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"I drove SUVs for quite a while and I was looking for something a bit smaller, more luxurious" -- Lenny Lombardi (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
"I drove SUVs for quite a while and I was looking for something a bit smaller, more luxurious" -- Lenny Lombardi (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

My Car: Lenny Lombardi

'We just instantly fell in love with it' Add to ...

He learned the ropes from his dad. The late Johnny Lombardi was an icon in Toronto - the pioneer who founded CHIN Radio/TV International. Now, his son Lenny Lombardi runs the family business, which broadcasts in more than 60 languages on radio stations in Toronto and Ottawa and on CityTV.

On the airwaves, he's committed to multicultural programming, but on the street he sticks with the domestics; he currently drives a 2008 Lincoln MKX crossover.

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"I didn't really shop around. I never looked too far beyond the Ford product line. Lincoln was a no-brainer for us. We just instantly fell in love with it."

"I liked the look of it. It provides me the kind of luxury I like. Also it's a little sporty and very dependable on the road in all weather conditions. So that was the clincher for me," says Lombardi, who is gearing up for the 43rd Annual CHIN International Picnic in Toronto on Canada Day and July 4 to 5 - it's a free event that attracts more than 250,000 people.

But isn't Lincoln an old man's brand? "Well, I guess I'm an old man!" he laughs."It does not look like a staid type of senior vehicle. It's a pretty hip-looking automobile," says Lombardi, who is actively involved in the community and charities such as Variety Club, Sick Kids Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital.

"Actually my dad used to drive a Lincoln and I used to like it. I enjoyed driving with him. There may be some nostalgia there.

"Today, it's also important to buy locally as well. There's something to be said for North American-made vehicles. I feel good about driving it.

"I drove SUVs for quite a while and I was looking for something a bit smaller, more luxurious.

"I really love the way SUVs handle - the 4WD in the winter. I live in the city and accessing my garage I'm going through these little city lane ways so the snow can get pretty deep and stay deep all winter long. It can turn to solid ice halfway through the winter so you really need a hard vehicle." And the MKX does the trick.

Lombardi's first car was a Fiat 124 Spider, which cost $2,000. "That was a dream come true. I was 19 and my mother loaned me the money. I still owe her 2,000 bucks!"

His favourite was a Saab 900 Turbo. "I still have it. I loved the look of it.

"It was also at a time in my life when things were coming together in a very special way and that car was the icing on the cake. I met my wife with that car. That was the most memorable thing. Perhaps she may not have fallen for me if I hadn't been driving such a beautiful car?" laughs the married father of 12-year-old Alessandra.

His sister taught him to drive - not his dad. "My dad was a great driver and he could park a car like nobody else. But he was a bit of a reckless driver - he used to have greater confidence in the vehicle than he should have. He would try passing on hills, passing on the right.

"He was always in a hurry and he'd make me nervous. I could always almost read his mind - 'You're not thinking of passing?' 'No. no,'" says Lombardi, who graduated from York University with a BA in film studies and business administration.

But he did learn the art of parking from his dad. "When I was a kid, we used to have a big house on Clinton Street with a big, huge driveway in the front and, in order to keep one lane in our driveway clear, you had to park right close to the fence. So my job as a kid was to park the cars for my family.

"I'm an expert parker - any-size car in any spot any time - on the first shot because of that training," he laughs.

Except for one mishap he had in his Fiat Spider on a trip to Ottawa. "We drove all night and [white-water]rafted all day and we decided we were going to Montreal that night. With no sleep, we piled into the car and drove to Montreal. I was obviously very tired and distracted.

"I passed an intersection and I thought there was a variety store and I wanted to reverse. It was a lonely country road with one parked car on it. I put it in reverse and I didn't bother turning around.

"I just looked at my rear-view mirror as I backed up in a perfectly straight line as I always did, but I forgot there was a slight turn in the road and I side swiped this parked car. I tore the whole side out of my Fiat on this parked car!" he laughs in retrospect. "That was the dumbest, dumbest thing I ever done."

On the road, the radio takes on a new meaning. "I'm fighting constantly between my wife's iPod music and my daughter's love for Sirius radio." But CHIN radio always wins out.

"I like to test the strength of our signal wherever I am. At 10 o'clock at night, I'm listening to Macedonian programming. My family is, like, 'Why are you listening to that?' It's not that I enjoy languages I don't understand, I'm listening for work.

"I don't find myself relaxing listening to the radio any more. That's for my wife and daughter to enjoy."

Lombardi changes wheels every three to four years, but he's in no hurry to replace his Lincoln - unless he could get his dream car. "I've never driven an Audi, but I'd love to one day. It would be a toss-up between the 6, the 8 or the TT - one of those three, probably the 8." pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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