The Robb Report Loves the Dream Car Tour

February 12, 2008

robb.jpgRobb Report Collection writer Matt Phenix joined us for a Dream Car Tour recently and had a blast. He wrote about his experience in the February Robb Report Collection in its special "Adventure Guide." Click below for the full story...

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Dream Cruise

The fantasy of assessing a wide variety of automotive exotica is easily realized at either of Gotham Dream Cars' New York or south Florida locations.

By Matthew Phenix

Gotham Dream Cars rental cars, but Avis it isn't.  The company is to a typical rental counter what Harry Winston is to a typical jewelry store.  From its offices on the west side of Manhattan and in tony Delray Beach, Florida, halfway between Palm Beach and Miami, Gotham Dream Cars has made a name for itself by hiring out exotic vehicles by the weekday, weekend, or full week.  According to company founder and president Noah Lehmann-Haupt, Gotham's exotic cars rent to all sorts of people for all the usual reasons - big birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, high-school reunions, you name it.  But for the true automotive enthusiast, Gotham's most irresistible offering may be its new Dream Car Tour.  An exotic-car sampler, the tour promises 20 to 30 minutes behind the wheels of a half-dozen of the world's most exceptional sporting cars - all for less than the cost of a standard one-day rental.

What makes Gotham's tour innovative is that it takes place on wild and woolly public roadways, rather than on the picture-perfect one-way asphalt of a rented racetrack, as some other supercar experience outfits do.  Notes Lehmann-Haupt:  "The Dream Car Tour gives people who might be intimidated by a track day the chance to drive exotic cars on real roads.  This isn't about racing. It's not the speed that's exciting.  It's just the experience of being in the car, the looks you get from people on the road, the pointing and the gawking - that's what really makes this event fun."

The day starts with a safety briefing, during which Lehmann-Haupt gently but firmly outlines a code of conduct that begins and ends - as it would at a track event - with safety.  "This tour is a disaster if it's not safe," he says, "because we've got six time-bombs sitting out there."  And yet, despite a sobering cautionary tale or two (ask him about Gotham's short-lived Ford GT), Lehmann-Haupt and the Gotham crew are anything but wet blankets.  "Rule number two," he says with a smirk, "is have fun.  It's not quite as important as the number-one rule [drive safely], but it's more important than all the others."

Our transportation for the day (five cars for this impromptu excursion, rather than the usual six) included an Aston Martin DB9 Volante, a Bentley Continental GTC, a Ferrari F430 Spider, and a pair of Lamborghinis - a Murcielago Roadster and a metallic-orange Murcielago coupe with a cacophonous aftermarket exhaust.  A quick primer on the basic operation and quirks of each from Gotham's sharp and personable teammates and we're off, a $1.3-million parade of modern art blatting through downtown Delray Beach before swinging left and howling southward on Interstate 95.  seeing such splendiferous shapes on their respective showroom floors or motor-show turntables, or even pawing the immaculate tarmac of a race circuit, can never quite prepare one for the staggering sigh and sound of five of them, en masse, commingling with Toyota Camrys and Ford F-150s on regular roads.  It's gods come down to earth.

Our cars feature either automatic transmissions or paddle-operated sequential manual gearboxes.  Gotham tends to avoid traditional manual transmissions unless there's no alternative (the Porsche 911 GT3, for instance).  This opens the tour to drivers with no experience (or interest) in stick-shifting, and spares the cars the expensive indignity of a cremated clutch.

The tour employs simple lead-and-follow rules.  Between a Gotham lead car and a pickup truck support vehicle at the rear, there's no set order for the supercars;  drivers are free (within the boundaries of common sense and legality) to shuffle their order at will.  Gotham has smartly equipped tour cars with two-way radios, a move that transforms what might otherwise be a few solitary (albeit blissful) hours into a unique social occasion.  Gotham team members check in with drivers and note upcoming turns, hazards, and points of interest, and drivers have the opportunity to interact with each other, exchange vehicle commentary and, of course, share law-enforcement sightings.  Gotham knows its stomping grounds well and conducts us over a compelling mix of wide-open stretches of Interstate, serpentine back-roads, and even amusingly congested Main Street areas.  (What fun is living large if no one sees you doing it?)

But as inspirational as our roster of vehicles is, Lehmann-Haupt is quick to note that he is constantly revising his wish list to keep the Gotham collection as au currant as the pages of Top Gear or Quattroruote.  "Our Maserati GranTurismo is on its way, and we've ordered our Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren;  from there we'd really like to push it to the next level.  I think we need a Rolls-Royce Phantom, and I'd love to see us add a Pagani Zonda and maybe a Bugatti Veyron."

The Gotham Dream Car Tour costs $895 for a single participant, with or without a non-driving passenger, or $595 for dual participants, each driving three of the six cars.  The company conducts Dream Tours on a seasonal basis, scheduling events April through October in the New York area, and November through March in Florida.

Gotham Dream Cars, 877.246.8426, www.gothamdreamcars.com

© Copyright 2004 - 2014, Gotham Dream Cars, LLC - Englewood NJ, Miami FL and Los Angeles, CA. All rights reserved.

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