By on October 4, 2013


“Would you like the damage waiver for just $30.99 per day?”



My brother-in-R&T-arms Zach Bowman just wrote a very nice review of the limited-edition Hertz Penske Mustang GT in which he visits many interesting places and takes many interesting photos. It’s thoroughly recommended if you’d like to read about the car itself or about the way it fits into the Austin landscape. If you want to hear about abusing the car on-track and propositioning African-American rental attendants, you can stay here.

When Derek and I got off the Hertz shuttle at Houston’s Hobby Airport, also known as The Official Airport Of Southwest Airlines, The Flying Bus Full Of People Whose Shirts Inexplicably Don’t Include Any Fucking Sleeves, the shuttle driver had a few words for us. To put this in perspective, I should note that the shuttle driver would have been an excellent stand-in for Huell Babineaux on “Breaking Bad”.

“Ya’ll need to hit that Mustang right there. That’s a bad ride. Need to fire it up and hear it.” Let’s take a look.


Ooh. Just $99 extra a day. I was hesitant, but Derek insisted, and he’s the boss. I think. Maybe I’m the boss. Things are fuzzy around here lately. Anyway. I popped the door, threw the luggage in, and fired it up, allowing the five-liter “Coyote” engine at least half a second to properly lubricate all rotating internal parts before revving it up to the not-quite-a-Boss 7000-rpm redline.

“DAMN!” the shuttle driver laughed. “Listen to that!” No diggity. This thing’s loud. I’m reliably informed by Zach that the Penske has the front splitter from the Boss 302 and the rear bumper from the GT500 and a wing from somewhere and a suspension from FRPP, but it’s the exhaust that you’ll notice first. It sounds almost too perfect; it’s the Mesa/Boogie Mark V of Mustang exhausts, delivering that perfect compressed squish of musclecar bump and grind. While the rest of the Hertz #1 Gold Club members waited in a line to get their cars — something about a computer glitch, I guess, the line was fifteen people long and being served by one depressed-looking teenager — Derek and I roared up to the remarkably well-proportioned young woman doing the checkout. I estimated her to be the same age as my college diploma. Still, faint heart never won fair lady.

“What time do you get off, baby boo?”

“One o’clock,” she replied.

“You want to go to the cabaret with us?”

“Mayyyy-be. Like to ride in that car a bit.” But truth be told, within ten minutes, I’d forgotten about her and our sort-of-appointment for rental debauchery, because it was more fun to pull donuts in a nearby church parking lot. (Memo to self: getting old.) The agreement stated that we would be permitted exactly one hundred miles per day in this fine automobile, which was costing us a rather frightening $589.40 for a four-day period even after my existing Hertz vouchers were applied. What could we do with just a hundred miles a day?

The answer was: forty-five laps. When we arrived at MSR Houston the following morning for LeMons Test and Tune, our race car had yet to arrive. (Spoiler: it wouldn’t arrive until more than halfway through the actual race, and when it did arrive, it wouldn’t run. But that’s a super-fun story for another day, and half of it will be written by our in-house counsel Curvy McLegalbriefs, I think.) What the hell were we going to do all day? Watch a bitch-basket VW convertible run 2:20s from the balcony while eating Whataburger?

And then I remembered the stories about the original GT-H Hertz Mustangs. How they’d come back on Mondays with missing interiors and plasma-torch marks from where rollcages had been welded in and then removed. How they would have blown motors and crash damage and all sorts of stuff. The thousand abuses of the Shelby GT-H were the stuff of legend, but today’s Penske Mustangs are safe and sane affairs, designed for a simulation of that old feeling and under no circumstances to be taken on a racetrack. The contract specified every penalty short of “forcible decapitation” for even wandering near a track in one.

Ten minutes later we were talking to the man who runs MSR Houston. “You understand,” he said, “that it’s all race cars out there, and you could get hit or injured or something.”

“Not a problem.” I assured him. “I’m from Road&Track, I’m an experienced racer with Grand-Am starts under my belt, and my name is Zach Bowman.”

“You have a racing suit?”

“Zach Bowman always has a racing suit.” Time to get this wagon past the flag tower, pronto.


My GoPro footage, which I’ve been advised by counsel to delete and never ever show to anyone, indicates that we turned a bunch of easy 1:56s in traffic, often including a respectful pause behind whatever Geo Prizm or Seventies-era BMW 528i happened to be occupying the space ahead. Let me say this: you could not pick a better car in which to learn roadcourse craft. Let’s count the Penske’s many virtues: It has Recaros. It looks awesome and frightening to cars that you are about to pass. It’s viciously fast with the Coyote engine under the hood. The automatic transmission doesn’t exactly shift under command like a GT-R does but it’s okay enough and if you just leave it in “S” it will be fine. I did three entire sessions before I realized it could be shifted with a little rocker button on the gearshift, and once I started doing that I didn’t go any faster as a consequence. Just let the transmission do the work for you and focus on the track.

The miniature Brembo front calipers are straight off the GT Track Pack, as are the wheels, and they’re okay but not spectacular. If you had all weekend with the car, you’d want to flush some decent brake fluid in it (perhaps the verboten Super Blue, but ATE 200 otherwise, this ain’t no high-roller Motul ride) and put on a set of Hawk race pads both front and rear. Doing ten or fifteen easy laps at a time with no ABS activation proved to be well within the GT’s skill set.

The FRPP suspension is properly tuned for track work and unlike most aftermarket suspension installs it fails to teach the Mustang any bad or dangerous manners. It will go sideways on exit or under trail braking just slightly more eagerly than the stock GT, but fundamentally this thing’s a sweetheart, it’s a T-16 waiting for you to bulls-eye some womp-rats. Which we did, lapping most of the on-track LeMons cars while giving them a wide berth. We rarely got passed, even on cool-down laps. It’s just much faster than the average crapcan racer. Which is fair, because to duplicate this car with a showroom GT would cost you probably $40,000. Hertz bought 150 of these, ten of which apparently have a manual transmission and are reserved for in-house use. Those will probably fetch $100K each at auction. I don’t know what you’ll pay for one of these in two years, but it’s worth considering at any price within, say, five grand of an equivalent used GT.

Given time, I’d have driven the Penske until the tires, brakes, or fuel ran out, but out of consideration for future renters we pulled the plug after fifty or so laps. The tires still looked good and there was plenty of pad left. I cannot stress enough just how easily this thing will zip around MSR Houston at a laptime that’s within five or six seconds of what a hard-driven Porsche GT3 street car can manage. If you were willing to endure a little risk and push it on the final Carousel, it might halve that gap.

When the actual race began the following day, a TTAC reader showed up with his base-GT-avec-Recaros:


There’s something just amazing and wonderful about how much performance you get from the current GT for the money. It’s a true successor to the old Fox five-liter and it will make the next decade or so of club racing very interesting. NASA’s already fired up a Spec Iron class for the thing and though said class isn’t currently well-subscribed, once you can buy a used Coyote for ten grand it will be. If you’re a performance-minded buyer with $25K or more in your pocket, you should take a look. Around a racetrack, the GT will command your respect, and the Penske GT will do more than that. For $150 a day, how can you go wrong?


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39 Comments on “Review: Hertz Penske GT...”

  • avatar

    The pic and first two lines before the jump drew me in and the rest of the article started my morning off on a high note. Well done Jack.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep. I hadn’t noticed the author’s name when I read the first two lines and thought, “Baruth wrote this.” And laughed. And read the rest and laughed some more. Most enjoyable.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Brilliant article. I have got to give renting one of these a try the next time I’m travelling.

    I also need some track experience, but that’s for another day. Jack’s roadcraft articles have been very valuable (eyes up, wheel and gas pedal connected by a string, etc).

  • avatar

    It’s so nice to be working with people who know what they are doing and do it well.

  • avatar

    I am looking forward to the 2015 Mustang, with hopes that it is indeed slimmed down a bit.

    I love the Coyote, but the current car just feels too large to me.

    • 0 avatar

      It is indeed the largest and heaviest Mustang ever, it also is the best handling, best braking, most powerful Mustang ever.

      Well until the next car goes live. Which it seems will be somewhere in between the S-197 and the car it replaced in size and perhaps maybe about the same weight as the SN95/New Edge cars or if we are lucky a bit lighter.

      Still I wouldn’t complain about 3400-3600 pound Mustang ( if the next car does weigh in that range ) with 420+ horsepower as the Hertz car obviously demonstrates.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        My 95 T-Bird LX with the 4.6 weighs in around 3400 lbs and is roughly a foot longer than a Mustang. My old Fox bodied based 87 T-Bird weighted in around 2800 lbs. A trimer next gen Mustang should be weighing roughly over 3000 lbs.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I get that it has power. I get that the skidpad numbers are high. It is a great bang for the buck, and it sounds good to boot.

        But big cars just don’t feel sporty to me. I realize it’s a pony car, so I am not knocking it, but it isn’t for me.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m sort of with you, most.

          I say “sort of’ because the Coyote has such a wonderful exhaust note, wonderful pulse rate, has such oodles of torque down low, and that timeless V8 rumble that it offsets what I agree is more length, width & heft than what the Mustang needs.

          Putting that motor in a car like the RX-8 would be nirvana, since the RX-8 has exotic car levels of chassis rigidity (30,000nm/degree) and sublime steering, handling, damping & overall handling.

          Maybe that’s what Ford is going to do hopefully, rather than go down the small displacement FI route.

          I think Chevy’s C7 Stingray will be a big success BECAUSE and not despite the fact that its packing many liters of torque rich rumble under the hood, while achieving very respectable handling, without being unnecessarily long, wide or heavy.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t want a Mustang any smaller. SN-95 (2000) was too small, especially the rear seats. Current SN-197 (2006), access is obviously somewhat limited but the rear seat is large enough for me to comfortably sit behind where I would position the front seat for driving. Even further, we just had our first child and the car seat *barely* fits in the back as well. We really didn’t want to have to sell with only 50k miles. The baby loves the V8 rumble :)

  • avatar

    Recaros and Track Pack. Gears, cooling, and Brembos make a world of difference now. :P

  • avatar

    Next time you rent a car in Houston that lady will be giving you the fisheye.

  • avatar

    I wonder what exhaust is on this car?

    Tomorrow I’ll be putting GT500 mufflers on my Boss. The Boss sounds great right now with the side pipes open, and I’m thinking the addition of these mufflers will just make it perfect.

  • avatar

    “Alls I’s sayin’: Mexico”

  • avatar


    I’m hoping Hertz gifts me with one of these as an upgrade at some point. They seem to toss me the keys to something fun once a year as a “Thank You for be President’s Circle” sort of thing. The Corvette Convertible has been it the past coupe years, not really my style but fun for a few days on someone else’s nickel.

    I can see myself chopping in my Abarth for a Mustang next time around, I’ve always liked them.

  • avatar

    There’s nothing like the feeling of driving someone else’s hot car without a chaperone. It’s like being 15, and getting a big, long look inside the girl’s locker room. You have GOTTEN AWAY with something.

    My ex-wife is beneath contempt, but during one of her delusions of impending wealth, she phoned a local BMW dealer, told them that she had something like $10 million in cash, and was sending me to pick out a car as a birthday present. She didn’t have the money, but WTF, right?

    They cut me loose, sans salesman, in a 2009 M5, for the afternoon. How that failed to end with the M5 in a ditch, or me permanently deprived of my driver’s license (or possibly both) is beyond me, but suffice it to say, that was probably the best afternoon of my marriage.

    After that, the dealership pretty much banned me for life from ever coming back, like Holiday Inn did to Keith Moon. But, dear Jesus, what an afternoon.

    As long as they’re willing to keep renting to you, Jack, I’ll read the stories.

  • avatar

    My takeaway on this? Nothing to do with the car. It’s Jack’s absolute joy in tracking a car. I think he would be happy if he was allowed to flog my POS fleet version Ranger around a race track.

    People who are this passionate about something make me happy. These stories are my favourites of Jack’s – I get to vicariously experience the joy this brings him.

    Thanks, man.

  • avatar

    From the pix in the R&T story, this car has the mufflers from the GT500…you can get a kit with the quad-tip cans and a new rear valance for your 2013-14 GT, although you do have to cut up your rear bumper cover, or you can just get the single-tipped cans like I did for my ’13 GT. Best $300 mod you can imagine…they sound fantastic. They blat and pop and gurgle and snarl and bellow, but are still 50-state legal. I’ve been researching suspension mods, and this story may have just sold me on the FRPP kit…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve run the FRPP kit twice and have always been impressed. Its also a very user friendly setup as there is not a whole lot to adjust. Front sway bar to tune out some under steer and I think on the GT’s that’s about it. I haven’t checked to see if they come with adjustable dampers now.

      Ford offers the struts loaded with the springs and that’s what I’d suggest, spend the extra money if you don’t have access to a good spring compressor and an impact wrench. The loaded struts also save you the hassle of messing with the strut mounts which have tendency to pull apart and spit bearings everywhere.

      After which its pretty straight forward. On jack stands working at a/moderate pace with no breaks in 3 to 4 hours you can have it done.

  • avatar

    Derek and I roared up to the remarkably well-proportioned young woman doing the checkout. I estimated her to be the same age as my college diploma. Still, faint heart never won fair lady.

    “What time do you get off, baby boo?”

    “One o’clock,” she replied.

    “You want to go to the cabaret with us?”

    “Mayyyy-be. Like to ride in that car a bit.”

    Damn it, Jack, now I’m fantasizing about those couple of years I spent in Detroit. Too bad I didn’t drop from 220lbs to 160lbs until after I moved to New Mexico… sigh.

    Anyway, I can’t wait till Coyote 5.0 start dropping into cheap territory. Even though some will be abused many will be pampered specials from middle aged guys who were trying to relive their youth. Heck I can’t believe how cheap 4.6 GTs are right now.

  • avatar

    Baruth is BACK, bitches!

    The Coyote is the best thing to come out of Ford since…

    …A loooooooooong time.

    Nice, sharp report.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, someone posted the question on another forum ” best bang for the buck Ford engine?” and the coyote/road runner was my pick. I’ve never been more impressed.

      Cobrajet intake, tunning, full exhaust, CJ throttle body and these engines are putting over 500 plus naturally aspirated horsepower to the rear wheels.

      One guy managed to knock down over 600 at the crank n/a but it was a bit more involved and was a dual purpose street/track car.

      • 0 avatar

        raph, I take it a step further and proclaim the Coyote to be among the top 3 best “bang for buck” motors from ANY manufacturer.

        How’s that sound from a guy who many believe dislikes FoMoCo?

        I ding Ford when I believe it’s warranted, which IMO has been frequent as of late (ecoboost motors, powershift transmissions, MT-86 crapola Chinese Getrags, shoddy manufacturing QC of some recent models, and crazy high pricing), but I will and always have been the FIRST GUY to give them praise when warranted.

        There is a tuner in the metro Detroit area run by a guy w/last name of Iacobelli who is nothing short of a genius when it comes to Mustang V8s of any generation, and he can turn a Coyote from great to truly epic.

  • avatar

    Been thinking of renting one of these in Vegas next week but just can’t bite the $600 bullet. Hertz needs to slip some coupons out there.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    While Hobby is a major focus area, I believe the home base for Southwest Airlines is actually Dallas Love Field.

  • avatar

    Did you really say”baby boo”?

    Did she really say “yes”?

    Did you really walk away?

    Youth is wasted on the elderly.

  • avatar

    Every time I read articles by you or your brother about the Mustangs I keep thinking I should forget about getting a classic and just go for a new one. Such a hard decision, I really need both!

    • 0 avatar

      I actually think that’s the perfect situation if you have the budget and the room. I’ve got a classic Mustang and I’d love to have modern one as well. Maybe someday…

      • 0 avatar

        I completely agree… now can you just convince my wife I need 2 Mustangs?? :)

        Actually, I can only conservatively budget one or the other. I don’t want a “cheap” old Mustang, I want one that is pretty nice, a fastback, upgraded suspension, brakes, etc. I predict I will end up with $20-25k in it one way or the other. And I don’t want a cheap new Mustang, if I get one I want a Boss, which even used will run me north of $30k. So I have to decide!

  • avatar

    So far, no one but me seems to be bothered by the juxtaposition of the name Penske and a performance Mustang. Has it been really that long since Carroll Shelby left us, and we’ve just forgotten?

    Was there a tiff between the late Shelby’s Las Vegas concern and Hertz, so that renaming this Mustang seemed no more odd than a stadium owner putting a new sponsors name on his property?

    Let me be clear about Roger Penske. I hold him is high regard, he’s done a lot for racing as a driver and team owner. But, when I think of Penske, I think automatically of Camaro. There’s the Mark Donohue-driven Trans-Am ’67-68 Camaro, and there’s my first site of a fresh 1970 Camaro in the Penske paddock at the first California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway, near LA, trying out a new, larger deck lid spoiler that soon was produced for sale by Chevrolet. To me, Hertz might just as well leave off the Penske affiliation, regardless of who modified the Mustang. Renting this car has no value to me. I’m not one of these fellows who must own every single edition of Mustang(Boss,Bullet,etc) and the Penske name has no cache to me when it comes to Mustang, so I would choose a regular GT, even at a similar cost, over a Penske edition.

    Also, I think Jack was thinking about the ’66 GT350-H when he recounted stories about Hertz rentals being raced on weekends and returned with evidence of roll bars being installed and removed. The model simply named the GT-H is actually the more recent 2006 version, modified by Shelby and offered for rental by Hertz.

  • avatar

    “What the hell were we going to do all day? Watch a bitch-basket VW convertible run 2:20s from the balcony while eating Whataburger?”

    I think i love you, Jack.

  • avatar

    Where did the “Hertz” go on the side graphics? It should read “Hertz Penske GT”

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