Quick stats: Cheryl Tiegs -- model and environmental advocate
Daily driver: 2007 Lexus GS 450h (Cheryl's rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other car: 2007 Saturn Vue hybrid (rating: 8)
Favorite road trip: California to Minnesota
Car she learned to drive in: 1961 Austin-Healy
First car bought: Early 1960s Volkswagen Beetle
Cheryl Tiegs, one of the original supermodels, was recently a celebrity judge on ABC's "True Beauty," and she appeared on friend Ed Begley Jr.'s show, "Living with Ed," on HGTV. But, in addition to her Hollywood endeavors, Tieg's true passion lies in environmental issues, which have included a trip to the Arctic to learn about global warming.
Tiegs was one of the first celebrities to test drive the hydrogen-powered Chevy Equinox fuel-cell car, along with Jay Leno and Joe Mantegna. There are more than 100 fuel-cell Equinoxes on the road as part of GM's "Project Driveway" program.
When asked how she liked having the SUV for two months, she laughs, "I felt rather superior driving that car around town because I was not guzzling gasoline. I'm saying that jokingly, but I'm deadly serious," she adds. "There's a Shell gas station down the road, and I could fill up the Equinox -- it costs $4.36 for the whole thing. It's as easy, if not easier, than putting gas in -- even I could do it."
She was amazed the Equinox emitted just a small spray of water. "It was so wonderful to know I was not creating any pollution. It was really, really green."
While she would be first in line to buy one, Tiegs rates the Equinox a 9 on a scale of 10. She explains the car handles well and, although it had satellite radio, it was not a luxurious car. "A 9 only because it's not at this point luxury-oriented, but it'll get there," she says.
"You name it, I've driven it," declares Tiegs, who's driven her share of Maseratis and Ferraris. "This was just a prototype. It was a lovely car and a car I would be proud to drive around. In fact they look like bubbles -- but the cells on the side of the car -- I said, 'Leave them, I want people to know that I'm driving a fuel-cell car.'"
She was buoyed by positive reactions to the zero-emissions Equinox, especially from the younger generation. "When I stopped at a grocery store or got out of the car at the valet, the young kids were all fascinated with this car, so that's a good sign because they're the new generation coming up buying cars."
While some people might still question the safety of hydrogen cars, Tiegs said she felt very safe in the Equinox. "They've proven that it's safer than a car full of gasoline that explodes if it gets near fire," she says. "They have done so many tests on this car, they've dropped it from an airplane."
After she returned the Equinox to GM, Tiegs went back to driving her two cars, which are both hybrids -- a 2007 Saturn Vue and a 2007 Lexus GS 450h.
Tiegs rates her GS 450h a 9. When she sees other Lexus drivers on the road, she doesn't understand why they would buy the regular version over the hybrid, as a vote for the environment.
"It's very fuel efficient," she says, of the Lexus. "I probably get 36 on the highway and maybe 26 in the city. It's a wonderful car very high-end -- it is a luxury car and it does drive beautifully."
The story behind her purchase of the Saturn Vue is that Tiegs was at a GM event and sat next to GM group vice president Gary Cowger. "He offered, 'If you ever need anything, give me a call,' so I called him and said, 'I want a hybrid, what do you suggest and how do I go about it, I'll buy it.' I called him in the spring, he said they were not coming out with it until the fall. So GM let me drive other cars throughout the summer, and then I got my hybrid. I was thrilled."
Tiegs rates her Saturn an 8. "That really is a utility car, so I use it for dogs and groceries and moving big objects around," she says.
Consumers now have more options for greener cars, and Tiegs avers she'll always buy green. "I will never go back and get a gas guzzling car, I don't care what it looks like, it has to be safe," she emphasizes.
Tiegs echoed a sentiment Adam Carolla brought up in his chat with Celebrity Drive, in which he hoped gas prices would go up so it clears up the roads for enthusiasts to enjoy, only Tiegs' wish is a greener one. "When gas prices go up, I'm actually cheering, saying, 'Yes, go higher, go higher,' so that people start demanding an alternative."
Tiegs describes a recent party at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which she attended at the end of Oscar week. She was surprised at someone's reaction. "I pulled up in one of my hybrids. As I walked down the red carpet, a fellow asked, 'What car do you drive?' His face kind of fell a little bit at my answer, and he said 'Do you ever drive a sports car?' He couldn't put two and two together."
Tiegs thinks automakers will produce greener cars, especially if consumers clamor for them. "With this economy, they are going to want fuel efficient and they will start to demand it. It's a slow process and the more we talk about it and if we get one person to change, that'll help. I can't wait for the electric car."
Her next purchase might be an electric car with fuel backup. "You go 40 miles, 60 miles, some small amount you can go on the gas that you put in the car. Then what happens is the electric part kicks in and starts to make the engine work, so you can go somewhere like 340 miles," she enthuses. "That's the car I want. The prototypes are just coming out now."
Car She Learned To Drive In and First Car Bought
Tiegs was born in Minnesota, but her family moved to Alhambra, California, when she was five. Her dad taught her how to drive in a manual 1961 Austin-Healy.
"My dad bought me my first car, the Austin-Healy. He said, " Are you sure you want this car?" It was a used, a convertible, and it was burgundy. It was a very sexy car. And it was so hot in many ways; it attracted so many guys. For some reason around the foot pedals, it got hot and there was nothing you could do about it."
But when she went to college, the Austin-Healy wasn't practical because she wanted to be able to drive all her friends around. So Tiegs, who had just started modeling, bought herself a new manual dark-blue Volkswagen Beetle with a beige interior. "I loved it. I absolutely loved it," she recalls. "I loved the smell of it. I loved the look of it."
But six months later the car met its fate. "I woke up one morning, looked outside, and my car was gone," she says, still with a sigh of regret. "It was stolen." That day, she bought a replacement -- a new manual 1965 Mercedes-Benz 230SL coupe with a hardtop -- for $4,000. "I drove it off the showroom floor and I kept that car for 25 years," she says, proudly.
Favorite Road Trip
Although Tiegs was a jet-setter for her job as a model, she likes driving and has driven up the California coast to Seattle. "I love road trips," Tiegs says, emphasizing the word, with a hint of wanderlust.
Each year, she would drive to Las Vegas with her son for his birthday. "I would pick my son up from school at 3:30, and by the time we got into the Mohave desert, the sun would be setting and there'd be stripes of pink and blue. I'll never forget those times with him. He wanted to go to Las Vegas, so we always liked that road trip."
But more recently, Tiegs, her mother, and sister took a more reflective road trip from Santa Maria, California, back to their roots in Minnesota, after her dad passed away in July. He was flown back to Minnesota, giving them three days to drive there for the funeral.
"It gave us space from the time of his death to the time we were going to bury him. We were together as family," she says. "We went through California, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Utah. It was fascinating, all the different states, the different scenery. It was an amazing trip. It gave us a wonderful distance from Dad's death to the time we were burying him. And then we buried him in the cornfields of Minnesota. It was just beautiful."
Tiegs went to the Los Angeles auto show last year, and she noticed that regular four-door sedans looked like dinosaurs next to the newer green cars. "They're so outdated. Then you see the electric cars, the hybrids. They're designed so well, they're sleek, they're the sign of the future. Car companies have no choice. They have to come out with something more fuel efficient and smaller. I think we're going to say 'bye-bye' to the Hummer and vehicles like that."
In her own life, Tiegs tries to live a green lifestyle. She meditates daily, practices yoga, and in summer 2007 embarked on a trip to the Arctic to meet explorer Will Steger, who was wrapping up a four-month expedition studying the effects of global warming.
"It was one of the most incredible trips of my life," she recalls. "You cannot walk outside without your sunglasses because its glaring bright sun. Your clothes -- the layers have to be put on the right way because it's often 20-40 below," she says. "Grizzly bears -- it was very vulnerable, but I absolutely loved it. Sitting in the tent with an explorer who had just come from that expedition and finding all signs of global warming. And having a sip of scotch -- up there you needed something to warm you up -- we would see the midnight sun, which would just sort of kiss the horizon and go back up."
As part of her environmental work, she also represents Cambria countertops, which do not emit radon as do some other stone countertops. "This is naturally ground-up quartz, so they've given me the platform and I'm going around the country talking about how to green up your own home."
But whether people can afford a new green car or countertop, Tiegs says people can do small things for the environment. It harkens back to the frugality of the older generation who lived during WWII -- recycling clean water to water plants or bringing canvas bags to the store.
"We're going to have to get back to that," she says. "The silver lining to this horrible economic situation we're in is that we're going to get back to doing things like, whenever I buy groceries, I have bags in my trunk. If I've forgotten my bags, I've been known to put it in my coat, wrap it up, tie the arms and take it out. I will do anything for the environment, I don't care if I have to go out of my way. I don't care if it's a slight inconvenience. This is our world."