You won't find any white base-model Impalas here.
Hertz's history goes all the way back to 1918 when it was founded as Rent-a-Car Inc. in Chicago, Illinois. Its first fleet was made up of 12 Ford Model T cars, which expanded within five years to 600 rental vehicles. John D. Hertz, the owner of Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company, bought Rent-a-Car in 1923 and renamed it as the Hertz Drive-Ur-Self System. Just three years later, Hertz sold the company to General Motors. Since then, it has been purchased by John Hertz again, and then Ford before falling under the control of the Clayton, Dubilier & Rice consortium. Now that the rental-car giant has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the future of Hertz is unclear.
Over the decades, Hertz has become an enormous global company. For publicity and to attract more customers, it started playing with specialty cars in 1963. Later in the 1960s, Hertz also introduced its legendary "Rent-a-Racer" program, which was recently resurrected in 2016. Now that we may be saying goodbye to Hertz, we thought we should pay tribute by highlighting our favorites of the special cars Hertz has rented to customers.
Hertz bought just a handful of split rear window Corvettes via Luby Chevrolet to rent to skiers in Denver Colorado. All were white with a red interior and with a 5.3-liter V8 engine and a two-speed automatic transmission. Hertz outfitted them with ski racks and snow tires, as well as its own badging. Only ten are thought to exist still, and this one sold through Barrett-Jackson last year for $132,000.
In 1966, Hertz brought in Carroll Shelby to develop an exclusive version of his Ford Mustang GT350. Exactly 1,001 were built, mainly with automatic transmissions to go with their V8 engines that were tuned to 306 horsepower. As you can imagine, the Shelby cars had a hard life as rentals, and that's the ones that weren't stolen and stripped for the Shelby parts to go on regular Mustangs. One of the survivors ended up in the movie War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Stephen Spielberg. The car was borrowed for the paint scheme, not realizing it was the original Hertz colors. Spielberg fell in love with the car, and Cruise located and bought an original for him after filming wrapped up.
History is quiet on any cool cars Hertz had in the 1970s. In the 1980s, however, the rental company secured 50 of the limited-edition Mustang SVO to revive the Rent-A-Racer program. The 1985 Mustang SVO came with a turbocharged four-cylinder and was only available with a manual transmission. Unusually, that meant Hertz could only offer them to customers willing to row their own gears. Hertz, reportedly, commissioned them in the Sage Green paint in the pictures below for 10 of its models.
Ford and Carrol Shelby got the band back together in 2003, just in time for the next generation Mustang arriving in 2005. In 2006, everything lined up for a 40th anniversary Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 H. The Hertz version got a few extra ponies over the "standard" Shelby GT, making 325-horsepower from its 4.6-liter V8 sitting under the hood. The Shelby GT came with a manual transmission, but the Hertz version only came with an auto. The following year, Hertz offered a convertible version of the Mustang Shelby GT350 H.
General Motors joined the sports car rental fun in 2008, and as part of the "Fun Club" line Hertz was offering. Initially, 500 went into the fleet, and the Corvette ZHZ came with a couple of modifications. The 436-hp, 6.2-liter V8 was stock, but with the optional dual-mode exhaust that Hertz ordered. It featured larger brakes with cross-drilled brake rotors, Goodyear Eagle F1 EMT tires, and the option for Magnetic Selective Ride Control ticked. The styling you see in the pictures is specific to Hertz. That includes Velocity Yellow paint with a black racing stripe and seven-spoke chrome wheels on the outside. Inside is a Hertz specific console armrest with ZHZ embroidery, custom floor mat embroidery, and Hertz emblems on the fenders.
Europeans got a treat, if they could afford it, in 2012. The midweek day rate to rent McLaren's first modern supercar was around $1,800. That rate got people into a genuine performance monster, making 592 hp and featuring a racing-derived MonoCell carbon fiber chassis. It was available through the rental company's partnership with Premiere Velocity, which made other high-end cars available, too. In 2012, the list included the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Bicolore, Porsche Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet, Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes S Class Brabus, Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster, and the McLaren MP4. All of them are a fantastic, if expensive, way to get from the airport to the hotel and then go exploring with it.
The Ford Focus and Fiesta ST-H were also both a European market-only deal. The little hot hatches were optioned with Recaro seats and the black and gold paint job inspired by the GT350 H models. They only came with manual transmissions, which may explain why they didn't make it to the US. In Europe, the 2014 Fiesta ST topped out at 197 hp, and the Focus ST made 252 hp. Both cars epitomized fun, and although Ford may have discontinued the models stateside, they'll still go down as the most fun you could have with so little power. The fact that you could rent them meant you didn't have to compromise your lifestyle to see what all the fuss was about.
What the US did get in 2014, however, was the Penske Mustang GT. It was offered as part of the "Adrenaline Collection," which also featured the regular Mustang GT, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Camaro SS, and Dodge Challenger R/T. The Penske Mustang GT took advantage of Ford's performance catalog to include a new exhaust system, air intake, ECU tuning, Brembo brakes, a 3.55 rear axle ratio, Recaro seats, and the gauge pod from the Boss 302 Laguna Seca. You'll also notice the front end of the Penske GT uses styling from the Boss 302, while the rear end was inspired by the GT500. Only 140 were made, and all but ten had automatic transmissions. The manuals went to Hertz executives and VIPs.
The 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT-H wasn't actually a Shelby GT350, but it was no slouch either. The stock Mustang GT was warmed up with a performance exhaust and carbon fiber front and rear spoilers, and the Ford Racing Handling Pack was added for extra competence. That included lowering springs with stiffer shocks, larger anti-roll bars, and a staggered wheel setup. The Shelby parts were the hood, and Shelby badges and doorsill plates. While it was still a great rental, it wasn't anything like the Rent-A-Racers of old. The rental agreement even forbade the customer from entering a "speed test, speed contest, race, rally, speed endurance contest or demonstration."
Some of the cars available through Hertz over the years were a little disappointing, like the 100th Anniversary Corvette ZR1 the company had in its fleet. That was purely a visual edition. However, the Hertz-Hendrick Motorsports cars are something special. The bespoke Camaro SS came with a cold air intake and exhaust, giving a 25-horsepower increase over stock, pushing output to 480 hp. The ZL1 is the real beast, though. Only 24 exist, all equipped with a larger supercharger from Callaway for the LT4 V8. The resultant 750 hp will, according to Callaway and forbidden to test in the rental agreement from Hertz, lay down an 11.0-second quarter-mile time.