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Lynne Russell's 2005 BMW Z4 (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/THE GLOBE AND)
Lynne Russell's 2005 BMW Z4 (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/THE GLOBE AND)

My Car: Lynne Russell

In love with her Sweet Boy toy Add to ...

For nearly two decades, Lynne Russell was the face of CNN Headline News, the first female solo anchor on a daily national TV newscast. Nowadays, she's on Canadian turf hosting her own radio show on Toronto's CFRB-1010 AM.

The lively broadcaster is accustomed to the spotlight and drives a flashy car that attracts just as much attention on the road - a 2005 BMW Z4 roadster.

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"His name is Sweet Boy, from Atlanta, and he gets lots of special attention because he's gorgeous," says the New Jersey native. "Three thousand dollars' worth of snow tires and special rims later, he still won't go out in the snow, but I figure the payoff comes in summer ... It's a spunky, fast little piece of equipment."

And it was love at first sight. "I walked around the lot and I hadn't fallen in love. Then I turned around and there it was … that was it."

There's a sense of freedom that comes with driving a cabriolet, she says. "You need your independence in this life and, to me, a car that's really manoeuvrable - that's independence.

"It has only two seats so you can only take the people you want to be with. The top goes down and it changes the same way you do," says Russell, who is also a real estate agent, a licensed private detective and a deputy sheriff back in Atlanta.

There is one thing she'd change about her ride: "I wish it had a hardtop."

The Z4 isn't her first Bimmer; she also owned a black 1985 BMW 325E sedan with dark-tinted windows. "Before I became a deputy sheriff, just for laughs I'd park by the side of the road and point my black hairdryer at passing vehicles," she recalls. "Now that's good cheap fun." She kept that BMW for 13 years.

Her first car was a vintage Chevy Biscayne with a stick shift, no carpet and no air conditioning. "I had to give up the Chevy Biscayne when I put a cardboard box full of sleeping, angelic little six-week-old golden retriever puppies in the back seat, to take them to the vet for their first shots.

"They woke up on a long stretch of road, raising hell … they'd jumped up and grabbed the ceiling fabric with their sharp little nails and shredded it to bits. It gets worse: they'd turned the box over and the entire back seat, the floor, the backs of the front seats and the doors were ripped up and covered in puppy pooh ... I never did get the smell out of it."

Her first love was a 1977 Datsun 280Z sports car (she pronounces the "Zee" American-style), which she kept for 23 years. It was a "little rocket that could get a speeding ticket just sitting at a stop light. That was my real feeling of independence ... My German shepherd, Rommel, liked to ride shotgun," she remembers.

"A really good day behind the wheel was when my 280Z turned 100,000 miles. It was this dark burgundy colour so I got a bottle of sparkling burgundy and went for a ride in the countryside and exactly when it turned 100,000 I pulled over in a cow patch and knocked down a bottle - I didn't drive right away.

"That car and I had been through a lot together," she added. "I bought that car when I was a single mom for eight years."

She also owned a 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster. "I thought I'd keep it forever. It was just perfect."

But she couldn't bring it into Canada when she moved to Toronto with her husband, Thomas Beck, in 2005. "They give you this … line about how the bumpers are different. It was paid off - I was so mad! ... There was a point when I wasn't sure I was going to move - that's mad!" she adds.

"One of the best memories was the day I put the top down on the SLK and I just drove out of the CNN parking lot after 18 years. That was a real feeling of independence; that was amazing," says Russell, who also holds two black belts and is a certified scuba diver.

She also loves Harleys; her husband owns a few and she plans to get her motorcycle license this year.

There are also memories she'd like to forget: "Traffic in Atlanta is 12 lanes - it's like L.A. now. I could see CNN [headquarters]and couldn't get to it. ... I used to drive on the shoulder all the time. I was always getting nails in the tires, but I had to get to work!

"I was doing that one day and there was a cop pulled on the shoulder so I had to stop and no one would let me back in. I got out and I was just bananas - I was jumping up and down and yelling and screaming. The cop looked at me like I was behind glass.

"I thought, 'Well, I'm anonymous, he's just going to say, Okay, lady.' But he looks at me and goes, 'Lynne, what are you doing?' I thought, 'Oh my God, this is not going to look good on my résumé!" she recalls with a laugh.

For now, she has no plans to part with her Z4. "The car is happy with me. I'm happy with him."

But she might switch it for her dream car - a Jeep Sahara. "If you've got to drive in front of the Ritz - that's my acid test - you've got to drive up in something cool like the Z4 or you go completely out of the range, into something like the Jeep - a Sahara, though ... Something that really makes a statement. You can off road, put the top down, or wear an evening gown and it still looks great."

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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