The days of walking into a rental car agency and burning rubber on the way out of the parking lot have returned.
Back in the day anyone could stroll into their local Hertz and drive out in a specially prepped Shelby GT-H Mustang. Under the hood was a stout 306 horsepower Ford engine ready to thrill. Needless to say, many of those didn’t make it back to Hertz in one piece, being crashed at the hands of overzealous and over confident drivers.
I wasn’t around back then, but remember reading stories about the program and salivating. I was driving a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass V-6 with paltry 135-horsepower at the time, but I could still dream. Too bad for me, the GT-H program was long gone by then.
Fast forward to 2013, the muscle car era has made a return, horsepower ratings are greatly increased over the paltry numbers of the 1980s and ’90s. Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and Dodge Challengers are one again prowling the streets and carrying enough oomph to shred the rear tires with the simple push of a right foot.
The rent-a-race-car theme has also returned. The program no longer has the same name, but once again, anyone off the street can walk into a number of different rental agencies, lay down a credit card and drive out in a high-performance machine. The modern versions of those beloved Challengers, Camaros and Mustangs of the ’60s and ’70s are all available for rent.
“The Adrenaline Collection,” “Street Fleet” and “Cool Cars” are some of the category monikers used by the rental companies, with BMWs, Porsches and Mini Coopers also available.
As a former Z/28 owner I decided to have some fun on a recent trip to Florida and rented a Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Five minutes off the plane, I signed on the dotted line, picked up an Arctic white 2013 Camaro SS and I was ready to roll.
With my 19-month-old daughter along for the trip, a child safety seat was installed as easily as in any other modern automobile.
The passenger seat uses a quick release handle to make rear-seat entry and exit easier, but I did have to move the front seat quite far to the front in order to squeeze in.
Because of the low level of the door, it took a little acrobatics to reach back far enough to get my daughter get up into the booster seat. There is not much room between the back and front seat and if one cannot keep the seat forward, one may wind up with footprints all over the back of the front bucket.
This isn’t an ideal car for regularly transporting the family to soccer practice, but that wasn’t a surprise. The thrill of the drive reduced these minor inconveniences to mere memories.
After a cautious exit from the airport and a couple of side roads, the Camaro rolled on to I-95 south.
The car is fast. A quick push on the accelerator has it merging into to traffic in no time. Still the power was not overwhelming.
Although the automatic transmission equipped version of the Camaro SS is rated at 400 horsepower, it didn’t feel or sound like it. The effect of the speed seemed much less than it was with my 1993 Z/28. Sports cars are supposed to be a little raw but this seemed like a tamer version. I kept having the urge to lower my window to take in a little thump from under the hood.