GERRARDSTOWN, W.VA. — Bruce E. Hall is a logistical magician who in the past 25 years has overseen the delivery of classic, exotic and high-end vehicles worth millions of dollars up and down the East Coast.
Hall’s family-owned company, Applewood Motorcar Transport at 210 McGuire Lane in Gerrardstown, W.Va., is currently the largest hauler of Lamborghinis in the U.S. The Italian sports cars and SUV range in price from $199,800 for a Huracan to $402,995 for an Aventador.
With clients expecting their prized, expensive vehicles to be delivered on time and unblemished, the pressure to meet deadlines is unrelenting.
“Tow logistics are my nightmare,” said Hall, 71, who skillfully manages a fleet of six trailers and eight specialty trucks that are driven by a cadre of professionals committed to providing flawless service.
Sitting next to his office’s huge computer screen, Hall plots routes and uses GPS for the exact location of any driver at any moment while personally answering his frequently ringing company cellphone.
“He understands my business,” said Mike Gassman, 53, owner of Gassman Automotive Products in Waynesboro, which restores, services and sells British sports cars like Triumph, Jaguar, MG, Lotus, and other classics like Porsche and Ferrari.
“When I have a car that has to be somewhere in four days and he doesn’t have a hauler going there, I just say figure it out and he does,” said Gassman.
“He always answers his phone, and if I leave a message, he calls me right back. I don’t like dealing with conglomerates,” said Gassman. “I have never been to his facility but it feels like he has only one truck, one customer and it is me.”
Gassman said Applewood has hauled “$5,000 MGs, $25,000 Triumphs and a $2.7 million Ferrari and everything in between” for him.
“The stuff that leaves here is in impeccable condition and requires impeccable service,” Gassman said. “He is very reliable, very high care and I couldn’t ask for anything more, and I am not the easiest person to deal with.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the people we deal with are just super,” said Hall, conceding that some are a little “weird” and there are a few “who have made it and want you to know they have made it and you haven’t.”
Hall said he values his eight company drivers for their attitude, professionalism and how they take care of the cars they haul.
“Most drivers with a CDL (commercial driving license) can drive a truck,” he said, noting in Applewood’s 14 years there has been only one insurance claim when a trailer was rear-ended by a pickup truck, totaling the trailer and the car inside.
Applewood carries a $2 million insurance policy for cargo.
“You have to be careful,” said Applewood driver Mike Evans, 60, of Berekley Springs, W.Va., while waiting recently outside Pittsburgh to meet an owner receiving a Mercedes-Benz.
“It’s a tough job getting cars covered and loaded without a scratch,” Evans said. “You need eyes in front of you and around the corner, there are a lot of idiot (drivers) out there.”
Applewood picks up Lamborghinis as they arrive at Baltimore harbor. Hall said he expects to haul “about 1,000” before the end of the year. Applewood hauled 1,600 vehicles of all makes last year, and he expects to haul 1,800 to 2,000 this year.
The Lamborghini connection came through Steve Barney, 76, a Lamborghini dealer in 2003 who hired a hauler to deliver two Lamborghinis “and the truck was missing for two weeks. The driver went to visit his girlfriend,” he said.
Barney then hired Hall, who was operating his transport service in Stephens City with one specialty hauler.
“He turned his operation into several trailers,” said Barney, who no longer is a Lamborghini dealer. He now owns Sports Auto Inc., a used car dealership in Summerfield, N.C.
“I have exotic and high-line cars and a 10-year old Bentley, fifteen 10-year-old Porches, a few Ferraris and the occasional Audi or BMW,” said Barney. “When I go to an (auto) auction in Florida or Pennsylvania, I will call Bruce.”
“He has probably hauled more than 500 cars for me, all up and down the East Coast, and we have never had a problem. I can’t remember even one scratch,” Barney said.
Nationwide, Hall said there are 12 to 18 competitors, with Reliable Carriers Inc., a national firm, larger than all the others combined.
“A major difference is we own both the truck and the trailer, do our own maintenance and the drivers are employees,” Hall said. “Other companies use privateers, drivers who own their own rigs.”
If a problem occurs affecting delivery, Hall said he immediately contacts his clients.
And there can be issues just starting transported cars.
“There can be challenges with some of the older ones,” said Kevin Sharp, 53, of Capon Bridge, W.Va., who drove a delivery truck for 24 years and has been driving for Applewood the past four years.
He was recently hauling a Rolls Royce Ghost, a BMW and a Jeep Wrangler to Florida.
“I love it,” he said. “You get to meet some interesting people, and I love seeing old cars and new ones, too, as far as that goes. We get to drive them on and off the truck. Sometimes they start and sometimes they don’t.”
‘I like what I do’
Hall said he has transported a McLaren, a British-made luxury, high-performance sports car, that was “insured for $30 million,” and he once hauled a 2014 $4.8 million Lamborghini Veneno, one of only nine made. The same car is being sold for resale today online for $9.5 million, never having been driven.
He has delivered cars to collectors, one of whom had a ramp underground to his hidden multi-car garage and another with an automotive carousel loaded with cars in his garage.
Hall is not tempted by the exotics he hauls, driving a 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup as his personal daily vehicle, equipped with a Cummings Engine, which he requires in all his vehicles.
The car he liked driving most is the Lotus Cortina, a high-performance box-shaped sports car made between 1963-1970 and known for superb handling and cornering.
These days, Hall proudly takes his pristine 1972 BMW to Concours d’Elegance events, where prestigious vehicles are displayed, judged, and often bought and sold.
“I paid $4,700 for it in 1972 and have twice been offered $200,000 for it,” said Hall.
A West Virginia Institute of Technology graduate with degrees in both business and mechanical engineering, Hall said he has always been a “car guy,” racing midget cars at 9 years old, later snowmobiles, drag racers and go-carts, before a stint as a developer.
He has had a collector car restoration business, owned a retail store and in 1997 began his transport business in Stephens City before moving to Gerrardstown in 1998.
“If you would have told me 15 years ago I would be doing this, I would have thought you were drunk,” Hall said with a laugh. ”I’m not desiring to get bigger and I have no plans to get smaller. I like what I do and the industry I am in.”