The transportation of particularly valuable automobiles requires great care and a whole lot of special processes. Lufthansa Cargo has gained plenty of experience over decades in this field. This was also demonstrated during the transfer of a 53-year-old BMW 507 roadster to Chicago.
You can tell by the way it looks that it would prefer to drive the distance itself. There’s the sleek, slimline radiator hood, beneath which a 3.2-liter V8 engine with 150 hp lies in wait. There’s the elegant white wall tires, the sporttype steering wheel, the red leather upholstery, the silver-colored dashboard. This classic vehicle, a BMW 507 roadster, year of manufacture 1958, is probably one of the most beautiful sports cars ever built. But the journey that lies ahead of it is definitely too tall an order for car driving – unless, of course, the car is an oceangoing amphibious vehicle: the 507 has to be transported from Hamburg to Chicago.
As if in captivation, the smart BMW stands in position G83 at the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC) in Frankfurt: thick belts span its tires. The car is so tightly lashed that it cannot budge a millimeter on its 16-foot pallet. A weighmaster determines the weight of the shipment: 2,026 kilograms for the loading platform, belts and protective material. Workers push padded white cloths between the gleaming bumper and the lashing straps to make sure that the car isn’t damaged by a single scratch. This is quite simply a real gem on wheels, a rare item of automobile history, of which only about 250 were manufactured.
The BMW was first delivered to Caracas, Venezuela. In 1961 it then returned to Germany. Its current owner now wants to drive the car in the United States. That’s why the vehicle now begins a renewed journey across the Atlantic. The BMW 507 Roadster is flying as Care/td, the Lufthansa Cargo for dangerous goods. Not just that, the sleek and prestigious car will be kept under constant observation because of its price-value. It’s been insured for one million euros. Cars are classed as dangerous goods because their batteries contain acid and their fuel tanks residue of petrol. Lufthansa Cargo took on the 507 in Hamburg after an inspection based on the Dangerous Goods checklist. It was then trucked to Frankfurt. The checklist will stay with the roadster until its delivery in America.
Eight o’clock in the evening. The elegant automobile looks rather forlorn amongst crates and pallets at the LCC. In front of it, forklift trucks whirr and tow vehicles drive to and fro. Men in blue
overalls double-check the lashings and packaging. A processcontroller ensures that the cargo is standing at the right place at the right time. It’s now shortly before midnight. The automobile along with its pallet is towed on a dolly to the security gate. It separates the airfreight staging areas from the apron. Fraport security staff check the shipment: employees hold long mirrors underneath the chassis, wheels and pallet. The roadster is then towed to aircraft position 232. The Boeing 777 of AeroLogic stands brightly illuminated, flanked by cargo containers, service vehicles, tow vehicles, refueling hoses and technicians. Loadmaster Wolfgang Klug from Lufthansa Cargo steps into action. “Things have to go fast now,” he says. “The aircraft is taking off shortly after one. We carry out the last checks before everything moves into the aircraft.” A short while later the main deck cargo loader lifts the BMW to the level of the cargo hold door. The BMW automatically whirrs on its pallet through the mighty hatch, moves around the corner and finds its slot in the front third of the main deck.
The 16-foot pallet takes up exactly two spaces in the 777. The finishing touches, the captain receives a Notoc, short for “notification to captain”, which informs him about the dangerous goods item. At one o’clock at night the cargo doors close, the Boeing rolls through the airport’s sea of lights to the runway. “An exceptionally beautiful car,” says loadmaster Klug, shortly before the end of his working day. “It will definitely make heads turn when it rolls along the American highways.”