Imagine driving through a storm so bad, semi-trucks blow onto their sides in front of you.
Imagine also that you are towing a trailer, and inside that trailer is a $2 million Ferrari.
The spotlight at the 15th annual La Jolla Concours d’Elegance — Friday, April 12 to Sunday, April 14 in Scripps Park — will be on exotic cars. But those cars won’t arrive there by magic. Most won’t even get driven there by their owners. This is where the unsung hard work of people like Alfredo Garcia comes in.
In his 33 years on the job, Garcia, 57, has braved not only fatal weather events — like the one mentioned above, which happened en route to a Las Vegas car show in 2003 — but a mob of 1,000 hysterical teenagers and even an arrest to make his appointed rounds.
“I love what I do,” Garcia told the Light as he prepared to transport an exotic car to its owner’s Rancho Santa Fe home from Mira Mesa, where a clear outer protective wrap was just installed.
“Start straightening it out!” Garcia called out to Evan Rowe, owner of Auto Armour, who pulled the white 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid ever so gingerly into Garcia’s 24-foot trailer. (This was actually Garcia’s second transport of this typically busy day. Earlier, he delivered a 1965 Ford Mustang to its owner in San Jose.)
People who own seven-figure cars don’t drive them on the freeway for fear of damaging them, Garcia explained. And they won’t leave them in the hands of strangers, either — or at least with people whom their good friends haven’t recommended.
“There’s a lot of trust involved,” he said, which translates into a lot of work for Garcia, who has so far scheduled three transports to and from the La Jolla Concours — a Ferrari from Rancho Santa Fe, a Duesenberg from the Petersen Car Museum in L.A. and a Porsche from San Diego.
But let’s get to those crazy stories of his ...
Batty for cars
Garcia said he once worked for two business partners who owned one of only three functional Batmobiles produced for the 1989 movie “Batman.” But his former car trailer was uncovered, so when he would ship the vehicle to events, he recalled, “people would stop on the freeway, get their old-school cameras out and almost crash.” At some 1990 grand opening in Yuma, Arizona, Garcia recalled, he got mobbed, Beatlemania-style, by “a thousand crazy kids” who had heard the vehicle was on its way.
But Garcia’s craziest Batmobile story was the Caped Crusader-like getaway he made when he was later hired to steal the same vehicle from out of the garage where it was stored. Actually, it only felt like stealing. A side door to the garage was open and he was hired to do it by a court. (The two partners had gotten a business divorce and were fighting over custody of the Batmobile.)
It turns out, however, that you can’t start a Batmobile quietly — especially at midnight. So just about every neighbor in that Lemon Grove cul de sac — all of whom knew what was in that garage — called the authorities.
“By the time I got the Batmobile to my truck,” Garcia said, “I had sheriffs there, I had highway patrol, I had marshals.”
Believe it or not, the Batmobile “theft” was not Garcia’s arrest story. (He produced his court order to the assembled authorities in Lemon Grove and was allowed to drive off.) The arrest happened while Garcia was driving a car to Wilt Chamberlain in 2003. The retired basketball legend had sent Garcia out to trade his Lamborghini Countash, along with some cash, for a Ferrari located in Denver.
While driving back through Four Corners, Garcia was stopped by a state trooper who was curious about the car, got up on his bed, opened the hood and called in the VIN number.
“He says, ‘You’re going to have you follow me into town,’” Garcia recalled, explaining that the couple who owned the Ferrari had just gone through a nasty divorce where the wife called it in as stolen. “Back then, it took a long time for the computer systems to update.”
Garcia spent the night in jail.
Chamberlain was introduced to Garcia through a small network of celebrity car-collectors, a network which has allowed Garcia to work for more household names than he can recall — or than he wants to. (While he is reluctant to name-drop, he does let slip that Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld are “the nicest.”)
More than moving
Transporting cars is just one of many services Garcia provides through his concierge company, Autos Express. He also inspects the restoration of cars for accuracy and quality, preps cars for judging, and provides track support and mechanical assistance for racing events.
“I learned all that stuff growing up,” said Garcia, whose family moved to San Diego from Mexico when he was 5 years old. “I grew up building my own car at Mission Bay High School.”
Years ago, Garcia had his own shop but, he said, “that was too much overhead.”
“I’m a car guy, I’ve always loved being around cars,” said Garcia, who drives a 1994 Porsche 968 and has his own car collection.
“It’s not anything like the people I work for, though!” he said, laughing.
La Jolla Concours d’Elegance
The 15th annual weekend event (benefiting La Jolla Historical Society and several other community nonprofit partners) kicks off 7-10 p.m. Friday, April 12 with the Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty Concours Social Club cocktail party at The LOT, 7611 Fay Ave. Tickets $100.
The Aston Martin San Diego, VIP “Steampunk” event is 5-9 p.m. Saturday, April 13 at Scripps Park, La Jolla Cove. Tickets $200.
The showcase of 150 uniquely exotic automobiles, runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 14 at Scripps Park. Advance general admission tickets $65; day of show $75.
Events tickets: lajollaconcours.com