Hawaii is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and includes seven closely spaced islands or counties. The island chain sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean almost 3,000 miles west of California. The best way to tour these islands is by car, and the touring car of choice for Corvette fans is, of course, a hot-looking Vette convertible. Fortunately for us, the Hertz Corporation added 875 ZHZ Corvettes to its "Fun Collection" in 2008 and 2009. The fleet includes 500 '08 coupes and 375 '09 convertibles. The company placed them in the top getaway destinations, including Oahu and Maui, Hawaii. You can probably sense where this is going.
Recently we visited the 727-square-mile valley island of Maui. Maui was formed by two volcanoes that created a large valley in the center of the island-hence, the nickname "The Valley Isle." Haleakala is the tallest inactive volcano, with an elevation of 10,023 feet, while Puu Kukui rises 5,788 feet above sea level. Both dominate the landscape.
One of the island's most popular activities is driving to the historic northeast town of Hana. The road to Hana is 52 miles from the main Kahuli airport. It opened in 1926, and paving was completed 1962. The drive makes for a perfect trip in a Corvette because it includes 617 curves and 56 one-lane bridges. The highway hugs the northeast coast of Maui and has many picturesque pull-offs by the ocean and the numerous imposing waterfalls. With this in mind, we called Hertz Maui Area Manager Rosanne Fernandez to reserve one of the office's C6 ZHZ convertibles. Fernandez told us she had 14 ZHZ Corvettes in her fleet-seven coupes and seven convertibles-and that the cars were among her most popular rentals.
We arrived on a beautiful sunny day and immediately went to the Hertz office near the Kahului airport to meet Fernandez and get a little background on these distinctive limited-edition Corvettes. Hertz ZHZs are essentially regular Corvette coupes and convertibles that come in Velocity Yellow with a black stripe, and are adorned with special ZHZ and Hertz badging. They have the optional NPP dual-mode exhaust system that nudges the output of the 6.2L LS3 V-8 to 436 horsepower. Each is fitted with the 2LT Equipment Group and the Genuine Corvette Accessories (GCA) Ultimate Exterior Appearance Package. The latter includes screen mesh for the side covers, grille, and exhaust-plate recess; graphics; a rear spoiler; body-colored door handles; and 15-spoke chrome wheels. All ZHZ Vettes also have Magnetic Selective Ride Control, Z51 drilled brake rotors, and a six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission.
Fernandez also told us that while each car was assembled in Bowling Green, the non-factory parts were installed at Bob Hook Chevrolet in Louisville, Kentucky. When the cars were completed, they returned to Bowling Green for final inspection before being shipped to Hertz. Fernandez then introduced us to her associate, Bryant Baldonado, who took us to a ZHZ convertible that showed 4,100 miles on its clock. Baldonado showed us the car's features, gave us the key fob and a map of Maui, and told us to have a safe trip.
After we stored our luggage and lowered the automatic top, we set off for the Hana Highway. The LS3 engine has been untouched by Hertz, so the car has the same performance as many other Vettes we've driven. We set the selective ride to "Tour" and headed north to Hana. The Hana Highway (officially Highway 36) is surrounded by a lush tropical rainforest that is dotted with cascading waterfalls that skirt red-and-black-sand beaches. It's truly a perfect Corvette-convertible highway.
Our first stop was at Hookipa Beach Park, where we watched the world's top-rated wind surfers test themselves. Next we visited Maliko Bay Beach to photograph the Vette by the sea. We then explored the old Hawaiian village of Ke'anae, where we watched spectacular waves crashing into the shore. As we approached Hana we made one final stop at Waianapanpa State Park (try saying that five times quickly). This park is famous for its beautiful black-sand beach and impressive vistas overlooking the sea. The many one-lane bridges on this driving adventure were a challenge. We had to be very cautious before proceeding to avoid oncoming traffic. Fortunately the ZHZ Corvette distinguished itself with its confidence-inspiring brakes, intuitive handling, and abundance of power. The trip took about three hours, including the many stops for photos and sightseeing.