I Rented a Classic and Had My Mind Blown
Photography by Otis Blank, Jonathan WC Mills, and Valeria Picerno for Petrolicious
Many people view car rental as a necessary evil, an often ignominious experience of driving a sub-standard compact car on a weekend holiday. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, with very little effort you could be spending your vacation behind the wheel of a very cool classic car.
Being in between vintage cars myself, and in order to attend our first Drive Tastefully event (made possible thanks to support from Autodromo and Hagerty), I needed to get creative. And the internet, as always, was quite helpful. After a quick Google search, I connected with Simply Rent a Car, a small Beverly Hills based outfit that seems to rent modern exotic cars; however, it was their classic department that had me interested. They boast a few Cadillacs, a Cobra, two Mustangs, a GTO, a MINI and a random assortment of Buicks. The car that caught my eye on was a black-on-black ‘65 Ford Mustang with a 289 V8 and an automatic transmission. Owning a modern Mustang and having no real history in convertibles, this car checked quite a few boxes for me.
I did most of the deal over the net and took care of the paperwork. However, it should be mentioned that the whole affair was a wonderful perk of journalism, as I was provided the car free of charge and tasked to write about my experience; good, or bad. So, with my insurance in order and a copy of my valid drivers license on file I was shown the Mustang. It was gorgeous. Low, sleek, and freshly detailed. Mr. Nawaf Al-Daghma then showed me how to operate the top, handed over the keys, and told me to enjoy it.
Off I drove into the LA night…and I can now say without any qualifications that it was truly fantastic!
Driving the Mustang down the road immediately brought to mind my own classic car ownership experience. “What was that noise? The brakes feel soft. The clutch engagement is wrong, I need to check it…” the never ending concerns that often cloud the joy of just driving the car…all of that angst was gone. Here I was, simply enjoying a great classic car on its own terms free of the burdens of actual ownership! And, I realized, if the lust of ownership got too strong, renting would also provide a unique opportunity to gauge their performance, road feel, and livability.
Back to the Mustang. I had driven about a block when a dog-walker stopped and stared, “nice car!” – why thank you, sir! You will not receive that kind of compliment in LA, in any other car but a classic. I’m absolutely serious. I dropped the top and cruised up a few two-lane roads to get a feel for the fifty year-old icon. The car had a lot of go and not much slow; a big V8 and drum (read: fade-prone) brakes are an interesting recipe. However, the rumbling burble from the exhaust and the open air around my head and shoulders were amazing and I was sold on the notion of a convertible.
The next day was our Drive Tastefully rally where the Mustang performed admirably, powering through the narrow canyons with aplomb and delivering plenty of smiles. It never stuttered, stopped, quit or smoked. In fact, despite its relative age and prodigious thirst, it was a perfect companion for the weekend. Later that evening, I took my wife to dinner and after a few minutes she turned to me and said, “you need this car.”
I felt substantial regret when returning the car the next morning. I had fallen in love with the experience and didn’t want it to end. Which is certainly one of the risks you take in a situation like this. You have the opportunity to flirt, but you won’t be taking her home. I forgot about my own difficulties of owning a classic, I wanted this one. But it was not to be, so I headed off in my modern car, which suddenly felt like a spaceship from another galaxy.
My take away is this:
If you come to Los Angeles, and you consider yourself a ‘car person’ you owe it to yourself to rent a classic car and cruise our fair city in style. This is, afterall, a city that is hyper-conscious about its cars, a city in which a $100K Porsche is pedestrian and a 458 commonplace. A classic car is different, conferring respect from other drivers and envy from the sidewalk. Additionally, you also get to enjoy our great city in a completely different way. With the top down and the smell of the ocean and gasoline wafting into the cabin, modern frustrations melt away.
I encourage you to contact www.simplyrac.com, check out their cars on-line, and rent one. Then drive to the top of Mulholland or PCH as the sun sets against the iconic backdrop of the City of Angels and enjoy the fact that you did the right thing. You came to our Los Angeles and drove it, tastefully.