Thousands of Cadillacs on First-Class Flights from Italy

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In 1986, Cadillac set out to build a luxury roadster to compete with the Mercedes SL and Jaguar XJS. Cadillac was satisfied with using an American built chassis and engine, but they wanted a design to set them apart from the competition. Who better to turn to than Pininfarina, a legendary coachbuilder in Italy. Cadillac hired Pininfarina to design and manufacture 21,430 bodies during the Allante's 7-year production run. Now all they needed was to figure out the logistical challenge of shipping thousands of cars 4,600 miles to the United States.

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Shipping the Cadillacs in a container by sea was an option. Fit 4 cars in a 40ft container, and wait 24 days for them to arrive. It would take 5,357 containers in total, and a ship with twice the capacity of the largest container ships available at the time.

But Cadillac was accustomed to mass-producing cars as quickly and efficiently as possible. They ultimately chose to ship their cars from Italy using air cargo, cutting transit time down to just 12-hours. Cars were placed in crates of two and loaded in Boeing 747s. With each plane holding 56 cars, over 383 chartered flights from Italy were taken during the 7-year production run. It became to be known as "The world's longest assembly line".

As you can imagine, shipping cars by air proved to be a costly endeavor. Which is why nearly all of the major manufacturers today depend on containers and roro ships to move their cars around the world.

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This 1987 Allante was shipped from California to Australia in a container.


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