Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsCar Reviews
2006 Hertz Shelby GT-H Mustang - Summer Rental
Need to get away for the weekend? We've got an idea.
The recent resurgence in the Shelby brand name no doubt began when the deep-pocket crowd started swinging wallets at the rare and collectible Shelby Mustangs that have, as of late, proliferated various collector-car auctions. With the popularity in both Carroll Shelby himself and his vintage automobiles on the rise, it was only a matter of time before Ford set its sights on the icon in an effort to capitalize on a growing trend.
The time was right for the Blue Oval, too, as its latest ponycar was bulging with classic Mustang lines and begging for someone to give it a vintage makeover.
The performance aftermarket immediately responded to the new Stang, turning out its own variations, most of which were based on the '65 Shelby GT350 Mustang. Obviously, Ford and Shelby had plans in the works, and the Shelby GT-H was born.
Five hundred or so of these cars were built and are available through the Hertz Fun Collection. The Fun Collection is available only at select U.S. cities, though strangely enough, the Big Apple isn't one of them.
We were to take charge of our rental at the Hertz office in the Tampa International Airport location, but our initial rental didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped. Rather than go through Hertz public affairs, we had jumped online and booked the car for five days. We were set to go, or so we thought.
What the Hertz Web site failed to mention was that local renters must bring a utility bill with their home address on it, in addition to the two forms of photo ID and a credit card. If you've flown to the Fun Collection location and have plane tickets in hand, there's no problem, but for some reason, Hertz makes it a little more difficult for its next-door neighbors to rent a GT-H.
The Hertz manager at TIA called the secret Hertz hotline, but the voice on the other end said no rental without the bill. It was an hour trip to the airport to begin with, and despite our rental confirmation (the five-day fee totaled over $700), we left without the Shelby and were fairly pissed off. The Shelby GT-H test deadline came and went, without the car to test and without any fun from the collection.
MM&FF Editor Evan Smith put in a call to Shelby American, which put us in contact with the Hertz Public Affairs office. We booked the Shelby again, this time for four days, and things were quite different. We were wise enough to roll in with our utility bill, and our Shelby's contract was sitting atop the counter. The utility bill never made it out of our back pocket, though the same two Hertz employees who waited on us before once again took care of us.
One thing you'll want to make sure of should you decide to partake in the GT-H fun is that you look over the car very carefully. Good lighting isn't something readily available in a parking garage, so nitpick every detail when you perform the walk-around with the Hertz staff. (More on this later.) The walk-around runs off a component checklist, and the Hertz employees make sure all of the items on the list are on the car. When you return it, you'll perform another walk-around to verify all of the parts from Shelby and Ford Racing Performance Parts are there.
A day later, we were at our local autocross where we entered the Shelby GT-H. The automatic killed some of the fun as it bogged the engine quite a bit in low-speed turns. We tried manual shifting, but it was a sloppy affair, with the transmission and driver often getting confused as to what gear to use and what gear the transmission was in.
Still, we were whole-heartedly impressed with the FRPP Handling Pac. The ride quality was top notch and body roll was kept to a minimum. Here is where turning off the traction control would have been helpful (of course, it's permanently engaged in the Shelby rentals). There were times when we needed the S197 Stang to pivot and drift around a turn, but we couldn't get the car to slide enough to run the course at full song. Not to mention it would have been cool to show off for all of the car nuts there with a little sideways action.
The GT-H was consistently outperformed by a stock WRX and even a couple of mildly modified 5-liter Mustangs, until the end of the day when we realized where we were losing time to the aforementioned challengers. With that sector of the track addressed, the Shelby leapfrogged the three cars by a couple of seconds per lap, though it was still way behind the three turbocharged Mazda Miatas.
A manual gearbox would have no doubt dropped lap times, as would disengaging the traction control, and we're sure the fun factor would skyrocket as well. Hertz doesn't exactly want us or anyone else beating up on its cars, so you can forget the stick tranny. Nevertheless, we found the automatic gearbox to be quite pleasant at the dragstrip.
Of course, the MM&FF staff wouldn't rent a Shelby Mustang and not test its quarter-mile capabilities, so the day after the autocross, we assembled a band of Mustangs and dropped in on our local dragstrip for some fun.
The weather was sunny and hot, with the temperature never diving below 94 degrees. We ponied up for our race ticket and signed the waiver. After driving around the water box, we coaxed a slight chirp out of the stock Pirelli rubber and pulled to the line. For the first pass, we powerbraked the car to about 1,500 rpm and hammered the throttle when the last yellow appeared.
After covering the first 60 feet in 2.01 seconds, we enjoyed the S197's 5R55s five-speed automatic as it banged away at the gears on its own. Once the close-ratio gear cluster got us past the finish line, we had covered the quarter-mile in 13.82 seconds at 99 mph. With the same driving procedure, we backed up this run with a 13.82 at 97 mph with a 2.04 60-foot time.
For the next hit, we opted to flat-foot the throttle and try to flash the torque converter. This, we thought, should help get the heavy S197 Mustang moving a tad quicker-and it did. Our best pass of the day started with a 2.00-second 60-foot time and ended with a 13.76 elapsed time. A 13.93 and a 13.89 followed, but by then we were experiencing mid-to-late-day sun, and in Florida that's the hottest time of the day, so we called time and headed home.
On the hour-and-a-half drive home, we enjoyed the cruising comfort the advanced S197 chassis has to offer. The FRPP suspension gave us an assuring feel as we clipped down the interstate. It really is a very capable yet compliant setup.
The Shelby GT-H's styling is similar to its heritage brethren. It garnered interest nearly everywhere it went, and although the original Rent-A-Racers were available in a couple of different color configurations, black with gold stripes is the only option for the GT-H. Still, we dug the styling, especially the hood and front grille, which really gives this Mustang a look all its own. A different rear spoiler would have been a nice touch, but we're nitpicking, and since all 500 of these GT-Hs will be going up for auction at the end of their service life, it's more likely we will have to build our own version, which may or may not include a new wing.
For more information on renting the Hertz/Shelby GT-H, visit www.hertz.com. The Hertz Fun Collection may also be reserved through travel agents or by calling Hertz toll-free at 800/654-3131. Let the fun begin.
By Diego Rosenberg
Photography by Steve Temple
In Judaism, a boy is considered a man around age 13 after becoming a Bar Mitzvah ("son of commandment"), meaning he is subject to the responsibilities of Jewish law after jumping through some hoops. But is anyone truly a man until he gets to drive a 300-plus horsepower Mustang? Would driving the new Shelby GT-H make me more of a man in God's eyes? I set out to find out during a visit to California for my cousin's celebration.
Coming of Age
I never had an opportunity to have a car like this during my own Bar Mitzvah because nothing put out more than 240 hp at the time (not to mention I didn't have my license yet). Today, we have gotten over the emissions bottleneck that affected our cars for 10-15 years, so it was with great anticipation that I had the opportunity to advance beyond my man-boy existence.
Once I arrived at the Hertz office (and after having received the scare of my life with "Your Grand Marquis is ready"), I was led to a shining black Mustang with gold stripes and-oh, that grille. I was accompanied by two ladies who proceeded to orient me with the special features, such as the hood pins, the serial number, and the special badging (presumably to let me know they knew of the car's features and "Don't you dare return the car without them"). They had a checklist for the visual inspection that consisted of the following, among others:
Pony Logo Front
Hertz Side Badges - Both Sides
Pony Gas Cap
Rear SHELBY Letters
Shelby Doorsill Plate
Engine Security Seal
Shelby Engine Plate
Many of the hi-po items, like the intake and certain suspension pieces, were painted blue just in case I was unsure this was a special car. But it is special, as it has 25 hp more than the standard GT. How was this achieved? Ford Racing Performance Group's FR1 Power Pac. Add the FR3 Handling Pac and you'll be on your way to driving past puberty.
After assuring the Hertz employee that I understood the traction control was rendered inoperable for people like me (not to mention the mandatory auto tranny, natch), I turned the key and heard that familiar rumble that occasionally gives me whiplash when I hear a cool car in the background. Seven miles were on the odometer.
Driving in west Los Angeles after midnight, I found myself passing by a sinister and modified late-model Stang with cop wheels. Not interested in getting in a tussle with one of LA's finest, I tried to avoid eye contact. Then, looking over, I received the universal "hang loose" signal. Is that California's way of saying "cool car," or was it some code to say "let's get it on?" I dunno, but he followed me for a bit more till I turned into a lot and he was gone. Guess I missed a moment of manhood.
The next day, I drove to the northern suburbs of LA. Driving through the freeways gave me a sense of what a comfortable car the Shelby is. Its ride is compliant and not harsh like many other hi-po vehicles. I had no complaints about the seats, but the dashboard is another story. While the backlighting with the choice of colors is cool, the design of the interface renders it as nothing beyond gimmickry. The Sirius radio package was a delight-boy, do I ever miss Howard-but overall the radio was marred by my pet peeve of more buttons than knobs. The hood looks killer from the outside, but from the inside it makes me feel glad I'm as tall as a supermodel. The wheels and rake give the car a look that's totally trick- or whatever lingo Californians are using these days.
Are You Man Enough?
There is never any doubt you're driving a special car (if the $150 daily price/75 miles credit doesn't do it for ya) because of the plate on the dash with Carroll Shelby's signature and car number (in this case, No. 36/500). Under the hood is another plate that has all the special numbers, too. But what's with that hood prop? Why can't Ford add springs to the hinges? I would think a car of this caliber would be avoiding this cheapie pitfall, no? For shame, Fords and the Hon. Mr. Shelby.
Otherwise, interest was high by onlookers, but not as much as I had expected. Perhaps this was because it was Los Angeles, where "me, too" just doesn't cut it. Perhaps it wasn't exotic enough? Doubtful, as the Shelbys available to the public haven't made their presence yet. Chances are, people just didn't realize what they were seeing.
Hair on My Chest?
So what do we have here? A quasi-supercar that's easy to drive? Perhaps knowing they will be snapped up at auction once their tenure is up is the reason why this is so. I was hoping for more of an unbridled, peaky experience, much like the solid-lifter Hertz cars of yore. Instead, I rented a very nice Mustang that will be creamed by the Shelby, soon to be available to the public. But 1 of 500 is something special these days, especially when compared to the late, lamented Cobra ragtops from a few years ago. Will I be man enough for the new Shelby? I think there's little doubt I'll grow some hair when they do come out.