The Most Bizarre Ways Cars Have Been Shipped
The auto industry is constantly striving to make a better car carrier, just as the search for a better mousetrap is never-ending. Alexander Winton, a semi-truck inventor, and automobile designer are known for creating the first car transport truck. He did this by reducing the wheelbase of a touring vehicle and attaching a small semitrailer that was just right for the automobile. Since then, people have tried to find ways to make hauling easier, to fit more cars in a smaller space, and get trucks and cars to places off the beaten path.
Here's a list of the most fascinating and bizarre ways that cars have been transported in the past and present. It's possible to be amazed at how car transport has evolved over time or even inspired to think about how it might change in the future. Here are some examples of how vehicles got from Point A to Point B over the years.
One at a Time by "Trailmobile."
Winton invented the semi-truck to help him get his inventory to customers. But his invention had one weakness. Winton's automobile haulers, which looked more like modern car transport carriers than a flat two-wheeled cart attached to a surprising bare-bones vehicle, could only carry one vehicle.
The same holds true for John C. Endebrock’s Trailmobile - a simple iron chassis with springs and wheels that could be pulled behind a Ford Model T. However, this was still marginally more efficient than driving the car to its destination.
George Cassens, a car salesman, was the one who elevated the car shipping industry. Like Winton, he was inspired by the need for cars to be delivered to customers. However, he also wanted to address the high cost of shipping by rail. His solution? A first four-car trailer. His sturdy two-tiered design was very similar to modern car carriers, especially since one of the four vehicles rode directly above the truck's cab.
In a box
Boxcars were used by manufacturers to transport large numbers of vehicles in the 1940s and 1950s. This is what's so bizarre. It was extremely inefficient. Four full-sized sedans could be fit on a two-tier rack on a standard boxcar, or fifteen automobiles on a flatcar with tri-level auto racks. But you would not reach the maximum weight of either car. Shipping by rail was expensive and cars had to still get to the destination station to be able to reach the dealership or customer.
Yet, 70% of new cars and trucks sold in America today travel by train to get there.
on a train... on a car
People continued to search for ways to simplify car transportation as the years went by. One solution? Although it may have cost you more, you can still use the car carrier and the train space. However, loading and unloading the entire piggyback trailer with four vehicles onto a flatcar took much less time.
on a Vert-A-Pac, or a Stac-Pac
There were obvious disadvantages to shipping cars by rail in open containers. The vehicles could be damaged by weather and there were always the dangers of theft and vandalism. There was a way to deal with these concerns and still fit more vehicles in a single train car. The answer was found in a rail car that featured a radically different type of autorack, designed by GM.
Vert-A-Pac or Stac-Pac cars could fit 30 ready-to-drive Chevrolet Vegas engines (with engines specifically designed for this ride) into one boxcar.
A team of porters on the backs
Is there no road? If you have the means and resources to do so, it's possible. In the 1940s, you could hire porters to transport your Mercedes from Kathmandu to Calcutta in India. This was the only city in Nepal that had modern roads. The cars would be removed from their wheels and strapped onto small platforms that were attached to bamboo poles.
One photo of a group of 64 porters carrying an old German-made Mercedes is seen. It was taken by Volkmar Wentzel, a German American photographer. The photograph was taken in 1948. It is fun to imagine the porters climbing over the mountains, hoeing and heaving their way to different countries. A team of 32 porters could carry smaller cars, while larger cars would require 96 porters to complete the journey.
Or on the back a Scarab Transporter
Your 1960 F1 Scarab racers could be transported in an enclosed trailer, or in a matching custom car transporter built by Bartoletti Motors. Lance Reventlow, who owns the original Scarab racers in 1960, chose the latter option. He commissioned one of the most beautiful car transport vehicles ever built for one of America's most iconic race cars.
The cab could carry three cars on its open double-decker bed. It was spacious and well-appointed. There were also shiny wood floors in the cargo hold. The rig was more of a luxury bus than a car transporter because of its sleek body and shiny chrome. It attracted attention wherever it went.
A beast of a Mercedes
These massive trucks, such as a 363-ton CAT Mining rig, are often disassembled and shipped piece by piece to their destinations. These massive 250+-ton mining trucks can cause damage to roadbeds by simply driving on them. What happens if they can't be disassembled? It's a good thing the Mercedes-Benz Actros semi tractor has a maximum capacity of 250 tons. This is enough for moving a monster miner without tearing down the streets.
8,500 of its friends
Some car manufacturers use larger vessels to transport their vehicles. On ships such as Japan’s Andromeda Leader, which is approximately the same length as two football fields, cars, trucks, and SUVs are packed tightly onto thirteen decks.
These Panamax-sized ships can be transported through the Panama Canal locks. These vessels are efficient in international vehicle shipping.
On extra-long carriers
China's semi-trailers can extend up to 27 meters. This is how car transporters push the boundaries of the law. Truckers can fit 15 vehicles into a single-level trailer with one row. It is legal? Technically, no. China's semi-trailers are limited to 16 and a quarter meters in length. However, companies have been pushing back against this limit due to the increasing demand for new cars.
As if the 27-meter car carrying capacity was not enough, double-level, double width trucks can transport up to 30 vehicles on Chinese highways. Is this legal? It's not legal, but haulers continue to use these huge trailers outside cities. They're too large for urban roads.
As cargo in a super-high-end RV
Seriously! You don't need to tow your Porsche or Ferrari when you travel the world in your stylish, $1.7 million Volkner Mobil PerformanceS motor home. You can enjoy the fully-equipped RV's kitchen, bathroom, and entertainment system while you sleep in your spacious bedroom. Your car can also ride below in an ideal-sized electrohydraulic lift garage.
The car can go wherever you want it to without taking up too much mileage. Your garage is completely enclosed so that you don't draw attention while on high-end road trips. It is best to keep your ride low profile as a Porsche 911 is the largest car it can handle.
The Futurliner was initially manufactured for the 1939 New York World's Fair. It was then used as a centerpiece in General Motors' Parade of Progress. Futurliner No. 5 was one of only twelve ever produced. Some have been restored to their original glory, but it is the last. Auto enthusiast and restoration expert Brad Boyajian converted 5 into a flatbed hauler. Brad Boyajian created a 29-foot bed that was long enough to accommodate two vehicles. He also installed a wooden load floor with clamshell-style loading doors.
Boyajian isn’t the only one who can create car shipping vehicles from other trucks. When it comes to creating car shipping vehicles from other trucks, Boyajian isn't the only one.
Are you thinking about shipping your car abroad? While most of us won't ride in a truck or car that has been in the air before, VIP vehicles often travel by plane. Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo planes transport world leaders' limousines from one nation to the next. The planes are faster for super exotic collector cars that wealthy auto enthusiasts own. This is also true for top-of-the-line race cars and concept vehicles that travel to major auto shows around the world. Owners from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will often transport their vehicles in Airbus A330s to London or the States when they are on vacation.
This trip is expensive - up to $25,000 for one-way. But if you have a lot of money, you can afford to keep your car close at all times.
Many of the above-mentioned car transport methods are exceptions. The truth is that the modern car carrier was operational by the 1960s. By then, RO/RO loading/unloading vessels were capable of transporting cars across oceans. The main changes since then are the size and number of carriers, especially on the water, as well as the protective measures that have made shipping cars safer.
The next major change in the automobile transport industry is likely to be fuel consumption. In the near future, it could become prohibitively costly to move cars and trucks using fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. Future innovations could make it easier, safer, and cheaper to transport vehicles from one place to another.