With the passing of Carroll Shelby, the Hertz car-hire people remember his mid-1960s GT-350 Mustangs and the Rent a Racer programme.
Back in 1965, Shelby's creative general manager Peyton Cramer contacted Hertz to see if they were interested in a run of special cars, maybe 100, for its Hertz Sports Car Club members. Having discovered that the company had made its own cars at one time in the 1920s, painted black with gold trim, Cramer cleverly suggested a black and gold Mustang to be called the GT350-H. Hertz loved it. To the tune of 1000 cars.
The Shelby/Hertz get-together meant that soon you could rent a Shelby GT350 from them for $17 a day and 17 cents a mile.
Shelby will always be remembered as a driving force behind Hertz's 1966 Rent a Racer programme, and 40 years on, Hertz's custom-made Shelby GT-H showcase car.
Shelby and Hertz Corporation developed a plan to provide high- performance, special-edition Shelby Mustangs for rental customers who were also serious car enthusiasts.
The majority of 1966 Hertz Shelbys were black, but some 200 of them were in other Shelby GT350 colours.
Built at Shelby American's Los Angeles airport facility alongside the regular GT350s, the Hertz cars had a 306-horsepower (229-kilowatt) Cobra 289 4.7-litre engine, while the hottest standard Mustang 289 at the time only put out 271hp (202kW). The cars also got Koni shocks, traction bars, a scooped fibreglass bonnet, and Plexiglas rear quarter-windows.
The Hertz cars also had gold "GT350-H"-labelled side stripes and wheel-centre caps emblazoned with the Hertz Sports Car Cub logo.
Some Hertz cars were equipped with power brakes booster, while those without power brakes had a sticker that read: "This vehicle is equipped with competition brakes. Heavier than normal brake pressure may be required."
Thus, Hertz gave the public access to cars which would otherwise have been confined to the racetrack. Today, the story of the Shelby/Hertz Rent a Racer is part of automotive history and surviving Shelby GT350H Mustangs are among the most sought-after collector cars in the world.
In a throwback to the Rent a Racer programme, Hertz, Shelby and Ford partnered again in 2006 to produce a special run of performance-modified Ford Mustang GTs designated the Shelby GT-H, available for rent exclusively through Hertz. About 500 units were available at select Hertz airport locations.
"Like the original Hertz cars, the Ford Shelby GT-H will be fun to drive," Carroll Shelby said at the 2006 launch.
"We started with a Mustang and modified it with some Ford go- fast parts and gave it a distinct look for Shelby-style driving. Whoever gets the opportunity to rent one of these unique cars will get an experience of a lifetime."
Hertz chairman and chief executive Mark P Frissora says the genesis of his company's focus on driving performance and fun can be traced directly to the partnership formed with Carroll Shelby more than 45 years ago.
"Carroll partnered with us on the Hertz Rent a Racer programme, with the introduction of the Shelby GT350H, and in 2006 [to celebrate 40 years since the first partnership] we teamed again to introduce the Shelby GT-H," Frissora said.
"An automotive visionary and a true gentleman, Carroll had a passion for making high-powered driving performance available to all Americans.
"We at Hertz will ensure Carroll's impact on the US automotive industry and legacy lives on."
Rick Kopec of the Shelby American Automobile Club says the total number of production 1966 Shelby GT350s between September 1965 and July 1966 was 2378.
Non-rental fastback GT350s numbered 1368, and convertibles just four. A single Paxton supercharged road car was built and four special fastback drag- racing cars.
The Hertz cars included two prototypes, and 999 fastbacks.
Originally 100 four-speed manual cars were ordered by Hertz, but this all changed after the delivery of 85 units following complaints of burned-out clutches from the San Francisco Hertz agency who blamed the hills.
-Fairfax NZ/Hertz Corporation
- The Press
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