What comes to mind when you see the term rental car? A boring midsize sedan used (and sometimes abused) by dozens of renters before it's sold off as a boring midsize used car? Forget all that. Hertz has a fleet of Corvette ZHZ coupes in their "Fun Collection," and they'll be adding similarly-outfitted Corvette ZHZ convertibles this fall.
The first batch of Corvettes made for Hertz came out of Bowling Green Assembly in 2008 with the special "ZHZ" package-which included the 2LT Equipment Group (side impact airbags, sport seats w/perforated leather inserts, parcel net, Bluetooth); the GCA Ultimate Exterior Appearance Package (Screen Mesh package (Side covers, grille mesh and exhaust plate screens), underhood blanket/lamp, graphics package, accessory spoiler, body-color door handles, 15-spoke polished wheels (replacing standard wheels); and the ZHZ Special Edition option package (Velocity Yellow paint, Ebony seats, Magnetic Selective Ride Control, larger cross-drilled brake rotors, dual-mode performance exhaust and 6-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission).
But they weren't quite ready to go into service at the 24 Hertz airport locations across the U.S.A. quite yet. They needed a few more items added to them, and for those they were shipped to Bob Hook Chevrolet in Louisville, Kentucky. Jack Tillman, who's the parts manager there, describes what they did with the ZHZs in their shop. "They wanted stripes on them, and they wanted to take the regular wheels off, and put polished wheels on. They had a special decal that went on the console, and a special plate that went on each side, on the front fender. They also changed some screens in the fender cove area and behind the grille-they put chrome screens on there. We put spoilers on them, too."
Jack says that those cars came directly from Bowling Green's assembly line, a dozen at a time. "They'd drop off those 12 and pick up 12 finished ones and take them back to Bowling Green to be shipped out to the different Hertz locations around the country."
How long did it take to add the stripes and other equipment? Says Jack: "The stripes took about two hours-that was the longest thing. For the screens, we had to take the wheels off and part of the inner fenders to get the screens in that front cove, so that was another couple of hours. For the spoiler, we had to drill some holes, and that was maybe another hour for each spoiler." Adding it all up, the coupes needed about ten hours of shop time. The convertibles took less time, Jack says, because the polished wheels were already on the cars when they came in, so they took about six hours each to do.
That raises a couple of questions; First: Why did GM pick Bob Hook Chevrolet? Jack says it's because of that dealer's standing as an accessory distributor for GM. "They went around the country and set up these accessory hubs to give out GM accessories to the dealers in their area, and we're the accessory hub for Kentucky."
The other question is: Why didn't The General do the rest of the conversion in-house at Bowling Green? To answer that, we asked someone who knows all about BGA: Wil Cooksey, the recently-retired Plant Manager (whose collection we brought you a few months ago). Wil says that when Corvette production moved to Bowling Green from St. Louis, they stopped putting decals on Corvettes, because it was a consistency-of-quality issue. "We learned that from trying to put wood grain on station wagons," he says of his prior assembly-plant experience with vinyl graphics. "You just can't have a different operator on that job every day; because you will not get the quality of application that you have to.
You really have to have the same people on it." Wil adds that when the St. Louis/BGA change-over was done in the early '80s, the UAW (under the terms of its contract then with GM) wasn't too keen on going outside of the existing seniority system to assign people to jobs like applying graphics. "It was something that we felt didn't need any more variables, so we got out of the decal business a long time ago," he adds. "We decided that it wasn't in our best interest because it's not our core business-we're in the business of painting vehicles."