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Moving the Metal – You Can’t Drive There From Here

  • A circa 1916 Jeffery with two tops, summer and winter.

After you get done building them, you have to deliver them. That’s one fact that hasn’t changed in the more than one hundred year history of the motorcar. These days, enormous trans-oceanic roll-on roll-off ships (RORO’s) deposit hundreds of cars at a clip at our ports of entry while American manufacturers load almost endless auto rack trains or huge fleets of high speed diesel trucks to distribute their product all over the continent.

But way back when, cars were often shipped as KDF, or knocked down freight. Whether bound for a foreign or domestic destination, the cargo handling methods of the era often required that an automobile be partially disassembled and individually crated before a carrier would accept it for shipment. Our photos show two examples of that lost craft, and while it was a more common practice when the Jeffrey was new, it was the exception rather than the rule by the time that Nash ready to go. Photos courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse Murphy Library.

A Nash sedan and phaeton from around 1929.

8 responses to “Moving the Metal – You Can’t Drive There From Here

  1. This is really amazing to see. I did not know cars were shipped in this manner. I guess carpenters were in high demand for the auto business in those days.

    But this begs the question. What happened to the crates when the car was delivered? Wonder how many were recycled into other projects?

    • And think of all the time and expense involved to make the crates. I can’t help thinking how they also had to be extremely careful not to drop anything on the cars while building them. On dropped hammer and you had to a big mess on your hands.

  2. Interesting……Carpenters dressed in work clothes & aprons.

    Why did it take auto mechanics 50 years to lose the white coveralls ? They look like misplaced ice cream salesmen.

    Fifty plus years in the wonderful hobby of old cars, just wondering .

    Enjoy your site daily, JB

  3. Many years ago I had the opportunity to interview several people involved with the Chrysler Ghia limousine program. One interesting story relevant to this topic was the crating and shipping of a Ghia limo to an Arab state potentate. Upon arrival at the dock the crate the car was in was offloaded and sat on the dock. Almost as soon as the lashings were removed from the crate, a band of desert bandits descended from behind a nearby hill and descended upon the dock. In short order, all of the wood from the crate was stripped off and carted away by these bandits, leaving the car completely alone. The value of wood in the desert is apparently very high.

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