Beat the Thief

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Thefts of the kind of car which “no-one would steal because it is too distinctive” have been growing recently at an alarming rate. As one bereaved TR5 owner says in a letter published in that excellent Club Magazine, TR Action, . . . “it had been driven on to a lorry, dismantled on its way to Clacton and (the empty shell) rolled off the tail board on arrival. They (the police) also held the view that it was organised crime.” The unfortunate owner goes on to describe the ghastly wrangle he had with his insurance company to get sensible compensation, and concludes “. . . if I had my time again, I would: 1. Alarm the car up to the hilt. 2. Make sure it is insured under an assessed value, and absolutely nothing else, on a comprehensive policy. 3. Guard with my life receipts of work done, with photographs to verify (send only photocopies with claims forms) . . . “

Good advice for anyone with a car of special value to protect. Item 3 is easy enough to achieve and most one-make or national clubs catering for owners of Veteran, Vintage, Thoroughbred and Classic cars have an agreed value insurance scheme which is usually well worth using. Owners who prefer not to belong to clubs, or whose cars are not covered by such schemes, can usually negotiate such policies through specialist brokers such as John Scott & Partners.

But alarming the car? There are many systems available, some expensive, some sophisticated, some cheap and some useless. What is certain, is that it is far more difficult to protect a soft top car than a saloon and one product which came to my attention recently might be of interest to owners of such cars who wish to do all they can to save themselves the frustration of having their car driven away from the pub car park. It is an ultrasonic detector, marketed by Motolarm of 3 Broadwell Parade, West Hampstead, London NW6. This, when coupled with one of Motolarm’s anti-theft alarms such as the very sophisticated Stelios siren, detects any unwarranted intrusion into the car whether through the doors or not. A six second delay is incorporated with all these alarms to enable the owner to enter and turn off the system before the siren sounds. The ultrasonic detector will work under a taut tonneau cover (a loose one, inclined to flap in the wind, is likely to create false alarms), but has to be so de-sensitised if it is to operate in a completely open car to prevent normal pedestrian traffic setting off the alarm, that it might not notice a hand gently releasing the handbrake and guiding the steering wheel, although it did when I tried it out on an elderly MGB.

The Stelios siren is one of the most sophisticated and expensive alarms available. It has its own self-powered siren, and operates immediately if the car’s battery is disconnected or if the connections to the alarm are severed or tampered with in any way. Intrusions into the car through the driver’s or front passenger’s doors are subject to the six second delay, all others (including boot and bonnet) cause the alarm to go off immediately. Sudden movements, such as might be experienced if anyone tried to tow the car away without opening it, also sound the alarm, which operates for 30 seconds on each occasion it is triggered off, and also cuts the circuit to the ignition coil. It can be linked to the car’s horn and/or light circuit.

It can be fitted to all negative earth, 12v or 24v vehicles, and costs £66.60 plus VAT for the basic Stelios system and fitting kit plus a further £16 and VAT for the ultrasonic detector. Fitting is simple, and the unit takes up little space. – P.H.J.W.