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Factory to Dealer--By Road

In the first installment of our series on how cars get from the assembly line to the showroom, we looked at rail transportation. While not all new cars are shipped by rail, they all end up on a truck at least once on the journey.

Cottrell CX-11HSC

The use of trucks to haul automobiles probably developed pretty early on. Even though intercity shipping was done by rail, you still had to get the merchandise from the freight terminal to the showroom--very few (if any) car dealers had their own rail sidings! "The new 1930 Pontiacs are arriving now..."As the highway network improved and "semi-trailer" trucks were invented, truck haulage often replaced rail for short to medium distances, and special-purpose car carriers appeared. One arrangement that was very common by the late 1930s was a trailer that carried four vehicles on two fixed decks.

1947 PontiacsThe cars in the lower deck sat at an angle to clear the tractor and trailer wheels, and the rear of the upper deck lifted out of the way to allow access to the lower one, as you can see in the pictures below.

Loading 1948 Chevys It's a tight fit for that 1950 ChevroletAnother common trailer design had one car down between the wheels and two others over it on a triangular upper deck.  In this particular example, a "headframe" over the cab provides space for a fourth vehicle.
1940 Mercury & Ford TrucksThis trailer only fit three cars, but the high coolness factor makes up for the light load factor, especially when carrying 1953 Loewy coupes:

WANT!By the late 1950s, trailers were being built with movable decks, powered by hydraulics, that could be shifted to tuck the cars in around each other, fitting more vehicles into the legal maximum length and height of a truck and trailer. While some of them look to be precariously perched, the cars are tied down securely so they don't fall off.

Is it just me, or do Edsels actually look better before they take the wrappers off?Can you get a quantity discount on Larks if you buy 'em by the truckload? A nest of HornetsThe transports you see on the road today are evolved versions of the ones above, which take advantage of the greater trailer length and height clearance allowed today. The largest, like the one at the top of this post, can hold eleven or twelve vehicles.

One variation that's become more common in the past few years is a fully-enclosed transport for high-dollar rides. This is just a transporter like the ones above with a roof, side curtains, and a fiberglass end cap added.

The idea of a partially- or fully-enclosed auto carrier has been around for a while. This one was built in 1949, and is unforgivably hideous. I ask you, what were they thinking? Were they even thinking at all?

Designed by warped minds, for warped minds.There's one more unusual car carrier I want to mention: the "Convoy," which seems to have been built sometime around 1954 or so. It had a rear-engined tractor that carried its diesel prime mover down in the frame between the cab and the kingpin, under the forward-most car on the lower deck. Beneath the cab, where most trucks of this sort keep the motor, was a sleeping compartment.

Those are 1954 Nashes in the center and right-hand photos.I have been unable to find any information on this unusual truck, other than what's in the press release masquerading as a news article in the right-hand panel above. If any of our readers can tell us more about it, please leave a comment below.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

The photo of the modern 11-"passenger" car carrier is a catalog image from Cottrell, Inc., which builds car carriers and trailers and would no doubt be happy to sell you one just like it. The photo of the 1930 Pontiacs came from the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. The photo of the transporter with mass quantities of 1960 Larks came from the Studebaker Drivers Club forum. Class A Drivers Forum user "biscuit lips" took the photo of the enclosed hauler. The photos and article about the "Convoy" auto carrier came from the Just Old Trucks forum. The other vintage photos and the Edsel "teaser" ad came from the Jalopy Journal "H.A.M.B." forum, to which they were contributed by users "bobj49f2," "bobwop," "LowKat," and "Shilouettes 57."


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