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Secretary of State Colin Powell Goes Out of His Way to Drive a 262 V8

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Powell Sneaks Out for Secret Australian Joyride
CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) - It sounded like a practical joke when somebody told Australian Vince Harmer that America's top diplomat wanted to drive his car. But what can you do except hand over the keys?

An Australian government official called Harmer four times to say that Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) wanted to drive his 1980 Volvo 262 coupe, one of only 1,100 ever made.

Powell, one of the world's most powerful men, and humble Canberra resident Harmer share a passion for restoring old and rare models of Sweden's most famous automotive emblem.

Powell was in Canberra on Monday for annual bilateral security talks with Australia.

It took a few phone calls but Harmer handed over the keys and Powell drove Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to a state dinner in the shiny cherry red Volvo with a powerful 350 Chevrolet V8 engine under the hood.

``He just pointed at the car, drooling, and said: 'That is one of the best model Volvos ever built', and then got in with Mr. Downer,'' Harmer told Reuters on Tuesday.

``He handed back the key grinning like a Cheshire cat and, well, I thought, yep, he got a buzz out of that,'' he said.

Downer planned the test drive as a surprise for Powell and preparations were made under a tight security blanket that even took U.S. embassy officials by surprise.

The car was delivered to Powell's hotel two hours early so sniffer dogs and security people with X-ray equipment could give it a security clearance.

``A Volvo just showed up at the hotel last night but none of us really knew how it got there,'' an embassy spokeswoman said. ''But Powell is known to love cars and driving and always asks to drive if he can, which drives his security people up the wall.''
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