Joy ride

Love the Lamborghini? Want to feel the experience of a Ferrari? For a few thousand dollars, you can rent the car of your dreams for a weekend

September 16, 2006|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,SUN REPORTER

DULLES, Va. -- Ian Landy has a passion for things that go skrrrrrt! and vrrrrrrooom! When the 42-year-old entrepreneur isn't coming up with alternatives to neckties and cologne, he's racing machines that go 0-60 in a newborn's heartbeat.

It didn't take long for the London-born millionaire to figure that everyday folks, too, would like to the thrill of driving vehicles built for blazing speed -- even if their wallets make them more suited for Nissan Sentras.

So he came up with a plan: For about the cost of a flat-panel television, Landy can put you behind the wheel of a canary-yellow Ferrari 360 Modena (Formula 1 transmission, 400 horsepower, top speed: 185 mph) for a day. Or a black Lamborghini Gallardo (10-cylinder engine, 500 horsepower, top speed: 195 mph), the same model car used in the film Mission: Impossible III and the reality TV series The Apprentice.

"There's a lot of people who empathize with giving you an experience as opposed to something tangible," said Landy, owner of Excitations, a Fairfax, Va.,-based experiential gift-giving company that features the exotic cars as part of its Take the Wheel package.

The $200,000 Ferrari rents for $1,450 a day, $2,950 for the weekend. The $200,000 Lamborghini rents for $1,700 a day, $3,500 for a weekend. There's also an $86,000 Dodge Viper SRT-10 convertible that rents for $600 a day and $1,300 a weekend and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for a weekend-only rate of $450.

Coming soon are a Bentley Continental and a Porsche 911 GT.

The price may sound stiff to some, but Landy is banking on the belief that many gift givers would pay top dollar to allow someone to experience for a day what millionaire tycoons and celebrities relish all the time: being behind the wheel of a car that surrounds you with the roar of an auto racing telecast, that accelerates and cruises and handles like nothing you've ever driven before.

Not to mention the attention that comes with a Lamborghini.

"This car turns you into an instant rock star, especially with guys and children," said Jason Wheeler of South Riding, Va., who won the Lamborghini weekend rental in a charity auction. "I had kids chasing me for blocks on bikes and running after me, and they would get so excited just when I waved back. One girl about the age of 8 came up to me in the grocery store and said, `Hey mom, it's the man with the Lamborghini!'"

Landy, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said he once resembled those who covet exotic autos: "They collected motorcycles and vintage autos as a bachelor and then they get the kids and the mortgage and all of a sudden the motorcycles are gone and they don't have time."

For him, auto collecting has been a lifelong hobby. As a teenager, he would buy wrecked motorcycles from insurance dealers, then repair them, having learned about fixing autos from his engineer father. He gave that up when he entered the corporate world.

Then in 1998, Landy sold a high-tech firm he co-founded for $194 million and returned to his passion for autos. He began racing on circuits in the U.S. and abroad. Among the cars in his collection: a 1927 Bugatti 35B, a 1929 Bentley 4.5 L, a 1939 Jaguar SS100 and a 1936 English Racing Auto that Landy ran to a second-place finish in this year's Monaco Historic Grand Prix.

He's also placed first in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix several times.

For him, it seemed only fitting to combine his labor and his love.

Two years ago, he launched the experiential gift-giving company, aiming to bring a trend popular in Europe to a virtually untapped U.S. market.

"This country is filled with people who have chosen their passion," he said, "and are going to make a living out of it."

Excitations offers everything from a private yacht cruise to skydiving, but initially it didn't offer the exotic cars experience. Then the company placed a kiosk at Tysons Corner Center mall in Tysons Corner, Va., advertising its experiences.

"We would get asked frequently, `Hey, where's the Ferrari?'" Landy said.

That's when he teamed with McLean, Va.,-based exotic car renters Pure Exotics to become one of the few exotic car gift-givers in the Mid-Atlantic area.

The exotic car experience is among several Excitations offers for auto enthusiasts. There's also a formula racecar driving course, a closed, flat track for testing the limits of your personal car.

And there's secret agent driving -- the same training programs used by SWAT teams that include learning to do a reverse 180 with an auto.

There are other exotic car rental companies in the Baltimore-Washington area: Capital Dream Cars in McLean, Va., which rents the Lamborghini Gallardo, the Ferrari 360 Spider and the Bentley Continental GT; and a pickup office in Arlington, Va., for Miami-based Exotic Car Express, which rents the Porsche Boxster convertible, the Lotus Elise convertible and the Hummer H2. Most other exotic car rentals on the East Coast are in New York or Miami.

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