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VOL. 37 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 15, 2013

Driving a dream, if only for a day: Exotic car rental coming to Nashville

By Joe Morris

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Jason James (from left), Jonathan Bowman, Scott Hardesty and Vinh Tran, partners in Music City Dream Cars, stand in front of three cars from their rental fleet, a Rolls-Royce, Maserati and Ferrari. Daily rentals will range from $300 to $1,000.

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For those who find renting a Camry or a Caravan entirely too pedestrian, help is on the way.

For a one-day rental rate of $300 to $1,000, one can go for a drive in the country or make an unforgettable entrance at a high school reunion in a Ferrari, Lamborghini or other high-end sports car, thanks to Music City Dream Cars, a new venture for a December opening in the Gulch.

The business, which will operate out of a 7,500-square-foot showroom at 905 Gleaves St., will offer a dozen or so high-end sports, classic and luxury automobiles for daily and more extended rentals.

Target events include bachelor and bachelorette parties, as well as birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions where a unique set of wheels could add spice to the moment, says Jonathan Bowman, the company’s founder.

“I was the kid who had the Lamborghini posters up in his room,” says Bowman, who has operated a landscaping company in Nashville, as well as handling sales for a roofing operation.

“We saw the success that this type of rental operating was having in markets in New York, California and Florida, and think Nashville is ripe for this type of rental.”

The initial fleet will include a Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari F340, Ferrari California, a Maserati, McLaren MP4-12C, Rolls-Royce Ghost, Mercedes Benz and Cadillac models, a Ford Thunderbird and a vintage Excalibur.

The McLaren MP4-12C, with sells new for $300,000, will be the most expensive car in the Music City Dream Cars fleet.

“We wanted to have really exciting cars, like the McLaren, which retails for $300,000, but also have things like the Ghost, which is perfect for weddings and corporate events.”

Initial marketing will target the gift market, with rental packages to give as holiday presents.

“Dad, Mom, fiancée … we think it’s pretty neat to buy someone a Lamborghini for a day,” Bowman says. “These are cars you don’t see much around here, so it’s a pretty interesting gift.”

There also will be packages that include a “dream car tour” of the Tennessee hills, and a motocross-style package in which a mini race track is set up so a driver can really get the feel of the more powerful vehicles. To that end, renters can take out as many as six cars in one day, rotating every half hour or so if they like.

The Gulch location was a natural, he says, because of its explosive growth in recent years, as well as the proximity to the downtown business district.

“It’s an up and coming area, and we think we’ll get a lot of business from there,” Bowman says. “But we’re also close to Williamson County, which will be a big target market for us. It’s a good place to be.”

Existing high-end rental operations lend validation to the idea that this type of endeavor could succeed.

“Events like the CMAs mean a sellout for several days, but we are always pretty busy,” says Stephanie Sturdivant, office manager for Sedan On Demand, which has been around for about 15 years. “The majority of what we do are sedans and SUVs, mostly for airport runs, but we do a lot with limos as well.”

With lots of group parties taking that corner of the business, Sturdivant says she could see a high-end rental outfit making some inroads in this market.

“We don’t get a lot of calls for those types of cars, but we will get calls on occasion, and also for vintage cars,” she says. “People do want them, because they want something unique.”

Like other rental companies, Music City Dream Cars will make its fleet available only to drivers 25 and up. It will offer third-party insurance for those whose current coverage doesn’t rise to the expense of these automobiles as well.

And as things progress, it will be adding new rolling stock and looking at other locales.

“We’re going to open with around 12 cars, but we’re hoping to grow our fleet and offer services to Memphis and Knoxville right away, so we’ll also have a trailer ready to go so people in those cities have access to our cars,” Bowman says.