Dream Wheels

| October 05, 2005

Some say the most difficult job is getting the cars in and out of the trailer. “You’re driving a lot of different vehicles. They all handle a little differently, and they are not as straightforward as everyday cars,” says Gore, 42, who has been with Reliable for 26 years and drives an ’86 Pete 359 with a 180-inch sleeper fitted out with all the modern conveniences. Gore started hauling cars at the age of 13, helping his father, also a Reliable driver. “They have different wheelbases, so you have to keep it in your head and adjust or you could find yourself getting dangerously close to the edge. You have to get used to every car. Muscle cars you have to be extra careful with. Backing them out of the top level onto the lift gate can be tricky.”

Cars will be “chocked,” an assistant literally chocking the wheels as the vehicle is maneuvered on and off the lift gate.

While the cars are on, show drivers – including Gore – will usually remain. Sometimes their job is helping with the show setup and the cars. They will also remain at test tracks or private functions, where they sometimes have other duties beyond loading and moving the vehicles. Helping assemble, install and then dissemble the stages show cars are displayed on is a common chore. Gore will stay with a show whether it is a day or two weeks.

Non-stop Christmas
Jim and Donna Gallagher from Bowdoin, Maine, haul fabulous vehicles all over the country for Intercity.

“With us it’s like Christmas every day,” says Jim Gallagher. “When we arrive, a lot of owners haven’t seen their new cars. They may have bought them at auction or on the Web or from another country. When we roll off the covers, you can watch their eyes light up.”

Gallagher drove for almost 25 years before he got into high-end vehicles. “I was hauling produce and meat from Maine to California and back, and one day my accountant asked me if I’d thought about getting into cars. Well, the kids had all grown and gone, and I wanted Donna out with me, so I looked into it. We hooked up with Intercity, and we’ve never looked back.”

Gallagher says he’d never go back to regular freight.

“I did more than 20 years sitting at a dock waiting for my number to be called,” he says. “These days no one wants us to be there in the morning or at night, so we work normal hours. Get up in the morning, shower and have breakfast and go to work, and the day ends at a reasonable hour.”

The Gallaghers roll in a 2005 379 Pete with an aftermarket sleeper that’s “like home.” But like a lot of top-end vehicle haulers, they are heavy and long (84 feet). Empty, the rig weighs 55,000 pounds, so a lot of hauls run almost up to 80,000. So when Gallagher spec’d the rig, he opted for an automatic transmission that saved 450 pounds and Michelin singles on the drive axles to save another 100 pounds.

It’s not uncommon for drivers – especially ones with extended sleepers – to avoid busy truckstops with their million-dollar vehicle loads. The Gallaghers look for rest areas or maybe a Wal-Mart parking lot. “If I go to a Wal-Mart to overnight, I’ll go check with the security guy. And he can see from our rig that we’re self-sufficient; we’re not going to need anything from him, and we’re not going to leave anything behind when we pull out.”

The Gallaghers will stay out for three or four months on average, sometimes longer, and go home to Maine mostly in the winter (which sometimes makes it hard for them to drive their own collection of sports cars). To Jim Gallagher the hardest part of the job is staying focused.

“We can’t let anyone interfere with our work or our thoughts when we are loading or unloading,” he says. “If you damage some of these, they can’t be replaced or repaired. Some of the others can be fixed, but the costs are extremely high. The vehicles have to arrive exactly the way they left.”

And each car is different, so drivers must know the vehicle before hauling it. For example, Gallagher spends time examining every one he hauls, not only climbing into it and testing its handling, but also climbing under it. MacDonald also test drives any new model until he feels comfortable he knows what it will do in low gear before he loads it.

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