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Klutzy Woz Becomes Auto Body Pitchman

Thursday, 9 Jul 2009 | 3:01 PM ET

Apple Inc. is doing well, Steve Jobs is back on the job, the iPhone is selling like gangbusters, but it's Apple's other co-founder that continues to make headlines in some strange and mysterious ways.

First, a little background on Steve Wozniak extra-curricular activities: He grabbed some attention with his Segway Polo league in Silicon Valley. Then, he started dating D-List star Kathy Griffin in a relationship that gripped Hollywood (ok, overselling that); then he enjoyed a stint on ABC's "Dancin' with the Stars" where Woz became a cult hero of sorts, going far further in the competition than convention really dictated.

Steve Wozniak
Source: Car West Auto Body, Inc.
Steve Wozniak

But his latest career move has some here in Silicon Valley scratching their heads.

He's been tapped by Car West Auto Body of Danville, Calif. to hawk collision repairs.

Apparently because he knows quite a bit about it.

The ad was produced by Larry Alexander Advertising of Brentwood, California about three weeks ago.

Mark Alexander, vice president at the agency, tells me that Woz is a big client of Stevens Creek Toyota , which is also a client of Alexander.

"He's got a fleet of Prius's, a whole bunch of them." And apparently, he has a knack for dinging them. Quite a bit. So when Car West was ready to launch a TV advertising campaign, mechanics asked Woz during yet another visit to the shop if he might be interested in appearing in a commercial. Woz said he'd consider the offer after his "Dancin'" commitment was up, and the commercial was shot.

The commercial opens with Woz riding down the street on his Segway, walking his dog (actually the company mascot "Punker.")

Steve Wozniak
Source: Car West Auto Body, Inc.
Steve Wozniak

He's greeted by a Car West rep after circling a Prius, and the two have a very awkward, scripted, rather quaint exchange about how great the shop is!

Too funny.

There's the requisite references to his Dancin' With the Stars days, complete with perfect "10" scoring cards when rating Car West.

But the ultimate scene stealer belongs to Punker himself who delivers his lines far better than Woz.

I'm told Woz did the appearance in exchange for a donation to the March of Dimes charity, one his favorites.

"They're having a fantastic reaction to it. All their customers are coming in and saying they've seen it," Alexander tells me.

Woz Spot
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak stars in a commercial for Car West Auto Body.

Woz as pitchman is an interesting choice; Appearing in an ad riding his ever-present Segway isn't a surprise. But one featuring a Prius is certainly interesting. That's because you might remember that a couple of years ago, Woz was busted for speeding, clocked at 104 mph, in, you guessed it, a Toyota Prius . At the time, the news wasn't so much about Woz getting a speeding ticket, but that a Toyota Prius could actually do over 100 mph! (He paid the $700 fine.)

But wait! You just gotta love Google . Turns out this isn't Woz's first turn as a commercial spokesman. You have to check out his first foray into car sales, dating back to 1981, featured as Apple Computer "inventor," and "US Festival creator!" You can watch it here, complete with super-cheesey smile at the end as he literally drives off into the sunset in his Datsun 280ZX.

By the way, Mark says Woz was great to deal with! "He was just the nicest guy. I brought the lid from my Mac Pro and he autographed it. Everyone thought that was a great idea, grabbed their iPhones, and he signed 'em!"

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

Correction:In an earlier version, we mistakenly said Larry Alexander Advertising was located in Antioch, CA. This has been corrected.

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