anti-theft strategy. Start with vehicle location: Don’t park in poorly lit areas, behind buildings or other places thieves can find concealment and darkness to do their work. Also combine different countermeasures to defeat against a variety of threats, from crooks who try to ‘hot wire’ vehicles to rim and wheel thieves to tow-truck operators. So you may want to use a combination of mechanical and electronic countermeasures, along with a solid tracking system to help recover your vehicle when other measures fail.

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