Classic car owners, including those with muscle cars, street rods, hot rods, antiques and vintage trucks, are facing uncertain times as car thefts are on the rise, and actions from thieves are becoming more bold and brazen.
I recently came across a story written by a man who owned a Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette Coupe with all matching numbers. The all-original classic sport car had an immaculate dark blue interior where only the carpet had ever been replaced. The 327 engine was said to produce a rhythmic loping that not only brought a smile to your face, but got you day dreaming of having this beauty parked in your own garage. Then disaster strikes and you’re snapped out of your dream and into his nightmare fleetplanner!
The owner of this beautiful piece of American history took his prized car to what he called a small “backwoods” show that a friend and he decided to go to in the spur of the moment. As owner Jacob Morgan, of Bakersfield, CA described, “The event was an annual but rather unofficial gathering of classic car buffs and I was thrilled to bring my car down. Unfortunately, the part of Florida that the event was being held was extremely dry due to drought. About three or four hours after arriving, a man who owned a red GTO (I could not tell you the year because frankly I did not care afterward) decided to start up his ride for the spectators. It was just one backfire but it was enough to start the dry grass ablaze–and guess where my Corvette was parked?
Nearly thirty classic cars were consumed by the blaze started by that backfiring GTO and my Corvette was one of them. Of course I had the car properly insured but they just aren’t making 1963 Corvettes any longer and the only one I could find that was similar cost $10,000 more than my policy’s payoff. I guess if there is a moral to my sad tale, it is to avoid backwoods car shows at all costs because they are unregulated, disorganized, and very dangerous to classic cars like my beloved 1963 Corvette Coupe.”
This may not be your traditional way of losing your prized classic car, muscle car, street rod, antique car, vintage truck or other collectible old vehicle, but it does drive home the point that we need to exercise care in even the most innocent surroundings like a car show! Freak accidents like Mr. Morgan experienced can and do account for many losses to enthusiasts – not just theft or vandalism.
Sadly though, theft isn’t a rare thing and the methods are becoming more bizarre. Guy Algar and I have had pieces stolen off one of our own vehicles that we were towing back to our shop while we stopped for a quick bite to eat! We’ve had a good number of hubcaps taken over the years. And, we actually had the brake lights ripped off of our car hauler while we were in a parts store one day picking up parts for a customer! We’ve had one customer tell us the story where he had taken his wife out to dinner and had carefully parked his 1969 Corvette at a local restaurant, under a big bright light, and in what appeared to be a “safe” area, only to come out 45 minutes to an hour later to find all his emblems and trim taken right off the car! Thieves have been known to take the entire car hauler (with the classic sitting on top) right off the tow vehicle’s hitch ball and transfer the hauler to their own tow vehicle when people are on the road, at a car show, or some other type of event. These are bold moves by people who do not fear the consequences.
Other thefts that have been reported around the country have included:
- Dr. Phil just had his ’57 Chevy Belair convertible stolen from the Burbank repair shop he had brought it to for repairs.
- A 1937 Buick, valued at over $100,000 was taken from a gated community parking garage in Fort Worth, Texas.
- Tom of New Mexico reported the theft of two of his collector cars to Hemming. Tom owns about half a dozen collector cars altogether, and to store them all, he rented out a storage unit. Unfortunately, when he went to check on them recently, for the first time in about six months, he found that two were missing – a 1957 two-door Chevrolet Belair and a 1967 Mercury Cougar GT.
- There was also a report of a man from Jefferson City, Missouri, who actually recovered his own stolen car, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro that had been stolen 16 years before, after seeing it in a Google search!
- In a Los Angeles suburb, a woman came home to a garage empty of her prized 1957 Chevy Bel-Air which had been valued at more than $150,000. The beautiful convertible had been featured in several magazines and TV shows and won dozens of awards at car shows around the country. A neighbor’s surveillance camera caught the actions of the thieves and revealed that the Bel-Air was pushed down the street by a pickup truck which had pulled into her driveway just minutes after she had left. The thieves likely loaded it onto an awaiting trailer. It’s thought that the thieves spotting the car at one of the car shows, followed it home afterwards, then waited for the opportunity to steal it.
- A Seattle collector was the victim of a targeted “smash-and grab” from the warehouse where he kept his cars. The thieves apparently ransacked the building and drove off with a 396/425 four-speed 1965 Corvette Stingray; and a 20,000-mile 396/four-speed 1970 Chevelle SS.
- A 1959 Chevrolet Impala was stolen during a Cruise Night. The owner got good news-bad news when the police tracked down because while they did recover the classic car, he had put in a claim for the theft with his insurance policy after the theft many months before, so the car went to the insurance company rather than being returned to him. Apparently detectives recovered the Impala from a chop shop nearly eight months after it was stolen, repainted and modified.
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