Thousands of Cadillacs on First-Class Flights from Italy
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.
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.
This 1987 Allante was shipped from California to Australia in a container.