In the classic car world, theft is a real problem; nary a week goes by without hearing sad tales of classics that were there one minute, and gone the next. While the rip-offs of high profile, expensive show cars by bands of professionals get a lot of exposure, many regular classics – vehicles like yours and mine – get stolen with alarming frequency. Some of these rides have no countermeasures at all, others use easy-to-defeat items like clubs, and still others have noisy alarm systems that do little to actually deter thieves. Of course, there are effective anti-theft systems with options like vehicle tracking – but many are too cost-prohibitive for regular enthusiasts. Which leads to this question: what cost-effective – with an emphasis on the word “effective” – anti-theft systems are out there? And if I were to answer that question by telling you about a ridiculously simple and affordable system that has never been defeated – not once – would you believe it?
When I saw the Ravelco system for the first time, I certainly didn’t: a plastic base and cap, some steel tubing, and a few wires aren’t exactly the most confidence-inspiring package when it comes to combating this generation’s sophisticated car thief. I figured guys with the savvy to steal VINs, go to the dealership for a new engine computer, do the swap, and drive away with nary an alarm chirp could make short work of such a low-tech device. Alas, while it may not be the most sophisticated system on the market, there is beauty in its simplicity: the coded plug and identical black wires are installed in a way that makes it so time-consuming to figure out, not one has been bypassed in the 35 years that Ravelco has been around. Pretty impressive, huh?
My personal experience with a Ravelco on the mean streets of Queens, New York quickly made me a believer of this system. So when the opportunity to work with Miami-based Florida Ravelco and its owner, Attila Kovacs, came up, we jumped at it. And as it just so happens, one of AutoTrader Classics’ managers was needing some classic protection for his new ride. Check out the captions to learn more about this amazing setup – and see why it is bad news for the bad guys!
Our test car is a 2002 Ford Thunderbird, which belongs to Private Seller Manager Joe Lake. Joe recently picked it up as his “fun car,” and he wants to be sure that it is properly protected from thieves. One of the most unobtrusive and effective solutions to that problem is the Ravelco Anti Theft System.
Here’s the Ravelco unit. This gray base connects to the black armored steel cable below it, which puts a serious crimp into the plans of any scumbag who tries to access the wires inside. The Ravelco comes with two 16-pin plugs, which are individually coded to each system. The wires inside work in pairs, and if they are clipped, the vehicle can’t run. Probing the base unit won’t work – there are over 100,000 combinations within its 16 holes. And fiddling with it means big-time fuse blowing. To top off this formidable system, its active wires mix with “dummy” wires that further confuse any would-be thieves.
The T-bird’s engine bay. Another added benefit of this system is that, once installed, it is practically invisible to any prying eyes – you’ll see what we mean at the end of this story.
Most cars have driver-side panels that are suitable for the installation of this system.
Attila Kovacs made the trip up from Miami to handle our install. He owns Florida Ravelco, the exclusive provider of Ravelco in Florida. While we were snapping photos, Attila was prepping the Ravelco system and its huge array of identically colored wires for the installation.
After inspecting the T-bird’s under-dash panel, Attila determined a mounting location that is both easily accessible for the driver, and out of the way of his or her knees.
Any electronic wiring connections to the panel, like the traction control connector on this T-bird, are disconnected, and Kovacs removes the panel. A 1 1/8-inch hole saw is used to drill the mounting hole.
He temporarily reinstalls the panel with the new hole drilled.
As the proposed mounting area also has a metal support bracket behind it, Attila uses a drill bit and the hole saw to drill through the mounted panel and through the bracket. Obviously, it was checked before drilling to make sure no wires, switches, etc. were in the way.
The panel is removed again, and the threaded base unit is secured to the panel with a nut.
Our base unit now tight, the armored cable is routed through the under-dash area and the panel is reinstalled for the last time.
Attila studies the engine bay to determine how the wires will be run. After a hole is drilled through the firewall, he starts feeding the wires from the mounting location in the dash to the front of the car.
The installation locations, as well as the method in which the wires are integrated into the car’s harness, are large reasons why this system has never been defeated. As such, we won’t show exactly what he is doing; however, it is important to mention that the proper wiring technique is always important, but it is critical here in South Florida’s humidity. Kovacs splices the Ravelco’s wires, and then solders them for a weatherproof seal.
No, this is not an identical shot of the one we showed before: the Ravelco is now fully installed on Joe’s T-bird, and the wires are nowhere to be found.
The system is now ready to use. The plug can only go on one way; it fits firmly onto the base and won’t fall off while driving. Two plugs come with the kit; if additional plugs are needed, the system’s owner must contact Ravelco and prove their identity to order new ones.
Attila demonstrates how the system works: without the gray plug in place, the car’s accessories work but it won’t turn over. With it installed, the car cranks and runs normally. However, if the plug is removed when the car is running, the engine dies and won’t restart. Simple, easy – and highly effective!
In addition to installing the Ravelco, keep the following tips in mind to minimize the chance that the bad guys will make off with your prized possession:
- No anti-theft system yet? Disconnect the battery and/or computer
- A hidden starter kill switch is a low-buck solution
- Store valuables out of view
- Don’t leave your unattended car running
- Don’t leave the ignition key in the car
- Roll the windows up, put the top up, and install the roof/T-tops
- A locked garage is best; a well-lit open spot with foot traffic is secondary
- Combine theft deterrents, alarms, and recovery systems for the best coverage
To see video of Florida Ravelco’s Attila Kovacs demonstrating how the system works on our T-bird, go to www.youtube.com/AutoTraderClassics.