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.