I thought my first sports car, a 1956 Austin Healy 100, was going to be my “dream car.”
It turned out to a car owner’s Nightmare From Hell, falling apart, bit by bit, over the year that let it tormented me before I sold it off.
If I made a sharp right-hand turn, I had to reach out quickly, grab the driver’s side door and pull it shut before it was whacked off by a passing vehicle. It had no side windows, the dual carburetors never stayed in sync, and the transmission kept locking up.
My next car was a 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. Its ebony body had sculptured into firm, flowing, sexy curves by Pininfarina. Its twin-camshaft engine purred. It had a strongly-build soft-top with real class roll-up side windows. It drove like a dream.
But like most sports cars of that era—British or Italian—it was temperamental, and spent a fair amount of its life with me in the repair shop. After three years, and just before embarking on a year and half overseas assignment in the Air Force that would require me to garage it at home, I reluctantly sold my Alfa.
But thirty years later, I had an opportunity to once again drive an Alfa, and in its country of birth, Italy, to boot.
On A Saturday morning in September of 2001, about three weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., I found myself in a long-line of customers standing on the sidewalk outside of a car rental agency in downtown Florence.
I was to spend a week touring Tuscany by car from my “base camp” outside a village about a hour’s drive south of Florence, and had decided that it only fitting that I tour the Italian countryside in an Alfa Romeo. True, I would have been behind the wheel of a sedan model, not a flashy sports convertible, but still, it would be an Alfa.
As the line crept closer and closer to the rental agency’s office, other renters hopped into Alfa after Alfa as they were pulled up to the garage entrance by company employees.
But when it came my turn, I was given a diesel—powered Renault, not the Alfa I craved.
The agency was just too busy dealing with what seemed to be a never-ending queue of renters awaiting their rental cars, so I resigned myself to driving my French-made stand-in for the Italian “star” I had anticipated would escort me across Italia. Some wag had stuck a Ferrari sticker on the Renault’s back window, so at least I could pretend I was driving a super-charged, super-sensuous, set of wheels.
Fast-forward a dozen years to the present. Now I can rent a Ferrari F430 Spider, or a Lamborghini Gallardo, or an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe (imagine me as “Bond, James Bond” roaring down the road in that one).
When I was a young sports car owning dude, I dreamt of owning a car like one of those three. And now, I can fulfill that dream—at least temporarily—by renting a “Dream Car” from Hertz.
Yeah, so what if the rental cost will probably be five times or more than what I’d pay to rent a boring “jelly-bean” style sedan?
Instead of flying off to some far-flung destination and paying beaucoup bucks for airfare and hotels, I can just stay home and put those hard-earned bucks to work impressing the neighbors as I pull into my driveway as the apparent-owner of one of my three top “Dream Car” choices.
Sounds like a plan!
But alas, Hertz has dashed that dream, leaving me feeling like I’ve just been run through a cold-water-only car wash. It only rents my “Dream Cars” in Florida.
Hmm…I suppose there’s always “Plan B.” Hertz does offer the Porsche 911 CSAR and Panamera XRAR models at its San Francisco International Airport location.
(Dick Jordan admits that the Renault he rented in Tuscany back in 2001 ran like a charm and proved to be the best car for that trip, even if it couldn’t have produced even a single “Vroom!” If you can’t afford to rent a Hertz “Dream Car,” consider opting for “The Jaguar of ‘Desire.’”)