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'Rental Car Rally' Sends Drivers on Bizarre Road Trip from NYC

By Mathew Katz | July 23, 2012 10:03am
Men in masks at the 2008 Rental Car Rally in Long Island City.
Men in masks at the 2008 Rental Car Rally in Long Island City.
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Rental Car Rally

NEW YORK CITY — Nothing says summer like a road trip — especially when that road trip involves a car covered in dog fur, grown men wearing costumes and impromptu wrestling matches, according to Steve Bryant.

Bryant is one of the co-organizers of the Rental Car Rally, an overnight free-for-all road trip that will see up to 60 costumed teams driving from New York to Montreal on Aug. 17.

Each team participating gets a map of the journey on the night of the mostly backroads race, and they have to hit a series of checkpoints in the adrenaline-fueled rally that promises "good times and possible incarceration."

The team with the lowest odometer — and the best costumes — wins the coveted "Golden Gas Pump."

"It appeals to people who like to dress up and do absurd things," said Bryant, 35, a Brooklyn resident who previously organized Wiibledon, a massive tennis tournament played on the Nintendo Wii.

"It's not like we analyze this much. It's just Halloween on wheels."

Inspired by the Hanna-Barbera cartoon show "Wacky Races," Bryant has been organizing rallies since 2008, when 74 cars and 189 participates drove from Long Island City to Montreal. The race included a clown car and a DeLorean made up to look like the time machine from "Back To The Future."

Since then, the eccentric road trippers have taken a different trip every year, with rallies starting in Los Angeles and San Fransisco. However, August's trip will be the first one in New York since 2010.

Bryant was mum on revealing this year's route, but did say that it would likely involve a visit to an abandoned psychiatric ward and possibly some underground caverns.

"It's a lot of cool stuff off the beaten path that you want to see, but never get to," he explained. "We provide that experience."

Despite the name, participants can use their own cars — but only if they're willing to dress them up. Still, Bryant said most participants from the city rent their cars, simply because they don't have one themselves.

Tickets for the rally are $179 per vehicle and include a pre-race party with drink specials the night before the race, a massive party in Montreal and a briefcase stocked with "mischief-making swag."

The "Joe Viterbo" — a $699 ticket named after Sylvester Stallone's character in the 1975 cult classic "Death Race 2000" —  also includes a steak dinner and a hotel suite in Montreal for up to four people.

Bryant, who said he had a great time in the 2008 trip, is excited returning to the Canadian city.

"I really love it," he said. "Montreal's just a great place to visit in the summer, man."