Will history repeat?
Certainly Ford and Shelby are building a 2006 version of the Mustang GT350H Rent-a-Racer that the rental car company offered to its customers 40 years ago.
Thet original GT350H was rented for $US17 a day and 17 cents a mile. But an awful lot of them were rented on a Friday, raced at the weekend and returned on Monday after a weekend's "cruising" in the country.
It led to the slogan being modified to $17 a day and 17 cents a lap by US automotive wits, and to the cars being withdrawn quickly once Hertz found out what its innocent-acting customers were really getting up to in its rental Shelby Mustangs.
Now Ford and Shelby are building a special run of about 500 units will be available for rent exclusively through the Hertz Fun Collection at selected airport locations in the United States.
The airports are in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
The new GT-H packs Ford Racing performance and handling in hot Shelby looks, and each is painted in the original GT350H's colour scheme of black bodywork and gold striping.
As it did in the original, the H in the GT-H nameplate stands for Hertz.
Forty years ago, former race driver Carroll Shelby and the Hertz Corporation came up with an ingenious plan to help get a batch of high-performance, special-edition Shelby Mustangs into the hands of rental customers who also happened to be car enthusiasts.
Ford supplied the new Mustangs with V8 engines and mostly automatic transmissions. Shelby added extra performance and style, and Hertz gave the public access to the kind of unique driving experience they could normally only find on a racetrack.
Today, the story of the original Shelby/Hertz "Rent-a-Racer" is part of American urban legend and surviving Shelby GT350H Mustangs are highly sought-after collector's cars.
To connect the magical past of the original Shelby GT350H with the modern capabilities of the new Ford Mustang, Shelby, Ford and Hertz have again teamed up, and - together with the Ford Racing Performance Group - have given the 2006 Ford Shelby GT-H a very classic, muscular look as well as some true performance credentials.
Like its predecessor, the 2006 GT-H will be instantly recognisable - thanks to several styling enhancements that are part of the Shelby Mustang heritage.
First, each Shelby GT-H will wear Black exterior paint set off with Gold racing stripes, a hallmark of Hertz's vehicle history dating all the way back to the 1920s.
Though the 1960s Shelby GT350H was eventually made available in other colour combinations, the Black-and-Gold combo is often referred to as "Hertz colours" by Mustang aficionados. Shelby's traditional "Le Mans" twin overbody racing stripes are combined with a set of rocker stripes that include Shelby GT-H nomenclature. Each car will also wear a Hertz Edition emblem on the front fenders, and feature Hertz Shelby GT-H sill plates and a numbered dash badge with Carroll Shelby's signature inside the cockpit.
To give a hint of the Mustang GT 4.6-litre V8 engine's added capability, the Ford Shelby GT-H is fitted with a custom Shelby Performance bonnet with race car0-style retaining pins, and a brushed aluminium grille with running horse emblem.
A unique front fascia with integrated lower grille, as well as a set of body side scoops - reminiscent of classic Shelby Mustangs - is incorporated for a distinct look. To further catch the enthusiast's eye, the Mustang GT brakes are dressed up with painted callipers, which can be seen through the GT-H's 17-inch aluminium wheels which wear P235/55ZR17 performance tyres.
Ford Racing Performance Group is supplying its Power Pack (FR1) to add a genuine 25-horsepower performance kick - along with more torque - to the 300bhp Mustang GT 4.6-litre V8.
The gearbox is a five-speed automatic. The package includes Ford Racing's 90mm Cold Air kit, the Muffler Kit, a new X-pipe similar to the one used on the new Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang, a performance calibration and a cat-back performance exhaust for the throaty exhaust sound that will make the car unmistakably a Shelby Mustang GT-H.
"Any Mustang that traces its roots to a Shelby GT350H has to boast increased performance and handling over its factory stock configuration," says Ford marketing executive Cisco Codina. "Ford Racing's involvement with niche performance Mustang builds like this Hertz project is a natural for us as well as for Hertz and Shelby."
To put that extra horsepower to the ground, the Ford Shelby GT-H also comes with the Ford Racing Handling Pack (FR3) installed, including special-tuned dampers inspired from the FR500C, lowering springs, sway bars and a strut tower brace - plus a Ford Racing 3.55:1 ratio rear axle assembly for extra off-the-line acceleration.
Ford Racing will be working hand-in-hand with engineers and technicians at Shelby Automobile's assembly facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the build of the GT-H for delivery to Hertz. With total production expected to number only around 500 units exclusively destined for Hertz rental fleets across the country, this special-edition Ford Shelby GT-H is sure to give Hertz customers a truly exclusive driving experience.
"This GT-H project has been terrific," says Shelby Automobiles president, Amy Boylan. "My team here at Shelby Automobiles is very excited with what we have put together with Ford, and Hertz - a pony that not only has a special look, but can really run, too. Those who get to rent a GT-H in the coming months will have the opportunity to enjoy a car that looks, accelerates, handles and sounds the way a high-performance Shelby-ised Ford Mustang should. It will prove lots of fun for Hertz customers looking for some real driving excitement."
"Like the original Hertz cars, the Ford Shelby GT-H will be fun to drive," says Carroll Shelby. "We started with a terrific 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's Fun Collection
The Mustang Shelby GT-H wwill be available as part of Hertz's Fun Collection which was launched in January 2006.
Featuring vehicles tailor-made for travellers seeking exciting driving experiences, the Fun Collection also adds in-car entertainment including SIRIUS Satellite Radio.
With the addition of the GT-H Mustang, the Fun Collection now totals 36 models. More than 8000 Fun Collection vehicles are available at 18 major US airports.
"With 2006 marking the 40th anniversary of the Shelby GT350H joining the Hertz fleet, we're thrilled to be bringing legendary Mustang driving excitement back to our rental customers," says Hertz executive Walt Seaman. "The Shelby GT-H is a fun, powerful Mustang to drive, and will be a special part of the Hertz Fun Collection. As all cars in the collection are reserved by exact make and model, customers can rest assured that when they reserve a Shelby GT-H Mustang to drive, they will receive the Shelby GT-H Mustang upon arrival."
Hertz's rental Fun Collection features convertibles including the Ford Mustang, Mazda MX5, Toyota Solara, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chrysler Sebring.
There are also coupes and roadsters including the Ford Mustang hardtop, PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR and Nissan 350Z.