Mo­tor­ing Alan Judd



The day be­gan well: I reached the sta­tion in good time for the 9.11, there was a 9.11, parked the De­fender, paid for it, ticket office was open, the train had the right num­ber of car­riages and went all the way to Lon­don. Later that day my wife joined me, park­ing her Fiat 500 in the same sta­tion car park.

We re­turned to­gether af­ter mid­night (de­layed for an hour by the usual ‘sig­nals prob­lems’) and walked con­fi­dently to our cars. Or, rather, her car – the Fiat was parked where my De­fender had been. An­other sign of early on­set was my first thought, though I was sure I’d brought the De­fender that morn­ing. I had, but it had been stolen by the time she un­know­ingly parked in its place. The se­cu­rity cam­eras later showed a man in a hoodie, face down, open­ing the door at 1.40pm and driv­ing away two min­utes later. This de­spite the fact that I had fit­ted a steer­ing lock.

The Land Rover De­fender is now the most fre­quently stolen ve­hi­cle. This is partly be­cause they’re no longer made and have in­creased dra­mat­i­cally in value, with re­built Se­ries Is and IIS now well into five fig­ures, and fif­teen-year-old TD5S like mine hard to find for less than £6,000-£7,000. It’s partly, too, be­cause they’re easy to steal, hav­ing no alarms or elec­tronic sys­tems, and old-fash­ioned locks you can get through with any old key. (My first two Land Rovers were an­cient enough to have no locks at all, but that was in the days when only sad cases like me wanted them.) It’s also be­cause they’re eas­ily dis­man­tled and sold into the lu­cra­tive used-parts mar­ket, or just as eas­ily dis­guised – a dif­fer­ent top and a re­paint trans­forms the ve­hi­cle. And, most im­por­tantly, there’s an in­sa­tiable de­mand – peo­ple love them.

The sec­ond-most-fre­quently-stolen ve­hi­cle is the Range Rover. Here, too, the older two-door ones now fetch silly money and later four-door Clas­sics are al­ready on the ap­pre­ci­a­tion lad­der. Sur­pris­ingly, how­ever, the very lat­est Range Rovers are also rel­a­tively easy to steal, de­spite so­phis­ti­cated elec­tronic se­cu­rity sys­tems.

You can buy over the in­ter­net de­vices that mimic the sig­nals sent by the owner’s key. You then loi­ter as he locks his ve­hi­cle, wait till he’s deep into the wine list, press your but­ton and drive away. Or you fol­low him home and take it from there. If you think it’s fit­ted with a tracker, you park it on a pub­lic road where you can keep an eye on it, wait a day or two and, if no one comes for it, off you go. You can do it with most mod­ern ve­hi­cles, but Range Rovers are, again, much de­sired. Own­ers are now ad­vised to fit the hefti­est steer­ing lock they can find. So we’re back to ba­sics.

The steer­ing lock on my Land Rover was the cheap­est of the Hal­fords op­tions, a tele­scopic bar that hooked over the wheel. Bet­ter, I’m told, is a de­vice called Disklok that cov­ers the wheel com­pletely and costs around £130, which is what the in­sur­ance pre­mium on my new (16-yearold) Land Rover has gone up by fol­low­ing the theft. Or you can wrap one of those big mo­tor­bike chains around the wheel and clutch, or fit a se­cret cut-out switch.

Se­cu­rity is al­ways a com­pro­mise with con­ve­nience, and the aim is de­lay – the longer it takes to get through your de­fences, the less at­trac­tive your ve­hi­cle. So make it ob­vi­ous there will be de­lay be­cause de­lay de­ters. Those run­ning the rail­ways know all about that.

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