Miles Cook
August 21, 2006
Photos By: Courtesy of Shelby American

It's 1966 all over again, only this time, it's even better. How so? Forty years later--almost to the day--Shelby, Ford Motor Company, and the Hertz Corporation have again joined forces for a modern interpretation of the ultimate Mustang rental car.

Is the new '06 Hertz Shelby GT-H better than a '66 GT350H? In some ways, it's much better, mainly from a performance standpoint. Is it more collectible than a '66 Hertz Shelby? Not yet, but give it a few years. With only 500 scheduled for production, there's a good chance these new rentals will gain a true collectible following once their rental stints are complete and enthusiasts like us can own one.

Enough questions: Now it's time for some answers. And we've got 'em in the form of an exclusive look at the assembly at the Shelby facility in Las Vegas, along with a detailed examination at what sets an '06 Hertz Shelby GT-H apart from a standard Mustang GT.

Part of what we love about the car is its subtle execution. It's far more low-key than most other specialty Mustangs on the market these days. Not to worry, of course, as plenty of cool updates are a part of the Hertz Shelby program. But frankly, part of what's great about the car is what hasn't been done. The standard 17x8-inch five-spoke wheels and stock 235/55ZR17 Pirelli tires are a good example. With the car's lowered stance, they look good as opposed to over the top with 20-inch tires. Some of the concessions are certainly because these cars are destined for rental fleets, but the by-product is less bling and more function.

All undercarriage work is done on the numerous hoists at the Shelby facility, including suspension-component installation.

While the car is distinct, standing out even on the flashy Las Vegas strip, it's a tasteful new look that nicely accentuates the new S197 Mustang's super-clean retro lines. Starting with black premium-package GTs, the Hertz Shelby transformation begins with a Shelby-exclusive hood that incorporates a subtle 1-inch bulge in the center with a scoop near the front. A pair of hood pins are also added. An updated front fascia, slated for use on the '07 California Special Mustang GT, is added, along with a brushed-aluminum grille that eliminates the foglights found on all other '05-'06 Mustang GTs. As a tribute to the '66 Hertz cars, a running pony is subtly placed on the far driver-side of the front grille. In what we consider good taste, the only add-ons to the side of the car are a pair of scoops, also scheduled to be used on the '07 California Special.

As for emblems, restraint is again a part of the overall vibe. This includes removing the rear "GT" cap on the trunk lid for the standard V-6 cap with a running horse. The trunk lid is also home to a set of vintage-look letters that spell out "Shelby" just above the Pony cap. The front fender-mounted GT emblems are jettisoned in favor of a pair of low-key side emblems that simply say "Hertz."

Of course, no Hertz Shelby, '66 or '06, would be complete without the gold stripes running over the hood, roof, and trunk. There's also a pair of gold rocker stripes with the words "Shelby GT-H." All in all, it's an understated and refined appearance package that many aftermarket designers and stylists could take a hint or two from.

Moving inside, there's not much to improve upon. The GT-Hs have a dash plaque embossed with the Shelby serial number and a set of trick-looking door-sill plates that read "Hertz Shelby GT-H."

Make no mistake, the '06 GT-H isn't just a decal-and-emblem job. Several bits are added that easily make them the quickest automatic-transmission Mustangs in a long time; likely faster, in fact, than the '03-'04 Mach 1s equipped with automatics.

The main player in the mix here is Ford Racing's Power Pack (PN M-2005-FR1). It includes a 90mm cold-air kit, a flash tuner for the Spanish Oak electronics, a pair of T409 stainless-steel mufflers with 4-inch-diameter tips, and a Ford Racing oil filter. Shelby is on record saying the setup is good for another 25 hp on top of a regular Mustang GT's 300hp output.

Another example of having less bark but more bite is the use of performance gearing. This is easily achieved by swapping in 8.8-inch rearends with 3.55 gears originally destined for manual-transmission cars in place of the 3.31-geared 8.8s that come with the automatic cars. Along with the rearend swaps, the entire construction of these cars is set for Shelby's world headquarters facility just outside Las Vegas, Nevada.

These days, cars that go fast only in a straight line don't cut it. As such, the Hertz GT-Hs have an effective suspension upgrade in the form of the Ford Racing Handling Pack (PN M-2005-FR3). It includes a pair of front struts, a set of springs that lower the car about 1.5 inches, a set of larger antisway bars, and an underhood strut-tower brace. The package provides the car with the ideal road-race stance, and the ride is only a little firmer than a stock Mustang GT.

So the question remains: Where can you get one? For now, you can't buy one. You'll have to wait a year or so until Hertz is done with them as rentals, and the odometers are in the 16,000-18,000-mile range. Then the buying frenzy will commence, and sources tell us that Ford dealers will have first crack at the cars.

All new automatic Mustang GTs come with 3.31 gears, while the manual-trans cars come with 3.55s. Shelby swaps the 3.55-geared 8.8-inch axles into the five-speed automatic GT-Hs to make for a lively combination.

But the good news is you can rent one right now for somewhere in the range of $70-$100 a day. And where can you rent one? Check out the cities we've listed to have your own little slice of Hertz Shelby rent-a-car legend for a day or a week. You'll then discover that a rental car from a mainstream agency doesn't have to be boring. It is, in fact, more fun than ever--at least since 1966.

Where You Can Rent
Not every city will have the Shelby GT-H available at the local airport Hertz counter, but some of the larger hubs and resort destinations in nine states will be receiving fleets. If you have to drive (or fly) some distance to get seat time in one of these future collectibles, we assure you, the effort will be worth it. Here's where to go:
Arizona: Phoenix
California: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco
Colorado: Denver
Florida: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach
Hawaii: Honolulu, Maui
Massachusetts: Boston
Nevada: Las Vegas
Oregon: Portland
Washington: Seattle

Step By Step

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Mump_0608_hertz_03_z 2006_hertz_shelby_gt_h_mustang Mump_0608_hertz_21_z 2006_hertz_shelby_gt_h_mustang Mump_0608_hertz_08_z 2006_hertz_shelby_gt_h_mustang
In numerous areas around the vast Shelby compound, black premium-package '06 Mustang GTs are stacked like cordwood waiting for the GT-H transformation.
Mump_0608_hertz_07_z 2006_hertz_shelby_gt_h_mustang
The Shelby-spec hoods, which are the largest single cosmetic change, are prepped, sanded, primered, and painted in-house.
Mump_0608_hertz_09_z 2006_hertz_shelby_gt_h_mustang
At right are two rows of seven GT-Hs already equipped with stripes and almost ready to go. The extensiveness of the operation is evident here with work happening on numerous cars at once.
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All 500 GT-H Shelbys should be completed before the end of the summer and shipped to Hertz rental counters around the country.

'66 Shelby GT350: The Original
To increase sales of '66 GT350 Mustangs, Shelby American General Manager Peyton Cramer approached the Hertz Rental Car Company to see if he could interest it in a small quantity of cars, possibly as many as 100, for its Hertz Sports Car Club members. Having discovered that Hertz had manufactured its own cars back in 1927, all black with gold trim, Cramer suggested a black-with-gold model called the GT350-H. Hertz bit and Cramer walked away with an order for 1,000 cars.

Built at Shelby American's Los Angeles airport facility alongside regular GT350s, the Hertz cars received the usual Shelby modifications; 306hp Cobra 289 engine, Koni shocks, underride traction bars, fiberglass hood with scoop, Plexiglas rear quarter-windows, and so on. For Hertz, they also received gold GT350-H side stripes and wheel-center caps with the Hertz Sports Car Cub logo. Per Hertz's request, some were equipped with a power brake booster, while non-power brake cars received a decal under the radio that warned: "This vehicle is equipped with competition brakes. Heavier than normal brake pressure may be required."

According to Rick Kopec of the Shelby American Automobile Club, there was a grand total of 2,378 Shelbys produced for 1966. Of that number, 1,001 were Hertz GT350H models: 999 production cars and two prototypes.

Hertz Shelbys weren't created for a full production year, as many incorrectly believe. "Virtually all non-black cars were delivered in March of 1966," Kopec tells us. "Keep in mind that while the '66 model year lasted from September of 1965 through July of 1966, the shelf life of the '66 GT350H model was not a full year. Hertz wanted new '67 cars as soon as Ford and Shelby could get them into production. It hardly made sense for Shelby American to deliver '66 cars in June when the replacement cars would be available in September. So Hertz cars were front-loaded into Shelby production. This necessitated the use of some non-black automatic cars already in Shelby American's inventory. All they needed were gold stripes and Magnum 500 wheels.

'66 Shelby GT350 Production
ModelProduction
GT350 fastback1,368
GT350 convertible4
GT350S Paxton supercharged fastback1
GT350 fastback drag car4
GT350H Hertz prototype2
GT350H Hertz fastback999
Total2,378

"Hertz originally ordered 100 four-speed cars but changed its mind after 85 cars were delivered. Reportedly, there were complaints from the San Francisco Hertz rental agency regarding fried clutches on those hills, which made Hertz reconsider the four-speed order. All four-speed cars were Raven Black. The rest were automatics."

The majority of '66 Hertz Shelbys were Raven Black, per Peyton Cramer's original proposal. However, Kopec adds that some 200 were other Shelby GT350 colors, with approximately 50 each in Candyapple Red, Sapphire Blue, Wimbledon White, and Ivy Green Metallic. All had the gold stripes.
--Jim Smart, Donald Farr

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