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RV8 immobilser requirements demanded by some insurers
An alarming trend of insurers seeking to escalate their requirements for the retrospective fitting of Thatcham 1 immobilisers on open top sports cars has been noted by our anonymous contributor. Here the contributor provides a briefing on the present situation. (Sep 01)

A number of members of the V8 Register who own RV8s which are not insured through the "Abingdon Policy" arranged by Peter Best Insurance Services and underwritten by Ecclesiastical Group, should prepare themselves for the possibility of a rude awakening! In view of the continuing escalation of vehicle-related crime, a growing number of insurance companies are beginning to insist that modern, powerful sports cars - RV8s, Morgan Plus 8s, TVRs and similar machines - are retrospectively fitted with a Thatcham 1 immobilser and alarm system.

I have investigated the matter in some considerable detail, including talking directly to the Vehicle Security Installation Board (VSIB), approved vehicle security system installers, and the underwriting staff of several insurance companies. I can, therefore, assure members that the Lucas immobiliser fitted by MG Rover to the RV8 does NOT have either Thatcham 1 or Thatcham 2 categorisation.

There are two main reasons for this lack of classification. The first is that the Thatcham evaluation and categorisation of vehicle security systems only took effect from 1997 - some two years after the last MG RV8 was built. The second is that whilst the manufacturer-installed immobiliser in the MG RV8 meets most of the Thatcham 2 requirements, it is still only a one-wire immobilisation system. A Thatcham 2 category system must be able to immobilise several components rather than just one.

The principal difference between a Thatcham 1 and a Thatcham 2 classification is that Thatcham 1 requires an independent alarm sounder unit to be installed in addition to the immobiliser, whereas a Thatcham 2 only requires an immobilisation capability. The overall purchase and fitting costs for the two systems will vary between £450 for a Thatcham 1 and £150 for a Thatcham 2 installation!

Although a number of insurance underwriters are beginning to specify the fitting of a Thatcham 1 category vehicle security system as a prerequisite to their granting agreed value insurance on the RV8, there really is no under-bonnet area that is suitable for the installation of the independent sounder unit. Its dimensions are 4 inches square by 3 inches thick and although fitting it on the front scuttle, behind the honeycomb grille and forward of the radiator matrix might seem a good idea, both my local MG Rover dealer and the Lucas agents agreed that this position would be unsuitable. The unsuitability was not only because of waterspray exposure but also because of the ease of access for any potential thief equipped with wire cutters. The only other obviously vacant under-bonnet areas occur on either side of the inner wings, adjacent to the exhaust manifold downpipes and on the offside inner wing, either forward or aft of the oil filter. Quite frankly, the first of these two options is clearly unsuitable owing to the extremely high temperatures prevailing around the exhaust manifolds of a 4-litre engine.

The second option is theoretically viable, but only just! Locating the sounder unit in either of these two areas would involve drilling several new holes through the inner wing. Moreover, siting the sounder unit aft of the oil filter would also necessitate the removal and repositioning of the adjacent earthing point, thus creating yet another hole in the bodywork and leaving the original hole to be filled by a grommet. All this hole-drilling and the associated disruption caused to the undersealed areas immediately beneath carries with it the very real risks of poor subsequent earthing

and the creation of ready-made rust paths due to the associated damage caused to the paintwork and cataphoretic rust-inhibiting coating, both of which will have been applied to the body after any such hole-drilling had already been completed. "Oh come of it!" I imagine some will say; "There's no need to be that pernickety; a bit of zinc primer and a little touch-up paint finished off with a spot or two of undersealing compound and it'll be fine . . ". Well, unfortunately the rust "bug" is not so easily defeated. As WC Fields might well have said "Corrosion, like "suckers" must never be given an even break!"

So, if fitting a full Thatcham 1 security system is neither practicable nor desirable, should one even bother to consider a Thatcham 2 installation? After all, aside from the requirements of certain underwriters, the Lucas security system originally fitted to the MG RV8 is perfectly adequate is it not? Well, in view of the rising trend in vehicle-related crime, the installation of a Thatcham 2 immobiliser is certainly worth the investment since the existing non-Thatcham approved immobilisation system, as fitted to Land Rover, Range Rovers and the MG RV8 from 1993 to 1997, can be circumvented by the professional car thief in under 3 minutes! During the installation process on my own RV8, I was shown just how quickly and easily the Lucas immobiliser could be bypassed and the vehicle driven away!

The retrospective installation of a Thatcham 2 is both a neat and a relatively simple operation that takes about 4 hours. Unlike a Thatcham 1, the installation of a Thatcham 2 does not require bulky and unsightly components to be fitted in either unsuitable or cosmetically inappropriate locations. Moreover, the vehicle's existing immobilisation and horn-sounding system is left entirely intact such that there will now be two entirely separate immobilisers fitted to your car! Please note - do not be persuaded to disconnect or otherwise disable the manufacturer-installed Lucas system on the mistaken premise that it has now become superfluous. Not so, there are no suitable Thatcham-approved detectors that can be used to replace the RV8's own microwave volumetric space detector that is located on the transmission tunnel. In any case, the RV8's own volumetric space protection facility is still very much "state-of-the-art", relying on microwaves rather than ultrasonics.

Finally under no circumstances must RV8 owners be browbeaten into leaving their vehicle unattended in the hands of impetuous technicians. Under pressure of time and unsupervised, they will invariably engage in all manner of indiscriminate trim-pulling, hole-drilling, cable-forcing and bracket-bending. I know, I have lost count of the times that I have had to keep the impulsive "no problem, mate; we'll get it sorted" approach politely but firmly in check!

The good news is that, once fitted, your wonderful new Thatcham 1 alarm and immobiliser system will reduce your insurance premium from £700 to £350 for an agreed value varying between £20,000 and £25,000. (Notes these figures are as at September 2001).

My advice for what it is worth is "do not be in a hurry to upset existing the electrical installation in your RV8 simply to fulfill the cascading demands of some insurance company whose front line employees could not care two hoots about your car and who, in the event of a claim, will have no hesitation of putting you through the "wringer with an insurance loss adjuster". Just ring an MG Car Club approved broker like Peter Best Insurance Services for a sensible quote and steer well clear of any non-approved organisations no matter how well known or pre-eminent they may appear to be. Forewarned is forearmed!

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Footnote:
Why not check out the "Abingdon Policy" for the RV8 offered by Peter Best Insurance Services to avoid the nonsense of being required to fit an expensive Thatcham 1 system by other insurers.
The original security system on the RV8 is good, particularly the volumetric sensor monitoring people reaching into the car when the hood is down. The "Thatcham" categories were introduced just after the RV8 was launched so the RV8's immobilser never had a "Thatcham categorisation". This expensive retrofitting requirement of some insurers seems more driven by the "tick-box" mentality of insurers rather than a sensible view of the capabilities and performance of the original security system fitted to the MG RV8.