When it comes to driving, there’s nothing Alan and Karen Wrobel can’t put in motion.
The Florida-based husband-and-wife team have been working behind the wheel for Reliable Carriers, headquartered in Michigan, for the past decade. Their unique cargo — luxury vehicles and rare automobiles — makes for one of the more unique jobs in the long-haul industry.
“We do get to do a lot of cool cars. Name any car you wish you could have driven or ever get to sit in — I’ve sat in it and have driven it,” Karen said.
From high-end exotics to priceless antiques to concept cars so secret they’d have to kill you if they told you about them, the Wrobels have built a catalog of fascinating stories out of their trucking career.
Like the time they delivered a shiny ride to entertainer-turned-car collector Jay Leno.
“We delivered Jay Leno his new GT, along with the winning Lemans car,” Karen said. “The Ford execs went down to see Jay Leno’s garage. We spent two days with him, and got a picture with him and got the tour.”
“He’s nicest guy ever,” chimed Alan. “He is as he appears on TV. He has a huge warehouse, and we’re sitting there, and he just walks out, ‘Hey, guys! Come on in!’”
Delivering cars that cost more than most homes — or even a whole cul-de-sac’s worth of homes — takes teamwork. That’s something the Wrobels have down to a science. Many of the cars are built for looks and speed, not comfort, which provides an immediate challenge for a husky guy like Alan. Because of this, Karen is the designated driver, loading the flashy rides on and off the specially designed transport trailer.
“I’ve driven so many cool cars,” Karen said when asked to name a favorite. “I still love the ’60s and ’70s muscle cars. Those are really fun. I have to be very careful when they’re in the belly of the trailer, because when you go to back out, with some of the torque they have on the rear-end you have to be real fluttery with that. You can definitely fishtail those cars. But I just love them.
“The 1930s bigger ones like Chryslers and Duesenbergs and things like that, those drive so sweet, and they are such comfortable cars. I like those,” she continued.
Throughout the three months the couple will stay on the road at a time, Karen routinely sets a number of “firsts” — as in, the first person to drive a given make or model on its way to its owner. That should give you an idea of just how exclusive some of these autos are.
“Some of these cars are ‘invitation only.’ You have to be a known buyer of certain brands, and you get invited to purchase it,” Karen said. “Last year I got to see a McLaren Speedtail. That’s a unique car, and you have to be invited just to own one. Not everybody even gets that chance, but I got to drive it.”
Having handled some of the rarest and most expensive cars on the planet as long as they have, you’d think the couple wouldn’t be impressed by much anymore.
That’s not so, says Alan, which may explain their success in this line of work.
“We treat everything the same,” he said. “Whether somebody has your basic Chevy or whatever it is, it gets the same treatment as when we’re taking some supercar up to a luxury resort.”
“I still get nervous, especially if somebody tells me the value of (the car) and if it’s one of a kind,” Karen said. “In fact, I’d rather not even know up front what the value is, because we treat all the cars the same. As soon as you start saying this is a $3.5 million car, I’m like, ‘Ahhh, OK. Now I’m a little more nervous about it.’
“One time I actually got shaky knees,” she explained. “We were picking up a Koenigsegg down in Miami, and it was being filmed at this high-end exotic car place. There were like eight different camera crews there, and I had to take this car — which had a weird starting procedure — down the road because we only could park the truck on the road. There was this one-way street, so I had to drive it around the block. I came around the corner to come behind my trailer and I didn’t realize there would be all these cameras in all different directions pointed at me. I’m like, ‘Don’t stall it! Don’t stall it!’ That’s all I could think was, ‘Don’t stall this car.’”
Neither of the Wrobels started out hauling such glitzy cargo. Connecticut-born Alan started out driving moving vans and trucks, a career that brought him to Florida in 1997. Karen, a native New Yorker who grew up in Florida, started in the industry as a mechanic. Sharing a mutual love for motorcycles, the two met at a bike night and have been inseparable since. In the beginning, Alan even hired on as a driver with syrup manufacturer Monin, where Karen worked in the warehouse, to be closer.
“I told her I wanted I wanted her to live with me on the road,” Alan said. “When we both ended up at Monin, that’s when an opportunity came up for us to team drive.”
The pair married in 2006, in between cycling through a few trucking companies and hauling everything from chicken to produce to carpet along the way. They signed on with Reliable in 2012.
“This is definitely the best trucking company we’ve ever worked for. It’s just been wonderful working for them,” Alan said. “We joke that we bleed orange to match their big orange trucks. We’re very, very happy here.”
What adds to the job satisfaction are the dream cars they get to deliver, even more so than the super high-end, rare or collectible models. Seeing the face of an owner as they take possession of a car for which they’ve waited their whole life — regardless of make, model or price tag — makes for the most special deliveries of all, the Wrobels said.
“I love this line of work because our customers are happy to see us. We’re moving people’s dreams,” Karen said. “There are times somebody will wait 30 years for the car they’ve been saving up for and always wanted. One time we came to this small town in Iowa and the whole town saw the big orange truck coming. Everybody started coming up, because they knew who was getting their car. It was so cool.
“This guy beat Vietnam, he beat cancer and he was getting his dream car, a Cobra,” she added. “When we delivered that (car), the townsfolk came out to watch him get it. He even said, ‘I can’t wait to get my first speeding ticket with it.’ A lot of people get a collector’s car and they store it. He was planning on driving it and enjoying it. It’s neat that we can bring that dream to somebody. It makes it fun to do this job.”
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.