Cheryl Hoffer leaves the world behind when she climbs into Breezy - her Volkswagen GTI - and drives the 31 miles of winding roads through California's Santa Cruz mountains to visit her daughter.

Like many in an AP-AOL Autos poll, her car is more than a machine and her relationship with it is intensely personal.

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"I love my car, I like everything about it," said the 61-year-old nurse. The VW has all the sporty features and she came up with the nickname because it has a sunroof.

"My daughter lives about 31 miles away on one of the most dangerous roads to drive," said Hoffer, who loves navigating the hairpin turns. "It's wonderful."

Almost four in 10 of those polled said their car has a personality of its own. Two in 10 have a nickname for their car. Most often it is a female nickname; popular choices include variations on Betsy, Nelly, Blue and Baby.

When people talk about their strong feelings for their cars and trucks, they mention dependability, time spent maintaining them and the freedom that comes from cruising on the open road.

Women were more likely than men to attribute personal traits to their cars, more likely than men to give their car a nickname and more likely to see their cars as female.

For some, the loyalty comes from being able to count on a car such as "Myrtle the Turtle," the trusty Ford Escort of Erin Von Dollen, a 24-year-old college student and bank employee from Storrs, Conn.

"It's not the best looking car and not the fastest car, but it gets me there," she said. "The electrical system is a little funky. I think of it as temperamental. Sometimes I have to talk to it when it has problems with the cable connected to the battery."

That intense vehicle loyalty may be linked to the amount of effort an owner has put in keeping the car in good shape.

Fred Deusch, a retiree from North Providence, R.I., has restored many fine old cars. His current prize auto is a powder-blue 1933 Oldsmobile sports coupe with dark blue fenders - "The Blue Lady."

His strong bond with cars goes back decades, when he did some drag racing and worked in the pit in stock car races. Like many people, Deusch loves to get out for a drive.

Three in 10 think of their car as having a gender, with 23 percent thinking of their cars as female, compared with just 7 percent male.

Four in five of those polled said they love to drive. Young adults and older people were more likely than those 30-39 to say they enjoy driving. People who make less than $25,000 were more likely than those who make more than $75,000 to say they enjoy driving.

Also, 62 percent say they can tell something about someone's personality just by the car he or she drives, according to the poll of 1,004 adults taken Dec. 19-21. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Andrew Persaud of Pembroke Pines, Fla., said he can tell a lot about someone who drives a practical Toyota, a sporty BMW or an imposing Hummer.

"If they're driving a Hummer, that's because of everybody else who has one," said Persaud, who drives a Honda Accord.

For Harlene Smith of Houston, Texas, the cars people drive tell her plenty about them.

"When I go to play bridge at the country club, people who are well off are driving Lexuses," said the 81-year-old retiree. "But they may just be putting on a good front. I drive an Oldsmobile, but it's paid for and it's mine."

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