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Classic Car Security


With the news of Matt Wright (editor of Practical Classics) losing his Concours winning Ford Granada recently, we decided to write an article about the various options classic car owners have for securing their pride and joy.

Classic cars are renowned for their lack of security (soft tops especially). So what can the average classic car owner do to protect their vehicle? Car security can be broken down into categories, Deterrents, Immobilization, Tracking and Traceability. Combinations of which often prove the most effective.


a deterrent can be defined as anything that will make a thief think twice about stealing your vehicle but does not provide any physical protection against such an act. Examples of which are:-

  • Flashing LED on the dashboard.

    This cheap and simple method has being used for years. But its effectiveness is debatable.
  • Window Stickers

    Stickers advertising the fact your car is fitted with an alarm (whether true or  not) provide similar protection to the LED option, and is often used in conjunction with the above.
  • Simple Car Alarms

    This takes the LED to the next level by having an audible alert which will sound if the vehicle is entered. The most basic alarms operate using the door switches and the more advanced have shock sensors as well. The downside is their effectiveness is limited by the response of the public, which is unfortunately often lacking. (how many times have YOU ignored a car alarm?)

Immobilization  is any device or action which results in the vehicle being unable to be started or moved without first bypassing the security measure.

  • Rotor Arm Removal

    An old and well know trick, and one of my personal favorites (used to do this on my old mini). By removing the rotor arm from the distributor you effectively breaking the ignition circuit and unless the thief happens to have the specific rotor arm on them the car will not start.
  • Isolator Switch

    This can be either a main battery isolator or a isolator for the low tension circuit of the ignition system. Although effective the main problem with these is that they can be easily bypassed by some simple rewiring so must be well hidden to be at their most secure.
  • Clamps

    these can come in many forms. Wheel, handbrake and steering wheel clamps offer protection by effectively disabling vital parts of the car. There are many makes and models available and each has its own level of effectiveness. It is always best to do some research before purchasing one of these to find the one best suited for your car.
  • Complex Car Alarms

    These work in the same way as the basic car alarms but have the additional feature of an isolator to remove power to the low tension ignition circuit when the alarm is activated.

Tracking Devices

Although these do not prevent the car being taken, it can aid in recovery as well as acting as a deterrent.

  • Trackers

    This is a  service provided by a third party. For an Annual subscription fee they will locate your car via the tracker if it has been stolen. There are many makes and models available. A brief search on the web will give lists of companies who will both supply and install the device as well as offering the tracking service.


Traceability takes many forms from chassis numbers to window etching. Although it does not offer any protection against getting your car stolen, it can be helpful when proving rightful ownership.

  • Chassis and engine numbers

    These are already on the car, but making sure you have records of both is always a good idea
  • Glass Etching

    having your registration number etched onto window and headlights etc offers further degree of protection to “parts” thieves. Who target cars merely to strip for parts to sell on.

Other Security measures.

Sometimes The car itself is not the target of the thief but often it is the “bolt on” accessories such as alloy wheels, radios, valve caps etc.

  • Locking wheel nuts

    People often overlook the value of their wheels and do not take the necessary measures to secure them. These simple yet effective devices can often be the only thing between driving home and having to be trailered  away.
  • Locking Valve Caps

    Although hardly an expensive item often people return to their cars to find that their chrome or logo embellished valve caps have gone astray. Who steals them and what do they do with them? Who knows, but lockable valve caps are the answer.
  • Radios

    Removable fascias and coded lockouts provide some level of protection against thieves. Although there have been cases where thieves have broken windows only to discover that the car does not even have a radio. There is no known protection against this level of stupidity

You can further reduce the risk of forced entry to you vehicle by using common sense. Never leave anything (even non-valuables) in plain sight. Items such as bags or jackets can be locked in the boot, with smaller items being locked in the glove box (provided you have one). Also if you have any expensive items like mobile phones or Portable Sat-Nav equipment then do not advertise the fact by leaving chargers or cradles visible.