In this photo essay, Mac’s Motor City Garage features the special trucks and trailers used to bring new cars from factory to market.
In days gone by, it was a special moment at the dealership when the carrier pulled up to deliver a fresh load of shiny new cars. Everything came to a stop. It wasn’t unusual for the dealer’s entire workforce—from the salesmen to the mechanics to the office staff—to walk out to the curb to look over and critique the latest models and colors. Even the civilians passing by might stop to take in the spectacle.
Here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, we never got over all that. For us, even the car carriers themselves have always held a powerful fascination. It’s time for another look at these special trucks and trailers—especially some of the more unusual examples.
For decades, one very popular rig was the four-place or quad trailer, capable of toting two cars on the floor and another pair of cars on the upper deck. Many featured steel bodywork to provide a bit of style as well as some protection from the elements. Here’s a load of ’55 Buick hardtops on their way to the store behind a short-nose GM tractor.
Automobile Shippers Inc. was a successful Detroit firm that did a very good business with the Motor City automakers, Chrysler brands in particular. Here’s a brood of Chryslers on one of its signature orange rigs—the same color used on the company’s Indy 500 racers. Auto Shippers boss Eugene Casarroll also founded Dual Motors, creator of the Dual-Ghia.
As this 1949 Chevrolet is loaded, we get a glimpse at the trailer interior. Note the riveted, semi-unit construction. The ad signage on the adjoining trailer reads, “Chevrolet—the most beautiful buy of all!”
This setup run by Commercial Carriers Inc. displays postwar high fashion with art deco and streamline moderne elements incorporated in the trailer body. A Dodge cabover pulls the cargo—four ’46 Plymouths.
Naturally, if trucking companies could engineer a way to carry more vehicles than the customary four, their profit margins rose accordingly. However, varying local regulations and handling issues often made that difficult. Here’s one solution. Truck experts say this prototype was built by/for Commercial Carriers, Inc. The Dodge truck cab is relocated directly above the doghouse and engine, providing a few more feet of cargo floorplan.
CCI’s perfected version (if we can call it that) of the Dodge-based, custom-made rig was named the Skyscraper. Two cars rode on the truck chassis with another three on the tag-along trailer.
Here’s another CCI-Dodge Skyscraper. If nothing else, down-the-road visibility must have been excellent.
This unique job is the DeArco Auto Transport, a joint venture of Ford-controlled Dealers Transportation, Inc. and the GM-centric Arco Auto Transportation. Based on a Ford F8 chassis and cab, it carried three vehicles on the main chassis and two more in the articulated rear section.
The corrugated metal bodywork and radically elevated cab give the DeArco an unusual look, to say the least. However, articulated back half aside, the chassis was fairly conventional with a five-speed gearbox and two-speed rear axle.
The same can’t be said for this Convoy Transport rig—it’s a strange ranger in every way. Where one would expect to find the engine, under the cab floor between the front wheels, there’s a cuddy cabin arrangement with a sleeper. A horizontal 200 hp diesel is mounted amidships in bus fashion more or less, driving tandem rear axles.
Note the lack of any grille opening in the front of the modified cab. A pair of radiators are nestled behind the front wheels. In this photo, seven Nashes are stowed on the rig’s hinged racks. Cost to build the custom-made carrier was said to be $21,000; number built (beyond this single example) is unknown.
The 1956 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser show car got its own single-car carrier to roll around in, with clear sides to show off the concept’s flashy looks. The big Ford C-series cabover tractor has been treated to some custom features as well, including a chrome grille and front bumper and painted whitewalls.
Here’s another carrier operated by Convoy Transport, but far more conventional than the mid-engined setup above. Three 1960 Falcons ride on the truck chassis with five more on the trailer.
By the early ’60s the basic pattern for modern car carriers had emerged, as shown by this 1962 Chevrolet cabover tractor pulling a fifth-wheel trailer. Charlton Transport of Oshawa, Ontario, the home of a mammoth GM plant, operated this rig, which carries a load of new Chevies and curiously, one Oldsmobile.