Precious Cargo: Reliable Hauls Rare Rides By Jason France on November 1, 2017
You Must Be Reliable to Haul These Babies
For one glorious week each year, California’s Monterey Peninsula is Heaven on Earth for car lovers of all stripes. Don’t be fooled by its simple name—Car Week—that brings together 85,000 enthusiasts from all over the world. The regulars have been attending for decades, while first-and-only timers may simply be checking off an item on their bucket lists. At the upper end, you’ll find the rich, the famous and some who are both.
Everyone who comes to this breathtaking and inspiring destination in late August has a common bond—love of fine automobiles. Whether displayed on a show field, run across the auction block, raced at nearby Laguna Seca, or driven as an uncommon street machine, the eye candy provided by thousands of marvelous vehicles results in a most enjoyable form of sensory overload. Yet none of this would happen if the men and women who transport others’ fine automobiles for a living weren’t hauling these babies to and from this revered event.
With roots in the household moving business and a single tractor-trailer, the Abrams family started a business more than 55 years ago. What evolved over time is a passion for transporting automobiles and trucks, with an unparalleled level of care and professionalism, to any location a client specifies. With 400 specialized haulers and a team of drivers to match, Reliable Carriers is the country’s largest enclosed auto transport company, serving the 48 contiguous states and extending to the northerly reaches of the Canadian provinces.
When you see the familiar orange, big-bunk trucks rolling down the Interstate, there’s no telling what might be inside. It could be a rare collector car, an antique, a timeless classic, a street rod or custom, a vintage race car, a manufacturer’s prototype, test vehicles, new vehicle introductions, even a sculpted clay model. The truck could be hauling its precious cargo to a concours event, a special car show, an auction, a race track, a test-drive event, a photo or television shoot, a vehicle launch, or any number of special events. What’s certain is that each treasure is carefully nestled into its designated space and skillfully secured for its door-to-door trip, whether across the continent or just across town.
100 Haulers at Monterey
During Car Week, Reliable Carriers had 100 trucks working from as many as 25 locations across the Monterey Peninsula and the surrounding area. Eighteen transported a wide range of cars for Sunday’s big event, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which filled the long par 5 18th hole from tee to green and beyond. RoadKing shadowed the show field drivers for three days and had the opportunity to speak with six. If you’ve ever thought about a driving job like this, you’ll be interested in reading what they have to say.
For vice president and chief operating officer, Bob Sellers, his 20th Car Week had the usual potential for many things to go wrong. His job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. He’s frequently on the job before sunrise and well after sundown. On Concours Sunday, you’ll find him in a hotel ballroom with three veteran dispatchers and a bank of computers and mobile phones at the ready. Their sole focus is shuffling drivers and their trucks around where and when needed.
“We had a remarkable Pebble Beach this year,” said Sellers. “Everything went smoothly. While having experience is extremely helpful, you can never get too comfortable. Logistics issues always take on a different twist or nuance each year. I jokingly tell people my job is to keep all of the flaming arrows off the building. President Tom Abrams and I maintain contacts with our corporate clients, auction management, individual customers, and show officials, as well as being available to assist our own team members.
“We have 100 of our best customer service agents, who happen to drive trucks, here for Car Week. We are really blessed to have a great group of drivers and operations people who take customers’ vehicles seriously. It requires all of us being at the top of our games to make this work. At the busiest times throughout the week, organized chaos is a fitting description. That’s particularly true on Sunday evening when the Concours ends, and the show cars leave the 18th fairway en masse. In my opinion, we just happen to respond faster and better than anyone else. We clearly understand what our customers expect from us and what we’re being entrusted with. In all aspects of customer service, you have to be reliable to maintain relationships and launch new ones.”
Mark Hoyt, Florida
“I’ve been self employed my whole life. Following a successful run in the construction business, I started hauling Corvettes to and from shows. Did some motorcycle business, too. Having one truck meant I had to turn down jobs, when I was committed elsewhere. It was very difficult looking for work all the time, being available when needed, and building a customer base. A couple of years ago, I did some work for Reliable in the Dallas area. They liked how I handled things and offered me a job shortly after. One vinyl wrap later, my truck turned orange, and I’ve been busy ever since. Experience counts. Reliable provided a new trailer, and they trust me carrying high-end vehicles.”
T.J. Briggs, Michigan
“After 27 yeas in the household moving business, I’m thankful I was able to land a job with Reliable. Experience running my own company, interacting with customers, and handling executive-level moves provided the perfect background for dealing with Reliable customers. The types of vehicles we haul and the places we go provide an excellent variety. One day you’re on Wall Street for the launch of a new business venture. A few days later, you’ll be on main street USA delivering a collector Camaro. And then it might be on to accompanying preproduction test vehicles. Two years in, I love everything about this job. It fits my strong desire to work for the best and be the best at everything I do.”
Lori Gaskill, Nevada
“When I signed on with Reliable as a team driver 19 years ago, it was a welcome change. When my associate retired 12 years ago, I went solo. I’m orange through and through. Whatever our customers need, they can count on me to handle their cars with kid gloves. Based on my education and mechanical background, I love working with automotive engineers when I’m on a multi-week, stay-with mission, assisting and moving test vehicles to different locations. I’ve also enjoyed opportunities to provide trackside support for race teams. The volume of work is steady, and the variety means no two days are exactly alike. Although the Reliable driver family has grown substantially in recent years, the small-company atmosphere is still very evident.”
John Klumpp, California
“I grew up watching Reliable trucks in California and Arizona. After my body suggested it was time to move on from 27 years in the executive relocation business, I was ready for a change. The well-maintained trucks with big sleepers told me this company does things right and is concerned about its image. With all of the planned events we do, schedules are somewhat predictable. We have incoming cars that arrive at ports, and corporate accounts have cars that need to be moved on a regular basis. Auctions out West also provide great opportunities. We’re always busy, yet I’m able to schedule home time as needed. I like that our business is very diversified, and we have the trucks and experienced drivers that can handle any customer need.”
Rod & Kris Peterson, Florida
“I’ve been driving 45 years. Humping furniture is a young man’s game; so is handling special products, electronics and trade show exhibits. Kris and I have been team driving with Reliable for 12 years. We handle a lot of manufacturer business hauling prototypes, test vehicles and other top-secret stuff. The money is good, and I love being around cars. We typically choose to stay out about two and a half months and then take a couple of weeks off. Running 300 days a year is not unusual. The dispatchers do a good job accommodating your wishes. Signing on with Reliable was the best decision we ever made.”
Brian Harwood, Arizona
“The Pebble Beach Concours is a high-profile event that means a lot to customers and our company. With more than 100 trucks serving customer needs across the Monterey Peninsula, you can’t drive very far without seeing a Reliable truck. Bob Sellers (VP/COO) likes to call me the mayor of the polo field lot. In addition to working with the Concours customers and their cars I have onboard, I help customers and other drivers by answering questions and solving problems. I have a genuine appreciation for fine automobiles and have traveled extensively to attend various events. For those who wish to drive for Reliable, it helps to have related experience with secured cargo, a strong customer service orientation, a clean record, and at least some mechanical knowledge.”
Automotive Heritage on Display
Throughout Car Week 2017, visitors were treated to an automotive extravaganza unlike any other. For six glorious days, August 15-20, an events-packed calendar captured enthusiasts’ attention leading to Sunday’s grand finale at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Some of the world’s top auctioneers held sway with serious collectors Tuesday through Saturday, day and night. While the total auction sales figure was reportedly down to $318 million from $338 million in 2016, RM Sotheby broke a British car sales record when it moved a 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 Roadster for $22.55 million. Bonhams, meanwhile, set a new McLaren record, moving a 1995 F1 Coupe for $15.6 million. Seasoned observers noted it wasn’t so much that overall prices were down; rather fewer seven- and eight-figure cars were available this year.
More than 500 historic cars helped celebrate the 60th anniversary of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion during four full days of racing, Thursday through Sunday. A packed schedule of marque car shows and automobilia events provided great viewing on Wednesday through Saturday. Elaborate manufacturer exhibits and specially constructed mini-showrooms displayed the latest offerings. Some hosted Ride-n-Drive events.
Sunday’s Big Event
Shortly after guests flooded onto the grounds at 10:30 a.m., the special exhibits and rows of Concours entrants were subjected to spectators’ admiring eyes, creeping along at a snail’s pace. The putting green outside the Pro Shop was home to a collection of manufacturer prototypes and historic race cars, many displayed for the first time. The premier North American celebration of Ferrari’s 70th anniversary graced the 1st fairway.
In the ‘60s, a number of automotive creative geniuses emerged, some from the industry or consultants to it. Others made a living as fabricators, hot rodders or customizers, and a few were simply dreamers. They only had one thing in common: the desire to build something new and very different. A special display near the 18th tee honored their unique creations.
At its peak, owning a coach built on an Isotta Fraschini chassis—this year’s featured marque—was the ultimate symbol of wealth. No other car better represents the flamboyant predepression lifestyle of a wealthy American. The list of notable Roaring Twenties owners included Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Jack Dempsey and William Randolph Hearst. Wealthy American buyers kept the Isotta Fraschini’s automotive division alive through the ‘20s.
Hundreds of Concours entries took to the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links to strut their stuff and compete for top honors in more than 25 classes, and ultimately for the coveted Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Best of Show trophy. A 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer drove away with one of the most prestigious awards in the classic-car world. Owned by collector Bruce McCaw of Bellevue, Washington, the prewar roadster has an illustrious history, including a strong connection to a racing pedigree. And so, down came the curtain on a very successful 2017 Concours that saw more than $1 million donated to Monterey County charities.