The Dillon County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina announced that a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spyder, valued at $23 million, was stolen during the early morning hours of July 25, 2022. Detective Sara Albarri said that the 8C was inside a 2009 Haulmark trailer pulled by a white 2002 Ford F-350 dually pickup that was parked in the lot behind a Holiday Inn Express in Latta, SC.

According to the Alfa owner’s car-collection manager, the car was restored by the previous owner several decades ago and won Best in Show at the 2000 Amelia Island Concours. Although in the same general condition, it was showing its age and so was being transported to a Florida restoration shop to be re-restored.

The driver had stopped for the night at the hotel. When he awoke, he discovered the truck, trailer and Alfa were gone. Hotel security footage showed two men crawled through the bushes to get to the passenger’s side of the truck about 2 a.m. After unlocking the door, they slid across and hotwired the truck. Their faces were obscured, but it was obvious that they were experienced at doing this. In the space of a few seconds, they drove off with the whole rig.

Some personal items from the truck were later located in a ditch behind a convenience store in Lumberton, NC, and investigators believe the vehicle may still be in North Carolina. But as of this writing, none of the vehicles have been recovered. 

According to Albarri, there have been at least three other incidents of vehicles and trailers being stolen at or near that Holiday Inn Express in recent months. In addition, there has been a string of similar trailer thefts in the area, involving go-karts and other smaller vehicles.

AIG Insurance has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the Alfa’s recovery. Please contact Detective Sara Albarri of the Dillon County Sheriff’s Office at (843) 774-1432.

Big surprise

The collection manager and the sheriff’s department believe that the thieves had no idea the Alfa was inside the trailer. The likely target of the theft was probably just the truck and the trailer. “Only three people in the world knew what was inside the trailer, and the thieves had no time to get inside and have a look,” said the collection manager. “The truck and trailer are prime theft targets and easy to fence.”

Picture yourself as one of the thieves. You’ve gotten away clean with a valuable truck and trailer combination. Whatever is inside the trailer is just a bonus. You get to a safe place in another state and break into the trailer to see what your prize is. Since the hotel is located near a racetrack, you expect to find a race car inside, which would be easy to break down into parts and sell. Instead, you find this old Alfa Romeo you’ve never seen before. Now what?

The thieves have few options. The Alfa is one of nine such cars in existence, and one of the five long-wheelbase versions. Anyone who will be interested in buying it is going to know exactly where it came from, so you’ll get arrested. You can’t very well dismantle it into parts, as there are only a handful of potential parts buyers in the world. Each one of them is going to know where the parts came from, so you’ll get arrested. Your best bet to make some money off it might well be to find an accomplice who can miraculously “find” the car and claim the insurance reward. Of course, that approach can go sideways in any number of ways, so you’ll get arrested. Converting this car to money isn’t going to be easy. Just getting rid of it might be the best course.

The insurance settlement

The collection manager states that AIG has already paid the claim and now owns the car. But the insurance company gave the owner the right to re-acquire the Alfa if it is recovered. Just thinking about that, the buy-back would be pretty straightforward if the Alfa is recovered without damage. But arriving at the buy-back price could get complicated if there is significant damage.

In any event, the owner wants the car back, regardless of its condition. It is an intact, all-original example that has already been restored once and was going to be restored again. The new restoration will bring it back to full value, so the net loss would only be the increased cost of the restoration attributable to any damage caused by the thieves. Even if they dispose of it over a cliff, it’s still restorable, just at a much higher cost.

Protecting your cars

While that result may be okay for this car, things might not go as well if one of our more common cars is stolen. We are much better off recovering the car intact than we are having a big insurance claim with the attendant uncertainty. 

Without a doubt, we should maintain adequate security measures to prevent theft to begin with. But no security system is infallible, so we should consider some modern high-tech approaches that are readily available to track the car after it is stolen. There are a number of devices available, but two of the options are enough to demonstrate the general possibilities.

The simplest approach may be to hide an Apple AirTag in each car. AirTags are small discs that have location tracking capabilities. They cost about $25, and you use your “find my iPhone” app to track the device and find the car. They run off a replaceable battery that should last about a year.

It’s a simple system, but it does have some significant limitations. Your iPhone can communicate with your AirTag only if the AirTag is close enough to another iPhone to make a Bluetooth connection. The nearby iPhone transmits the location to Apple and then to your iPhone. But if the AirTag is in a remote location, or if the thief uses an Android phone, it isn’t going to be able to make that necessary connection.

A more sophisticated approach is to use a GPS-enabled tracker to do the job. One affordable system is manufactured by LandAirSea Asset Protection. Its LandAirSea 54 is a device that looks a lot like a 2.5-inch-diameter hockey puck. It has a magnet that allows it to be hidden anywhere on your car. Using LandAirSea’s phone app, you can find the tracker anywhere using its GPS connection.

There are two general ways to set it up. One is to use the app to draw a perimeter around your storage facility. If the tracker ventures beyond the perimeter, it starts transmitting and you get an alert. The other approach is to set it up to continually transmit so you can always check its location. The device can be hardwired into your car, or it can run on its rechargeable battery. Battery life can be up to one year in perimeter mode, a couple of weeks in continuous mode.

This system is more robust than something like an AirTag, but is still affordable. The LandAirSea 54 sells for about $30. Monitoring costs $20 per month, per unit. Volume discounts are available.

As with everything else, technology will continue to improve. But it seems to have developed to the point now that it makes sense to buy some sort of tracking device that can help recover your car if it is stolen. The expense is minimal, and recovering your car quickly is much better than having an insurance claim to deal with. ♦


  1. This owner has been incredibly irresponsible in not having more robust protection in place for what was not just his collector car but an item of great historical significance. Two crimes were committed here, only one by the thieves.

  2. Actually three if you include the insurance company who could be considered negligent for not requiring a tracking device as part of the policy. I am required to have such a device to insure my 15K boat in the Netherlands. Crazy that this was not in place a $20M car!