How do you protect your vintage car?


Services like OnStar provide an added layer of security for modern cars, but technology is a double-edged sword. On these same vehicles, weaknesses in software security have allowed criminals to take advantage of keyless entry systems. When it comes to vintage cars, many owners keep a close eye on their prized vehicles, but there is always the risk that unscrupulous criminals could swoop in.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/12/29/protect-your-vintage-car


I have “features” that may discourage some. Manual transmission, right hand drive, and the fuel pump. When I had to replace the electric fuel pump and assorted high pressure hoses, I had the hoses made up first, across the metropolitan area (Dallas). When I got the new fuel pump, the hose matched the pump, but not the external check valve. Rather than pay and spend time to redo that hose, I deleted the check valve. So, not ,many thieves, now days, would know to let the pump run 12-15 seconds (warm/cold) before cranking the starter. I might come back to a dead battery, but unless they cased me well, they probably couldn’t start the Seven. At home, locked garage and driveway gate.


Spoke to someone at Hagerty about a half dozen years ago and believe they indicated 10% of stolen vintage vehicles were taken from an owner’s locked garage. In addition to padlocks on the entry & overhead doors and a locked gate at the end of our driveway, my neighbor is a friend and also a vintage car owner - we watch each other’s properties. Further, I’m careful of those wonderful window cards that are used at car shows. Use a nickname and don’t include my hometown if I fill it out at all. All batteries are disconnected during storage and other vehicle specific methods are used also. And likely my garage doors are blocked with my daily drivers if I’m not home too.


On my 61 Chevrolet Apache

  1. Locking steering column from 89 Chevy van. Easily thwarted of course, but they have other things to go through to get it to run.
  2. Usual key fob alarm system powering the door locks with ignition interrupt
  3. The factory outside door handles have buttons that lock
  4. I don’t want anyone under the hood. The hood cannot be raised from the outside. It is operated by a solenoid activated from the inside. The switch is hidden in plain sight.
  5. If the battery goes dead the hood can be opened from the outside, but it would take forever for a thief to figure it out, AND, of course, it is hidden in plain sight.
  6. I have an interior switch that operates both fuel pumps (twin tanks). It gets turned off when I leave. Again, hidden in plain sight.
  7. I have a manual kill switch inside. It goes to off when I leave. Again, hidden in plain sight.

So the usual routine is 1, 2, 6, and 7. it takes all of 5 seconds to set everything, and another 15 seconds to lock the outside door buttons (3). But if a thief is driving away he must solve a bunch of puzzles, none of which are marked or obvious.

Nothing is foolproof. But I figure I can slow them down long enough to discourage them. Unless they show up with a wrecker. Hard to fight that one.

I have a 74 Olds Cutlass Salon. It merits the key fob alarm activating the door locks and kill switch. Much easier to solve, but no one will steal that one anyway. They crushed 99% of them because no one wanted them, they were wrecked, or they rusted into oblivion. I might see a 74 Salon once every five years or so. I figure it is safe with the keys in it and unlocked.


I live in a high crime area of a rust belt city. It is good to promote your property as difficult to break into. Security company signs and no trespass sign are posted and the property is fended with closed gates at the drives. Vintage cars are always garaged, doors and boots closed and locked and keys are placed in another building. I keep one or two cars parked in the way of the overhead door. Garage doors are locked and windows covered. All of that is aimed at slowing down the thief.

Trail cams covering the entry points of the property and garage as well as the inside of the buildings are helpful once the crime is done and you are trying to catch the thief. Good neighbors who keep an eye out for each other are most helpful. Neighbors have not only alerted me to a break-in in progress but have provided police with photos and eye witness accounts.

Prosecute those that do the crime. Word will get around.

Summer of 16 a professional crew of 4 showed up at 4:15 AM with masks on, bolt cutters and a long roll back expecting to get a Bentley R Type and a Jaguar XJ6. By 4:20 they had opened the gate, popped the locks and rolled a pickup truck and car out of the way and gained entry to the garage. It was at that point that the other security measures kicked in. By 4:22 One masked man was on the floor donating biological samples with a little help from a 165 lb Anatolia Shepard’s Dog, the roll back was immobilized with a 9mm slug in the battery. The police were on the way. They arrived at 5:03, 43 minutes after they were called. By that time the dog had flushed out a second masked thief hiding on the property, a few more biological samples were surrendered.

The incident became a bit of a story around the hood. The word is that you don’t want to mess with that property because the crazy old white man or the huge dog will get you. I’m ok with that. Since then none of the locals have tried to swipe anything, and the scrappers from out of town who have tried to remove things from the property without permission have ben successful 1 out 5 times.

You can do a lot to protect yourself and property but you can not stop a determined thief every time. Keep good insurance with reasonable replacement cost and remember in the end it is only stuff and the memories and experiences will live on even when the object is gone.


When I would Park my Morgan in my then high crime neighborhood I used to turn my front wheels to full lock and put a chain through the spokes and around the frame of the car making it impossible to remove the wheel or drive the car. I had also been known to run a chain from the frame to a pole/tree. For short stops I would sometimes take the rotor from the distributor and take it with me.


Remove the coil wire


For my trailers I remove all the nuts from the wheels on one side. It’s not too obvious and I figure if they are able to break the hitch lock and hitch it up they won’t go far without two wheels on one side.


Unfortunately, ideas from others such as disconnecting the battery, coil wire, or installing a fuel cutoff are not really useful methods of protection, IMO. Many classic cars are stolen without even attempting to start or drive them. The thieves simply put the car in neutral and roll it quietly onto a trailer and whisk it away. Many if not most classics don’t have locking steering columns or transmission gear selectors. There was a recent video on YouTube showing car thieves steal a 1st gen Camaro by having one guy hop behind the wheel and steer it while another guy in a sedan pushed the car out of a parking garage. Poof, gone. Never even tried to start it.

I honestly don’t have any good ideas other than to have 24 hour security for the structure in which the classic is stored, and don’t leave it unattended when in use. I’d love to hear more from others, though. This is a topic which always has me worried these days.


@glassman has the right idea. Have good insurance, and remember that the memories cannot be stolen. It’s just an item.
To keep those memories coming I’ve got a couple kill/fuel switches NOT IN PLAIN SIGHT, a very secure garage with locks and motion detection and I live in a very, very safe neighborhood on a dead end street where we all have numerous firearms. All I need is a big ass dog.


I installed an unmarked dash switch when I put an electric fuel pump on my '62 Healey. Since it was a roadster there was always the possibility of someone cutting the hood to get in, with the switch flipped OFF, they would only get a couple of blocks if they were able to start the car. On top of that, the factory starter was a pull to start mechanical rather than a turn to start on the ignition key.


Interesting question, until last summer I kept my cars in the garage with the large garage doors locked and the man door unlocked, the cars are also unlocked. Working on my old pickup one day I saw a vehicle driving past that appeared to be casing the hamlet where I live. I got that gut feeling that I should up my game, so I bought a “Club” for all of the cars, lock all of the doors and arm the monitored alarm system. No problems. I only take the cars to controlled areas like shows, or to friends places so enjoying an outing is not a car security issue for me.


I live in a Detroit suburb, so theft is very much a reality. I’ve had a daily driver stolen. Technology can be overridden by smart thieves - ask the 4 man team that stole my car. And it was frustrating watching my car being driven away on the security video. To protect my cars: (Neighborhood watch helps.) One lighted entry and one garage door to my 80x30 car barn. Heavy duty lock on the inside of the garage door, so thieves cannot push the top of the garage door in to disconnect the rail and open the door. I do NOT have a garage door opener installed - too easy for smart thieves. Motion activated flood lights. Two sensors to alert me to movement, one OUTSIDE near the doors and one INSIDE the barn to alert me of movement. Car keys are locked in a large gun safe. Brake Locks and Steering wheel locks are used only to delay the thief while I’m loading and siting in. I have a wireless PA system in my connected to the house. I would use that system to educate the would-be-thieve(s) about a night vision scope and the effects of a 5.56 mm bullet traveling in excess of 2300 FPS. My barn is 50 yards behind my home and then you have another 100 yards to get to the road. And that gives me ample time to write a eulogy. And if I’m not home? That’s why I have Hagerty.


We simply have it in our garage in our house with our other car.


Bright Yellow Boot! Yeah, like the kind they use in the big cities, Can get a pretty good one on ebay for under 100 bucks. Oh, and the ‘club’ also…


Years ago my 69 Bronco was stolen but fortunately if was recovered with minimal damage after sitting for 10 days at Denver’s Stapleton Airport in a tow away zone with 6 parking tickets. So much for Denver’s finest, at least back then. Realizing the vulnerability of cars without steering wheel locks I designed a simple system that works. As you all know a tenacious thief can steal you car but most thieves or joyriders will move on if they have to spend extra time thwarting an owner designed system. I wanted one that was self arming so somebody watching you could not see you arming it or using it. I installed a weather resistant Cole Hersee momentary switch between the ignition switch and starter solenoid mounted in the floorboard and discreetly operated with my left foot. Since Ford solenoids are easy to jump I also chained the hood with a lightweight chain. Yes, a well equipped thief could still steal the car but they would have to come prepared and most aren’t for what I did. I installed this system on a few cars including those of friends of a friend. The late 70s & early 80s Olds Cutlass were a prime target for thieves and several years later a 79 Olds Cutlass theft recovery came to the body shop where I worked. My job was to repair the steering column. The car was not stolen but thieves damaged the column in trying. I was not able to start the car and in diagnosing that problem I found this was one of the few cars owned by others that I installed my system on almost 5 years earlier Very simple system and it worked.
Another tip to keep your expensive tailgate from being stolen from your truck is to put a screw type clamp around the pivot on the side the tailgate lifts out of for easy removal. Turn the camp so a wrench, not a screwdriver must be used to remove it.


My 1967 Mustang GT was almost stolen. Had a replacement carburetor that wasn’t set up well.
the engine would flood if not manipulated properly.
Was stalled down the street at the stop sign when I got up in the morning.
A lady told me she had a Morgan. She would leave it in gear at college after
unscrewing the stick shift and placing it into her purse.
Made a fair club, too,
Same time period.


Bold talk Mr. Knott. And maybe your comments were only for amusement. But just in case, you might also educate yourself on reasonable use of deadly force. Though the standard for civilians will vary some from state to state, you start shooting at someone fleeing in your car from 50 yards away and either a lawyer or the theive’s next of kin will end up owning it. Or worse…you end up in jail. In no state that I’m aware of can you justify using deadly force in a property crime.
I personally use a discretely placed kill switch, keep keys separate from the cars, a noisey large (but friendly) dog, well-lit storage and common sense, like a Hagerty policy.


@stitch6069 - I didn’t even realize you could buy those boots! I tend to take my wheels off and put them in the basement of my house to help tires last a little longer, but it’s a pain.


So so picture of boot. This picture was actually taken because of the snow. Don’t get much here in Texas…