Rental cars don’t always suck

Warren Brown is an enthusiast with the unenviable job of writing about cars to an audience of mostly non-enthusiasts – Washington Post readers.  This is a newspaper whose only automotive sports coverage is the occasional NASCAR fisticuff.  Today Warren wrote about bottom feeder rental cars  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/01/AR2009050101603.html .  That got me thinking about my own experience with rental cars.

 

My favorite recollection is of the 1986 timeframe, when I was torn between buying a BMW 3 series and a Merkur.  BMW, back then as now, was considered the pinnacle of sports sedans.  I wanted one badly, but I had also read good things about the Merkur.  Sir Jackie Stewart had helped with the suspension tuning, and a friend had one he loved.  I discovered that Merkurs were available from a rental company, so I rented one for the weekend.  I took off to Pennsylvania and couldn’t stop driving!  The rental was on a fixed mile basis and I ended up with a big mileage penalty, but I also ended up buying the Merkur.  I loved that car, put 170K miles and 18 years on it, and only gave it up for a modern Mini.  Oh yeah, and with sales desperation discounts, I saved nearly $15K over a BMW.

 

Countering that experience was an early Hyundai my wife and I rented in Boston.  This car was so bad that we returned it to Logan Airport, driving thru terrible traffic in both directions, to exchange it for something acceptable.  And, in spite of recent great press for the brand, I still maintain a resistance against ever buying one.

 

Swinging back to the positive side, my son and I rented an early Chevy Malibu in Portland, OR a few years ago.  This was before the automotive press had discovered it.  We had a ball hammering it on the way out to the Oregon coast and then inland to Mt. St. Helens.  This was one of the few times I can remember crying Uncle! as a passenger.  But then I never have been a fan of steep drop offs.  Both of us concluded that this was a really nice, inexpensive, sporty sedan with plenty of pep (we had one with a 6 cylinder engine).

 

I also recollect a friend and I, each in our own rental Ford Fiestas, hanging it all out on Mulholland Drive, in LA.  Back then Mulholland had long stretches of dirt and we both felt like FIA World Rally drivers.  That was a car you could abuse terribly and it would still come back for more.

 

And, finally, who could forget the original “Rent-a-racer”, the Hertz GT350.  See my March 2009 blog entry on Marlboro Raceway.

 

So, Warren, bottom feeders may be the bane of today, but rental fleets of the past offered up some really great rides.

4 Responses to “Rental cars don’t always suck”

  1. Phil Says:

    Now here is a subject almost anyone can weigh in on! I surely wish people would – it would be interesting to hear the experiences others have had, both the pleasant surprises and disappointments.

    Hyundai – enough said. One drive and you’ll be convinced.

  2. Chaz Says:

    On the other hand, have you read anything about the new Hyundai Genesis? It’s being compared favorably to the Infiniti G37.

  3. Jane Kerschner Says:

    I am married to Mr. Garage Envy and I am just delighted that he is taking on this project to breathe life into the Corvette – which in our lifetime of 20 years together, has only moved once that I know of. It moved from his place to our place and has sat as a shrine in our garage for over 15 years. I look forward to watching and reading about the transformation along with many who will make the journey with Chaz. So, if your vette is running – do encourage him and if it is just taking up tons of space in a garage, let Chaz inspire you with his on-going story!!!

  4. Chaz Says:

    Read this comment carefully and one might detect a slight undercurrent of ambivalence. Shrine? Taking up space? These are not terms that a gearhead would use in describing anything automotive. Twenty years of apprenticeship have not converted her; but I think this is a good thing. She would never pick up a tool, so I can always find where I laid it down. The last beer is never removed from the garage fridge without my knowledge. Skin my knuckles, and I can cuss all I want; the kitchen is a long way away. Finish the Corvette and guess who will be behind the wheel. Yeee ha!

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