Supermodel, actress and entrepreneur Carol Alt knows a thing about cars and driving.

At nineteen a boyfriend gave her a red Ferrari 308 GTS; her father said the car looked fast just standing still.

A friend of Formula One racing legend Ayrton Senna who died in a 1994 Grand Prix crash, Alt has even been behind the wheel on the race track. Over the years she’s driven a variety of cars (“I love, love, love to drive”) but admits they never felt like her own. That is until she bought one herself.

“I actually myself, not my husband not in a marriage not with a boyfriend – my actual first car I bought last year. It’s a Mercedes E550 coupe.

“I had good experiences with Mercedes. I was looking for somewhat of a small car and the coupe was just that kind.”

She says she’ll switch to the E hybrid which lands around the time her lease is up. She also considered the SL version but found it was too small. Driving back and forth from her home in Ottawa to her office in New York she says she needs a bit of room. As well, she’s occasionally joined by the parents of her boyfriend, 38-year old hockey player Alexei Yashin. (Yashin plays for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Having driven Mercedes in the past (she and former husband ex-Rangers captain Ron Greschner shared a 380SL convertible and she later received a SL 550 from a company she worked for) she’s been impressed by their performance and longevity. “I’ve always been surrounded by Mercedes that if you didn’t mind that they were a little out-dated, they ran well. “I need reliability for sure. Nothing like breaking down on a New York City street or between Ottawa and New York on a lonely stretch of road – being a woman and some of the hours that I travel.”

For her new Mercedes Alt says she was looking for a car with a bit of oomph. “I like having that option that you can move quick if you need to.” The ‘pick-me-up’ as she calls it is more to about getting a quick response to avoid an accident, not for speeding: “I’m not a fast driver. I’ve seen what speed can do.” She notes even the pros realize road driving is inherently dangerous and that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ driver because you are largely at the whim of others.

She recalls Senna sharing his own doubts with her.

“I remember one night we drove from Biandrate to Milan and he said to me, ‘I’m not a very good driver.’ And I looked at him in shock. And he said, ‘No, I’m not talking about on the circuit – I’m talking about on the road because people come from every which direction at you and you have to be very careful.’ And here’s a Formula One driver admitting that the road can be overwhelming and you really have to pay attention and that even he felt he wasn’t good enough.”

Alt says she feels people are not responsible enough behind the wheel and points out eating, drinking, loud music and cell phones create too many distractions. “It’s not something you should do and do ten other things.” “These cell phones drive you nuts. You see people just roll slowly into your lane and you’re like, ‘What are you doing? Are you coming over? Are you wandering?’ There’s no signal. And that truly is a pet-peeve of mine: signals.”

Alt says she gets it. People don’t want to signal because then no one will let them in – that drivers speed up to block them out – but she says she wants people to know where she’s going so there’s no mistake. On long drives, Alt prefers to engage the cruise control or “the governor” as she calls it acknowledging the device helps curb even inadvertent speeding on empty stretches of road. As a model and actress who has travelled extensively, Alt says people do drive differently in different parts of the world. But what she loves about driving in Canada is the willingness for slower drivers to move into the left lane allowing faster drivers to pass. Unlike in the United States where she says territorial road warriors will give you the finger – or simply won’t let you pass at all.

The model who famously graced Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition and came to be known simply as “The Face” in the 1980s says she’s gone through many career transformations. Over time she has carved out a professional life for herself beyond the glossy pages of fashion magazines. (She recently filmed a kiss with Alec Baldwin in Woody Allen’s latest flick.)

Alt says that was possible because fundamentally she’s a hard-worker.

“I never thought of myself as beautiful. I grew up really, really tall so the guys didn’t chase me down. My mother and father always put the emphasis on being smart and productive.” An advocate of a raw-food regimen (she’s written two books on the subject) Alt credits her health and beauty to the dietary philosophy. (She even posed for Playboy in her late ‘40s). But it was her straight-forward style and tenacity that was apparent on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. Third-last to be fired she fared well and her appearance on the show led to the birth of Raw Essentials a line of natural skin-care products now carried nationwide through Shoppers Drug Mart.

Currently in Moscow with Yashin she’s put her Mercedes in storage for the time being but that doesn’t mean she’s too far from German engineering.

Yashin’s got his own Mercedes as well – natch.

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