Stepping off the red-eye at Heathrow need never feel the same again. For instead of joining an interminable queue at the Hertz desk to book a bland car for your onward journey, you could be met at the gate by a courier bearing the keys to a Ferrari, a Maserati or a Lamborghini.An impossible dream? Far from it, thanks to the development of the supercar clubs - member organisations which aim to fill a gap left open by the everyday car rental companies and which offer the enthusiast an ideal way to satisfy their cravings without the attendant stress and running expenses involved with owning a Dh600,000-plus exotic.
Most operate in a similar way. One of the more well-established operations is London-based écurie25, which charges an annual membership fee in return for points, which are exchanged for the hire of a car: the more you pay, the more points you get. Some cars "cost" more in points than others, and there are other variables - winter rate is cheaper than summer, and the weekend daily rate is roughly double that imposed for weekday rentals.
The club's overseas member plan costs £7500 (Dh 43,000) annually, and for that (plus a one-off joining fee of Dh 8,600) you receive 600 points. Standard membership is £10,000 (Dh 57,500) for 1000 points, and écurie25 says most Standard members enjoy about 40 days of driving a year.The cars in the club's cheapest group are the Porsche Cayman S and Range Rover Sport - a three-day summer weekend (with unlimited mileage) in one of these would knock a 90-point dent in your account.
At the top end of the scale are écurie25's 300-plus kilometre-an-hour Ferrari F430 Scuderia and Aston Martin DBS, which cost the same daily rate in points as the less exclusive cars but on which are levied an additional 0.4 points per mile driven. Thus a long summer weekend at the wheel of one of Maranello's finest, covering 500 miles, would amount to 290 points.Other cars in the écurie25 fleet include the Bentley Continental GTC, Ferrari F430 Spider, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Audi R8 and Maserati Quattroporte.
As you'd expect, there are rules, regulations and potential pitfalls associated with membership. You need to be between 30 and 75, and to have held a full driving licence for at least five years. The club will want insurance company proof of at least three years of accident-free driving with no more than two minor traffic violations. Fully comprehensive insurance is included but if you bring a car back damaged you'll be charged an excess of up to £5000 (Dh 28,750).
Dan Smith, écurie25 sales director, says the current economic crisis does not seem to be affecting business much. "We have a few members for whom this is a luxury and who might be feeling the pinch, but on the other hand we have recently been joined by some city guys who perhaps did not get the bonus they were expecting and who, rather than buying an exotic car, can afford to join."Another notable supercar club is P1, which was set up by former Formula One champion Damon Hill. On its roster of desirable machinery are the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Ford GT and Lamborghini Murciélago.
And if your leaning is towards classic machinery rather than the modern exotic, there's the Classic Car Club, which has bases in both Britain and the United States and whose wheels include the Jaguar E-Type, an original Ford Mustang, Mercedes 230SL, Ferrari Dino, Lotus Elan and Citroën DS. The Classic Car Club's basic overseas member fee is £2250 (Dh 12,900), which buys 400 points. A summer weekend with an E-Type works out to 192 points. The coolness factor comes free of charge.