Duty called as I was asked to visit a customer in Seattle on Monday of this week. I caught an early morning flight to SeaTac and was admittedly giddy to see what Hertz had lined up for me that day. Being a Hertz Gold Card member has its benefits, including the occasional upgrade to a Lincoln Navigator or Nissan Xterra at econo-box prices, so I had hoped that it would be something better than the usual Taurus, but not the faux-Jaguar X-Type Taurus (Jag or not, I have some dignity).
Things were looking up as I approached the Hertz Gold Member counter and encountered not one, but two black-and-gold-striped Hertz Shelby GT350-H Mustangs, hoods up and taunting me with their exposed engine bays (sans engine covers!) The Hertz-stangs , or as I like to call them, Must-Hertzes, were unlocked and open for viewing. They were available, but I had to resist the temptation, as my company 's expense department would probably frown upon the $189.99 rate ($254.65 a day after taxes and airport charges). I can' t even get them to pay for Neverlost at 10 dollars a day; even with Enron-style accounting it would be hard to hide $190 over the estimated 70 it usually costs to pick up a corporate ride at Hertz.
Dejected, I found my name on the wall of business travelers and headed out to space #356, where I found an Ice-Blue 2006 Ford Mustang GT waiting for me. Not bad, at least it wasn' t the V6, so I swung open the door, hit my head on the A-pillar and fell into the bucket seats. After the stars cleared out of my head, I fired up my ride for the day, and was soothed by the initial vroom of the V8 starting up, followed by the subtle idling rumble of a classic ponycar.
As I made the usual adjustments to the seats and mirrors, I took a moment to take in the interior. I liked the retro gauge faces with the big numbers, and the center stack with the stock Ford radio was a familiar sight, as it seems that every Taurus, Freestyle and Mustang I' ve rented all share the same audio parts-bin. The stubby auto shifter took some getting used to, but provided some entertainment in traffic.
What struck me as odd was the choice of interior colors for this particular vehicle. They went with the beige and black color scheme with the cloth seats. The seats were comfortable and supportive, although I thought there was a something wrong with the passenger seat until I saw an empty soda can rolling underneath making all the racket. Hey, as long as I can see through the windows and the seat isn t sticky I m OK if the cleaning crew misses a few items now and then. Anyway, the color scheme was a bit odd because the shade of beige (or taupe, or cream, or whatever the heck it was) was unusual. It reminded me of a cup of coffee with just a bit too much cream, enough to distract me for the drive. I would have gone with a black and grey interior, which I 've seen in other Mustangs I ve rented.
As I maneuvered my way out of the parking garage, I had to restrain myself from gunning the throttle, the Mustang has a nice little torque curve and while it was fun to blip the throttle over the speed bumps I drew some looks of disdain from the Hertz attendants working the lot every time I made the tires squeal. I found my way out of the garage and made my way out into traffic. Well, I didn' t exactly make my way into traffic; more like laid-down-a-strip-of-rubber -and-flew into traffic. The V8 proved itself worthy in the morass of cars as I headed out to the office in Bellevue; the handling was smooth and the overall ride was acceptable for a sporty coupe. The steering was a bit vague, but Seattle s byways seemed a lot smoother than my regular L.A. commute. Perhaps I was concentrating more than I should have on trying to see over the long hood to avoid the potholes I 'm accustomed to.
I reached my destination for the day, performed my dog-and-pony show and packed up for my return trip home. This time, I remembered to duck when sliding my 250 lb frame into the driver 's seat. Getting in and out of certain vehicles for a fat guy like me can be a challenge, I would probably have to make sure I park where I can swing the long door wide open if I 'm handed the keys to another Mustang.
Overall it was an enjoyable ride, worthy of the Hertz Fun Collection . Maybe next time my Gold status will bless me with the Must-Hertz GT-H.
-by Gene Manuel
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