Vigilance: The Rod & Custom Protection Plan
Many of us like to travel out of town to events with our custom and classic cars. Thoughts of a road trip to an event a distance from home bring forth a sense of nomadic wanderlust. You pull into a town, either along the way, at the event, or on the way home and check into a motel to get some rest and to recharge. The last thing you expect is to return the lot the next morning to find you ride gone! Picked off by a thief, or thieves, in the night.
This reality happened to nearly a half dozen car owners earlier this month at the kick-off to the annual Hot Rod Power Tour in Charlotte, NC. Car owners at two separate hotels in the city were victimized by what appears to be a pretty sophisticated ring of car thieves. One vehicle taken had a removable steering wheel as a means to protect it from theft.Safely assuming that these cretins of modern society probably used a roll back or similar towing vehicle to heist said vehicle.
The vehicles taken in this heist were of the newer GM vintage: A pair of G-body's (Malibu wagon and Monte Carlo SS), a pair of pickups of 80's and 90's variety and a mid-90's B-body wagon. In reading posts from several others that appeared on the newly formed Facebook group "Cars Stolen from Hot Rod Power Tour" the theft of customs and classics at national events seems to be a common thing. One individual commented about losing their '69 Chevelle to theft during a Goodguys event that was never recovered.
Where do these vehicles go when stolen? The consensus is that they either get stripped for parts or get shipped overseas. Apparently the black market for custom cars is big in other countries as well as here in the USA. Some are rebadged with different VIN numbers and sold to unsuspecting buyers. There have been cases of vehicles stolen many years ago that have been tracked down because the VIN on the body didn't match the ones riveted to the A pillar or other location. Usually discovered by an alert employee at the DMV or by an agent with a local Motor Vehicle Enforcement division. Sometimes by vehicle enthusiasts who can decipher vehicle VIN numbers on classic cars.
People say "where's the security?" Many hotels have cameras or may go to the extent of having a uniformed officer on site but that sometimes isn't enough. Some hotels say that having "secured parking" is a liability on the innkeeper's part. But not being up on the laws in that instance I cannot make an educated assumption.
You would think that big events such as HRPT or events hosted by NSRA, Goodguys and the like would have a security caveat but they do not. Again it's all about liability. Read your fine print when you register for any event whether it's a big national event or the small town car show hosted by the local Kiwanians. "Not responsible for theft or damage" absolves the organizers from loss or litigation on their part.
What can we do as car owners to protect ourselves??? Some have put high end security systems on their vehicles. The technology today is unsurpassed in that area. Still the professionals know their way around that. Some wire in kill switches, disconnect coils, install steering wheel clubs, removable steering wheels and even remove rotors from the distributors to warn off theft. While these may warn off the joyrider or the novice car thief these provision were no match for what happened in Charlotte the weekend of June 8-9, 2019.
I chose to stay in older motor court style motels when I travel. The car is outside of the room and I can easily check on it throughout the night. I too try and avoid motels with easy freeway access. Many thieves cruise the lots of motels near an interstate or expressway for easy pickings that can quickly be picked off. It only takes a couple minutes and a busy parking area and some noise would rarely anyone take notice of a rollback picking a car up and hauling it away. Of course none of these are fool proof in of themselves.
My thoughts are with those car owners who had their vacations ruined by the likes of these thieves. If there is one thing we can take away from all of this is practicing vigilance. If you travel as a club have everyone take a shift and check your area. If you think this is something that doesn't happen here in Utah or Idaho guess again! Motels have reported thefts of custom cars from hotels here along the Wasatch as well as cars in enclosed trailers. Some even going as far as taking the whole towing rig!
Protect yourselves! Protect your investment. Protect your passion.
Until Next time…..
See you out and about and keep the rubber side down.
This '84 Monte Carlo SS had the steering wheel removed before the owner called it for the evening and it was still stolen! (Photo courtesy of the "Cars Stolen from Hot Rod Power Tour" page on Facebook.)
This GMC square body short box was bought new by the owner's father now deceased. Family sentimentality gone in an instant! (Photo courtesy of the "Cars Stolen from Hot Rod Power Tour" page on Facebook.)
© All text and photos 2019 Jay Horrocks Jr. unless otherwise noted.