Dashboard Confidential
Not always what it seems

By Dave Sweetman, columnist

Getting to move cool cars around the country for folks has its perks. My favorites are usually those who have scrimped and saved to get the dream car like they had when they were younger. Many of our other clients are famous folks who can sing, dance, throw a ball, or act on film.

One particular move had me go to the estate of a very famous film director in New York for five vehicles going west to their California residence. Upon arrival, I was told that there was a snag and only three cars were going, as one was in the shop and the pickup truck was needed by the “horse groomer.”

I was also informed that I was to maintain their delivery schedule and they would not pay for the truckload rate, as there were now only three. I explained that we would charge for the full use of the truck for the scheduled trip unless I filled the rest of the truck with other cars. We don’t ride around with partials.

With that, the world famous director exploded and told me I would do as he said and honor the “contract.” Except there was no contract as the cars were not signed off on yet, so I called my office, explaining the situation. The director was quite excited and started ordering my dispatcher around. And when told the same as what I said, he demanded to speak with the owner of my company. Bad move.

We were using the speaker phone in the garage and when my boss got on the line, I explained the situation. He then laid down the law and said the shipper was paying the rate or I would hand him back his keys. Mr. Famous then started shouting, “That is not acceptable; do you know who I am?” Another bad move, as the boss is not impressed by money or self-importance.

“Dave? Tell that cheap ass he doesn’t have enough $#&% money to tell me how to run my business!”

“I don’t need to, Frank; you just did; we’re on speakerphone,” I replied.

After another few minutes of the love fest, I politely handed the keys back and walked back to the truck, packed up and left.

Some months later, I was dispatched to pick up cars for the same shipper and questioned if it was going to be another love fest. In fact, the rate was higher, as the Boss figured in a “cheap ass” surcharge for being a pain. Things are not always what they seem.

Another star car adventure worth visiting was a few years ago at our office in New Jersey. I was upstairs turning in paperwork, when the local phone line rang for me. Our shop manager said I was to grab some inventories and come downstairs as Babs wanted to talk with me.

Babs? Who is Babs?

“Just get down here; you’re holding Babs up,” was all I got.

Walking down the driveway, I noticed two wonderful cars, a late ’20s Rolls Royce, long swooping fenders with spare tires on each side, a regal dark maroon and black, and a very tricked-out open top ’32 Ford hot rod. Interesting. 

The driver’s door of the Rolls Royce opened and out stepped Babs. Barbra Streisand herself. She and her friend had driven the cars to our office. Now, I don’t get star-struck and am a highly trained (ahem) professional, but still it was a great thrill to meet her. She was very cordial and friendly. We talked about cars as I did my inventories, I complimented her on her career, and we traded autographs (on the paperwork).

It turned out that she was auctioning off some of her belongings in NYC and was giving the money to charity. We were the carrier for several of her very cool cars.

Things are not always what they seem.

Happy Trails and a very Merry Christmas and a safe, profitable New Year to you all. LL