Sad times, someone tried to steal Priscilla

Sad and upsetting times.

Paddington Farm Trust Campsite, Glastonbury

Paddington Farm Trust Campsite, Glastonbury

The red camper that belongs to my girlfriend, which she has affectionately named Priscilla was stolen the day after our holiday ended. It’s always jarring and upsetting when you are a victim of crime, the thieves no doubt either have no compassion or if they do justify to themselves that the victims are insured or covered somehow. They never think about the real impact and upset they put each person through and yes monetary loss too no matter how they justify to themselves, it costs the victim whether in future insurance or loss of value in payout.

With a camper, the upset is somehow a little more intense. I can honestly say we become more attached to them, well beyond that of a regular vehicle. It is probably why we tend to name them. Priscilla is no exception, a wonderfully solid van in original paint, yes she needed a little work to tidy her up but she was a great example with very little wrong. V loved her very much and that love grew each time we used her, she was a family member. Now she is locked away in a police compound, damaged.

Ironically the thieves who clearly knew what they were doing, removed a window, closed the curtains so they couldn’t be seen and hot wired her. Yet despite this apparent expertise they still tried to drive her with a Stoplok steering lock on, and the factory steering lock too. Sadly as you can imagine they crashed her into a neighbours car before abandonning her damaged and looking sorry for herself, blocking the entire road. Being woken at 5am by police asking if you owned a camper van was no doubt upsetting for V.

Sadly almost 2 weeks later, we are still struggling to find out from the police when she can be released. No-one seems to answer their phones, or actually knows who is in charge of releasing her (or even where she is). The insurance in all fairness have been quite good so far, they can get the van collected once its released, dropped at a garage of our choice (Marsh Farm in Bulkington) then an assessor will let us know if she is fixable (fingers crossed) or written off. It’s horrible waiting to find out and there is that concern that as often they do insurance companies will work hard not to pay anything. I know it is also worrying to think its probably sat in some police compound with a window missing, no doubt getting soaked inside with the recent storms. The damage potentially grows and we still wait on the police who I doubt would have ensured the van was protected from the elements.

As you can imagine this has really made me think about security, and I have ensured that every deterrent possible is installed on my van and a few other things besides. The reality is that your vans are as valuable in bits as they are running, and unscrupulous scum bags will happily break them apart to sell to other unsuspecting owners, or just as bad ring them and sell them to you as something they aren’t. Either way everyone loses except the lowlifes. However we can help turn the tables if we try.

So here is a list of things to help secure your van. They won’t stop anyone determined enough to take it, but they may just put them off or hold them up enough to cause them to leave, fail or best of all get caught.

Alarm immobisiler, the thieves want an easy take away. T25s and other Vws are old and easy to steal in the form they rolled out of the factory.We have to make it much harder. There is a reason that modern car thefts usually involve the keys, without them they don’t start. Anything that draws attention will put them off, anything that stops it being started makes life really hard. Ensure its hard to find alarm and thus hard to disable.

GPS or police trackers, these are becoming quite cheap, small and easy to hide, yes they can be blocked to a degree but its not certain and being able to see where your van is or be notified if it moves is great. Some even have cameras and microphones so you can hear and see whats going on in the van and capture evidence. Again not a deterrent but could lead to a conviction or help locate your van. Not something I would advertise you have as they will attempt to find it or block it. The tracker system is less prone to blocking but is traced by police scanners not by sms or data connections. May be worth while if your van has a high value.

Wheel clamps, high quality wheel clamps that cover the studs of your wheel, is a big deterrant, most thieves will prefer not to have to grind or cut a clamp off which will attract attention. More than one clamp increases the time and noise it will take to remove them.

Steering wheel locks, the best is probably the Disklok, which fits over the whole wheel and prevents it being cut. However the largest one will only fit on the smaller powered steering versions on a t25 I believe, research carefully before you buy. We found a Stoplok device fitted our non power steering vans and was far sturdier than the thieves obviously suspected. Measure your wheel and get the best you can afford that fits.

Full Cover Large Silver Car Security Disklok

Stoplock HG 149-00 Stoplock Pro Steering Wheel Lock Thatcham Cat 3

Smart Water costs about £50 a year for vehicle but its a good way to mark the many parts of your precious vehicles. It may not stop it being stolen but if its stolen and broken or ringed, then its very easy to spot this with a UV light, and police can actually prove the parts are from your stolen vehicle.> Smart water has helped convict numerous criminal gangs who were stealing cables, metal and such. No reason it can’t help collar someone stealing vehicles.

Remove some key components, it may seem overkill but removing parts required to start the van may just stop someone taking it. A t25 isn’t light, if its not powered moving it becomes far harder.

Turn your wheels in, thieves often drive our precious vans onto trucks (to avoid ANPR triggering), combined with steering locks, if your wheels are turned into the curb its far harder for them to drive it onto a truck. The steering lock prevented Priscilla being driven away and probably saved her from being broken for spares. If her wheel had been turned into the kerb, would they have crashed her?

Dont leave things on show, dont leave valuable in your van (hard on holiday perhaps), don’t park the van in dark or in hidden areas, under a light is probably better.

Buying second hand parts:

Ironically the demand for parts of our old vans, fuels these thieves actions. As they gain value, its tempting to break them or ring them for big profit. For this reason it is well worth taking a UV light with you if you ever buy second hand parts, some owners will smartwater mark their van or use uv markers to markt them. Ideally if buying used parts and you haven’t seen the v5 document for the van or been allowed to, consider buying elsewhere.

It’s not exhaustive but its a start and although I can’t tell you what to buy and what you install (lets face it I don’t want to share what I have). With a little research and time you can reduce the chance of your pride and joy being taken.




Posted on July 25, 2013 in Van maintenance

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About the Author

Matt loves campervans, the outdoors and photography. Combining the 3 is a recipe for happiness.

Responses (3)

  1. Serenity Camper
    August 21, 2013 at 10:16 am · Reply

    This is a real problem. I’m sure you’ve heard of club80-90? If not join it. Its a club for us T3 type people!
    Anyway they have done research on most of these ‘security’ features but at the end of the day if someone wants your car, they’ll take it, no matter what security you have. If a professional thief can steal a brand new prototype BMW 7 series in 28 seconds with no prior knowledge of is security features, I don’t think these off the shelf items will really help.
    As you said, steering to the curb when parked, and simply removing the rotor arm are deterrent enough. Otherwise you’re into hiding a kill switch somewhere in the bus.
    Out of reach for most of us however is secure storage which is usually monitored. There is an alternative…install CCTV at home. Well worth it.
    As a body repair guy myself I’d hazard a guess that as the bus will not have ben going very quickly with the steering lock on and given the availability of parts for these buses now, I’d imagine it can be repaired. I truly hope so.
    This issue remains on my mind throughout the build of Serenity, our bus. I wish these little plebs would get an honest job and stop ruining peoples happiness.

    • mattbw
      August 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm · Reply

      Well we’ve had good news, insurance have said yes to all the repairs. Saddest of all is that about half of the damage was actually done by the recovery company Mansfield group using forklifts without any care or thought and wrecking the propex heater and the fuel tank straps were broken off.

      I too wish the thieves would put some thought into a proper money earning endeavour instead of making a living of other people’s hard work and subsequent misery and insurance hikes.

  2. John & Nancy
    April 10, 2014 at 5:19 am · Reply

    Halfords sell a Thatcham approved Steering lock which is recognised by some insurance companies who offer a discount when fitted. It’s not cgeap though and I think I paid about £50 for mine.
    Glad Priscilla is on the road again

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