Clas­sic car theft

Spe­cial re­port – who’s steal­ing clas­sics, where they’re go­ing and what you can do to help stop it

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

‘Clas­sic thefts are higher than they have ever been’

It has long been ac­cepted wis­dom that clas­sic cars were not on thieves’ radar. Too un­usual, no ready mar­ket, too dis­tinc­tive and no­tice­able. But times are chang­ing and clas­sic thefts are higher than they have ever been, ac­cord­ing to ve­hi­cle crime con­sul­tant, Ken Ger­man. He tells us, ‘In the UK more than 27 rare clas­sic cars have been re­ported stolen within the last month. Th­ese in­clude E-types, 911s, Mi­nor con­vert­ibles, a Sun­beam Tiger, early Minis and eight rare Fords. Also an MGB, cap­tured on CCTV be­ing taken in broad day­light. None of th­ese has so far been re­cov­ered.

‘Five years ago the me­dia re­ported a rise in clas­sic car theft, with cer­tain ar­eas of the coun­try a tar­get for Minis, Es­corts and VWS. Now so­cial me­dia sites de­voted to clas­sics sug­gest all types of clas­sic ve­hi­cle are un­der threat – in most ar­eas.

‘De­mand on the black mar­ket and “dark net” for rare cars is grow­ing. In the en­thu­si­ast mar­kets of to­day – Asia, Africa, China – due to forgery and fraud, bribery and where few ques­tions are asked, clas­sics can be sold for strong prices all day long.

While only 15 per cent of stolen clas­sic cars are ever found in good con­di­tion, an­other three per cent are re­cov­ered se­verely dam­aged or com­pletely burned out, at­trib­ut­able to op­por­tunists or van­dal­ism.

‘Clas­sic ve­hi­cle fraud is on the in­crease through­out Europe and crim­i­nals ex­ploit in­ter­net ac­cess to com­pre­hen­sive fac­tory records, help­ful and in­for­ma­tive own­ers’ clubs and en­thu­si­ast sites help­ing fraud­sters to fake his­to­ries, coun­ter­feit reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments, dat­ing cer­tifi­cates, etc.

‘A stated le­gal case de­crees a stolen ve­hi­cle re­mains the owner’s prop­erty. Any­one else who sub­se­quently has it in their pos­ses­sion can never legally own it or pass ti­tle to any­one else. That said, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion re­mains dif­fi­cult, par­tic­u­larly if a car is in pieces mi­nus all its num­bers, per­haps even with the paint re­moved. Ad­ju­di­ca­tion in a court of law will need at least six or seven unique al­ter­ations, marks and ad­di­tions made or ob­served by the orig­i­nal owner prior to theft to con­vince them.

‘Re­trieval of erased, al­tered or re-stamped se­rial num­bers us­ing chem­i­cal or heat treat­ments to gather ev­i­dence can be done but is ex­pen­sive – too costly for po­lice other than in con­nec­tion with a very se­ri­ous crime. Re­fur­bished dy­namos, mag­ne­tos and dis­trib­u­tors all have their re­stor­ers’ ini­tials for their own ref­er­ence and th­ese too have been use­ful in prov­ing own­er­ship of a car.

‘With the lack of both re­quired ex­per­tise and fund­ing for such ev­i­dence, for what is still per­ceived as a low pri­or­ity crime, po­lice are out­sourc­ing the spe­cial­ist clas­sic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion skills they once had to ex­perts and en­thu­si­asts for their opin­ions on al­le­ga­tions of theft and dis­putes.

‘Track­ing com­pa­nies that fol­low and seize stolen ve­hi­cles (sev­eral post 90 per cent plus re­cov­ery rates) are work­ing with po­lice, as are spe­cial­ist se­cu­rity firms who sup­ply transpon­ders and covert DNA mark­ings that as­sist po­lice in iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and re­cov­ery of stolen items.’

Th­ese are just some mea­sures to be con­sid­ered se­ri­ously by all clas­sic own­ers. Hang­ing onto your beloved ve­hi­cle is a whole lot bet­ter than try­ing to re­place it. Es­pe­cially as any emo­tional at­tach­ment with a car may be gone for good.

1960 Mini on the left was stolen from Hack­ney, Lon­don. It had been a gift from Anne Rogers (right).

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