Cruising Through the Crunch


Gay car club thrives despite rising gas prices

Some like vintage collectibles. Some like modern sports cars. Some like fuel-efficient hybrids, while others love gas-guzzling, Detroit muscle cars. Whatever a GLBT auto enthusiast’s taste, it’s definitely included in the Straight Eights car-club rainbow.

As the D.C.-Baltimore regional chapter of the Lambda Car Club International (LCCI), the Straight Eights have been serving local car enthusiasts for the past 26 years by organizing picnics, trips to regional car shows and tours of local museums. For anyone with an interest in cars, the ironically named club is an integral part of the local GLBT community.

Now, with gas prices soaring, even diehard car enthusiasts such as Jim Byers, president of the Straight Eights, say that it’s a tough time to love automobiles.

”I sometimes used to just head out aimlessly on a nice sunny day and wind up in Middleburg [Va.] or something,” says Byers, proud owner of a ’67 Imperial Crown. ”Instead, I’ll simply enjoy a shorter drive to Hains Point or Rock Creek Park.”

Still, with Byers at the wheel, there has never been a better time to get involved with the Straight Eights. Under his direction, the club has become even more inclusive by hosting the region’s first monthly GLBT ”cruise-ins” at PW’s Sports Bar & Grill in Laurel, Md.

Taking place the third Sunday of every month at 3 p.m., cruise-ins are the group’s primary open-house type of event. Byers explains that these meets are the best place to start for anyone who may have an interest in the club, or just the cars.

”For those who don’t currently own a collector vehicle, it’s a great opportunity to just enjoy the sights and meet others with the same interest, in a gay-friendly atmosphere.”

For those already involved in the car-collecting milieu, and looking for something a bit more involved than a single afternoon, the Straight Eights will host their annual Beach Ball Regional Invitational in Rehoboth Beach, Sept. 25 to 28. While in years past the annual beach event has drawn about 100 LCCI members with roughly 75 cars, the 2007 ball was evidence that this club is on the move and growing steadily, with 157 attendees and 105 cars.

Despite high gas prices, Straight Eights members say they are confident the event will be just as rewarding this year. For Byers, however, the excitement isn’t about attendance numbers — of either cars or people. Instead, he says, there is always one car at the Beach Ball making its regional debut, and that’s what gets his engine revving.

”One year, it was a 1933 Cadillac Fleetwood V16 that was driven from West Virginia,” he says. ”Last year it was a late model Hyundai Tiburon customized with gull-wing doors. And I’m looking forward to being surprised again!”

For more information on the Straight Eights Car Club or the Lambda Car Club International, visit the chapter’s Web site at www.straight8s.org.

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