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A designing woman and her convertible Merc

'This is my second CLK,' interior designer Michelle Mawby says. Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and

Interior designer Michelle Mawby is a regular on CBC's Steven and Chris. She's also known for her role on Discovery Channel's new series Junk Raiders - where she frequents dumpsters, recycling old items into something new. She's even transformed a car grille from a 1978 Chrysler New Yorker into a kitchen island.

The folding roof on her 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK350 cabriolet comes in handy for transporting larger, awkward items during her free-cycling adventures.

"I've carried rugs, chairs, and tile - all sorts of stuff in that car. That's the great thing about it. That's why I have to have a convertible because you can actually put down the roof and put some of the stuff in it."

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"I like a car like my design. I like the sleek casual elegance of the Mercedes. It's sort of subdued, but it has a lot of glamour and elegance to it. I don't find it a very flashy car. It's just a beautiful design," says Mawby, the founder of Lucid Interior Design Inc. in Toronto, who has practised design in Amsterdam, England, California and Vancouver.

"Cars are great design. It's like any good design. If it's a well-designed car, it's a beautiful piece of art."

"This is my second CLK. I have to have a convertible because I can schlep stuff in it. I had a BMW Z3 before that, but I realized I needed a slightly bigger car. I still wanted a convertible. I went to drive the CLK and just fell in love with it.

"I'm not one of these people who think just because I drive a luxury car I can stop in front of Starbucks, put my four-way hazards on and run out to get a coffee. I don't think it makes me more privileged or allows me better privileges in life."

Her favourite feature on the CLK is the drop-top. "It's really nice - there's no latches or anything. I love my heated seats, as well!"

"I'm like any interior designer; my car becomes my office so I often have an old banana peel, piles of books and samples and everything scattered through it."

When it comes to the mechanical side of her CLK, she's clueless. "I don't care that much about cars. I don't care how fast it can go. I know it can go pretty fast, but I think it's silly to do that. I saw a guy out in a Lamborghini and I thought, 'Why in the city?' "

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Something more practical for the city is a scooter. Mawby also owns a Vespa - she got hooked on it while living in England.

"I didn't want a car because I lived right in south Kensington. I always wanted a bike and I ended up buying a scooter. When I moved back from England I ended up getting a new one.

"I have a baby blue LX150 - it's got the bigger engine. I've been riding a scooter for over 10 years. I love it to scoot around. You can park up on the sidewalk so you don't have to find parking or pay for it," says Mawby who grew up in Vancouver and moved to California on an athlete's scholarship for university. She studied English, set design and theatre while competing in track and field, cross-country, basketball and volleyball.

"My first car was a 1970 Austin 1100. She was cute. I loved that little car.

"It was a great car. It had the bench seats. The doors didn't lock and every so often I'd come out of basketball practice and some of the guys on the football team had moved it to one of the gyms or onto the football field. My car was always ending up in different spots because it was so little," she laughs.

But it did have its problems. "The transmission in my Austin went one day driving to school. I ended up on my neighbour's front lawn. We couldn't fix it. It completely died."

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So she bought a Triumph TR7. "My dad had a thing for British cars.

"That was a convertible and I've had convertibles ever since. I had a problem with my carburetor and sometimes to start it I used to jump out of my car and get somebody to sit in the car and hold down the pedal. My dad had taught me how to lift up the top of the carburetor, stick my fingers in and lift up the pistons," she laughs. "Sometimes at stop lights it would go and I'd have to get somebody off the street to help me and they were always amazed at some chick who could this. I really looked like I knew what I was doing. That was kind of cool."

"I love old, retro-looking cars - I love the old Karmann Ghia convertibles; the old Porsches are beautiful. I love vintage cars, but they're just not practical to drive."

She has a long wish list of more practical rides. "I'd love the new Mini. I'd love a Smart car. I'd love a beautiful Maserati. I'd love to own a whole bunch of cars - about 12 of them depending on my mood. Anything convertible."

pgentile@globeandmail.com

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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