Recently I was traveling from Florida to West Virginia to race in the Jefferson 500. I stopped at the half way point, got a hotel room, slept briefly, & woke up to find my trailer having been broken into and the racecar GONE!
I come from a family of car lovers. My father was involved in the show car circuit most of my adolescent life, touring all over the country showing his Jaguars, transporting them with his truck & trailer. After my siblings & I (4) had started our own lives, he transitioned to vintage racing. It didn’t take much for all of us to catch the racing bug. Soon, we all had our own cars, and became the family that races together. Needless to say, it’s more than racing to us, it’s a family affair!
I race with several of the Historic groups, all east coast. My car, a 2.0 Liter, silver 1968 Porsche 911 (#24)
Rather than going the route of “Arrive & Drive” and since becoming a retired businessman, I spend my time developing my car, building engines in my shop, & trailering the car to races myself. Having grown up with a father who put in thousands of miles trailering, never having had problems with theft (& I’d never heard of anyone else having any either) I thought little of the security of my trailer & racecar…big mistake.
My rig is a Ford F150 w/a 24’ enclosed trailer. It has no stickers identifying what’s inside, and simple keyed Master Locks (2) on the back drop down door, & no locks on either the trailer tongue or the actual hitch, just a cross pin w/cotter pin. This probably sounds like you right? Read on…
After having driven 8 hours, it was approaching 10:30 pm so I started thinking I’d better get a hotel room before it gets too late. I pulled off the highway in Columbia SC at an exit with lots of hotels & restaurants. I surveyed hotels for a large enough lot with available parking for a trailer, pulled in, got a room & went to bed (11pm).
The next morning I figured I’d get on the road early (another 8 hrs ahead) so I checked out at 5:30 am and as I walked out the front door (still dark) I looked at my rig and saw the trailer door DOWN! I started running across the lot and as I got close, I realized the racecar was GONE!
Devastated, what was I too do? I was in an unfamiliar area, away from anyone I knew & it was still dark out. Think to yourself, “what would you do”?
I called the police, they quickly responded. As the sunlight came up, we were able to begin to piece together what had happened. An officer dusted for fingerprints, but this only helps if the criminals have been processed in the past. It appeared they tried to steal the entire trailer first (it was partially disconnected) but was too heavy to move, so they cut the locks off the drop down door only to find a shiny Porsche inside! They wasted no time using bolt cutters to snap the winch cable attached to the car, released all tie downs & rolled the car out. Then quickly emptied the trailer of my floorjack, extra race tires, & some other odds and ends from the trailer and towed the car away with a tow chain.
Right now you’re probably saying, “how could no one have seen or heard this”? Well to add to this, the cheap hotel I chose magically had some “issues” with their security cameras that night and had NO video footage; surprise!
The police told me their chances of finding my vehicle were very low since it wasn’t a street going car with license plates. What was I to do?
I took the following steps:
1) I walked to the neighboring businesses, told them what had happened, gave them my contact information and asked them to check their security video for anything that might help the police.
2) I wrote a long post on Facebook, adding recent photos of the car, and asked all my friends to “Share” my post on their pages & quickly it went viral! I was so amazed at the response! I was getting friend requests from people I didn’t know from all over the place. I could only hope something might turn up.
At that point, feeling helpless, I got in my rig and headed back to Florida.
During the 8 hour trip home, I was watching all the “hits” on FB. One of the “Friend Request’s” I received was from a gentlemen who lived in Columbia SC! He sent me his phone number and asked me to call him. I wasted no time in doing just that. After a brief introduction, he told me he worked at the local TV station and that another FB friend from Columbia contacted him and asked him to get involved. He told me the station runs a “Crime Stoppers” website and they get approx. 30,000 hits weekly & that if I’d give approval, he would pull photo’s from my FB page & put a web story up and do a short piece on the 6pm news. Of course I said yes, please, & thank you!
I got home dejected, still really in a state of disbelief that my baby was gone!
The next morning I woke up to my cell phone ringing? I answered, it was the Columbia police, announcing that they had recovered the car!! As it turns out, someone saw the story on the 6pm news and had seen the car in their development. They called into the “Crime Stoppers” hotline and made an anonymous tip. The TV station forwarded that to the police who sent cruisers to that neighborhood. They canvased the area for a while, but turned up nothing. Shortly after they left, a neighbor called the police and said, “a black Chevy Tahoe just towed a Porsche race car to the end of my street and abandoned it”. They sent a cruiser back & their it was, UN-harmed!
I was very lucky to have my car returned. Don’t let this happen to YOU! Here are a few takeaway’s for anyone trailering:
- Never park your trailer exposing the drop down door to an open area, always back it up against something so its contents cannot be removed
- Spend a little extra money to buy locks specifically designed not to allow bolt cutters access. They will pay for themselves, Master Shackle Lock 6270KA ($30 ea) (look like a hockey puck)
- Make sure you put a keyed lock on the hitch ball lock. Master Lock 37KA w/shackle guard ($13) & a “Curt 23021” ($12) truck-to-trailer hitch lock will work. The police told me they have seen thieves just pull the cross & cotter pin combo from the removable hitch and using a floor jack roll the trailer to their waiting truck & take the entire unit & its contents!!
- Another option is to buy magnetic GPS modules, (1) for the trailer & (1) for your racecar. Once mounted, God forbid you need to find either, you call cell number (pre-paid sim card) and it texts you its location. I-Track 2 GSM GPRS GPS Portable Tracker ($199 ea no monthly service req’d)
- When you park your trailer, add a wheel chock/lock from “Trimax” ($44) with this on, no one can move your trailer.
- The only “stickers” on your trailer should be to notify thieves of your GPS and alarm system! These are just dummy stickers, but most thieves will think twice ($4 for 2)
- Pick your hotel location wisely. Cheaper hotels are usually in seedy areas, aren’t as well lit, & many don’t have security cameras (that work). A few extra $ on the room may not only get you a better nights sleep, but may save your rig & cargo.
I was very lucky to have recovered my racecar & un-damaged thanks in part to Facebook’s social media. You may not be as lucky. Hindsight is always 20/20, but you can take some of the above recommendations and prevent your trailer from becoming a target for criminals!