Dream Wheels

| October 05, 2005

Horseless Carriage driver Warren MacDonald very carefully backs a $350,000 Ferrari 430 Spyder, its convertible roof with a stain protector still attached, for delivery to Ferrari of Atlanta.

If Batman needed to get his vehicle moved across country, he’d call one of these guys.Exotic, classic and vintage car haulers load some of the world’s most expensive and rare vehicles into their trailers. Unlike other transported cars – chained down on open-air trailers and at the mercy of the elements and flying road debris – these sweet wheels are pampered and treated with kid gloves.

And while they are made of metal, fiberglass and plastic, many drivers consider them to be as “alive” – and unpredictable – as livestock.

“It’s almost like they were a living thing,” says veteran driver Ron Gore. “You have to get to know how each one will react because that determines how you handle it when you load it, haul it and unload it.”

Car shows run year round, from major events introducing new models to antique shows, so expensive cars roll across our highways in vans every day. Other specialty cars are hauled to race tracks, corporate events and movie, TV or music video sets. And then there are those that are hauled to test tracks, museums and private homes and collections.

Warren MacDonald has been with Paterson, N.J.-based Horseless Carriage since 1973, hauling cars since 1977. Behind the wheel of a 2001 Kenworth T2000, he mainly hauls the East Coast. The prime asset a driver hauling millions of dollars in exotic cars must have is “simple common sense,” he says. “You don’t load them too close, don’t drive it like it was a freight trailer and don’t go jamming on the brakes if you can help it because no matter how well they are tied down, they are going to react.”

But the most demanding part of the job, says MacDonald, 51, is making sure you find every scratch and dent – if there are any – before a car is loaded. “Sometimes owners or dealers haven’t noticed every little thing, but I have to. I don’t want to deliver and have someone think I scratched the car. With these cars, scratches cost thousands.”

As in most segments of the trucking industry, there are odd loads. For example, MacDonald cites the oddities of hauling armor-plated vehicles for the State Department. “They are longer than most cars for a start. Then you have windows a couple of inches thick that don’t roll down.” That last little detail is an annoyance for MacDonald because he uses the open driver’s window of the car he is unloading to reach the button that lowers the liftgate.

Sometimes the vehicles these drivers haul aren’t real cars. Sometimes their cargoes are model cars, full-sized clay models. Sometimes they are “concept cars,” one-of-a-kinds made with the latest technology and materials to look like the real thing (although most of them aren’t drivable). [See "Clay Models and Concept Cars" on page 25]

Reliable Carriers hauls some of the most expensive street sedans ever built, the latest Rolls Royce and Bentley models, for example. The company also hauls for manufacturers in Detroit, not only new models but concept cars and clay/fiberglass models of cars of the future that are taken to top-of-the-line auto shows.

Most exotic cars are not hard-tied (chained into motionlessness) but soft-tied, held by a special strap apparatus.

The idea, says Reliable President Tom Abrams, is to let these luxury vehicles ride the way they would on the road – with their own systems in control of the vehicle’s movement up and down and sideways as the road under the trailer bumps and tilts.

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