The Straight Eights: A Passion for Cars
Bill Teaney tends to favor the styling cues from the 1960s that made a striking statement in all things automotive. He leans toward Chrysler products in particular, stemming from treasured childhood memories.
“Growing up, our neighbor owned his own Chrysler/Plymouth dealership. So as a kid, I saw my neighbor bring home demonstration models from his dealership that he and his wife would use for about three months before giving them back to eventually sell. I saw the best of the best right on my own street in his driveway.”
Greg Oliver loves the 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible. It’s by far his favorite car because he went with his father to pick it up new. “I took my driving test in it and went to the prom in it. It is what I have left of my father and when I drive it, I’m 16 again.”
Now, I have to admit I’m not a car guy. I own a 16-year-old minivan that goes from zero to 60 in about 10 minutes. My wife and I tend to park in underground garages, hence the various dents and scratches that are the result of playing automobile pinball with the big poles holding up the ceiling.
But these guys are for real.
They’re both members of the Straight Eights, the Baltimore-Washington chapter of America’s largest organization for gay and lesbian car enthusiasts—Lambda Car Club International (LCCI; lambdacarclub.com/straight8s). The club welcomes car enthusiasts seeking to celebrate their common love for automobiles of all types, from vintage to contemporary.
How did this club begin? In September 1982, three guys discussed the idea of running an ad in the Washington Blade, looking for people interested in old cars. As the informal group looked toward becoming an organized club, the owner of a straight-eight-equipped car suggested the name “Straight Eights.” Originally a term describing the engines with the cylinders in a single row (especially in pre-1950s cars), its irony and double meaning appealed to the group. Soon afterward, 11 people attended the first formal meeting, and the Straight Eights became a reality.
The Straight Eights have a special relationship with the Sussex County area. Their annual September Beach Ball Invitational weekend started out rather small, about 30-some years ago, as a simple weekend getaway to Rehoboth Beach. It has steadily grown and evolved to over 120 registrants and a very organized, three-day weekend of car-centric events for vehicles of all classes and years.
This year, their Beach Ball Invitational dates of September 22 to 25 happen to coincide with the Straight Eights’ 40-year anniversary.
To join Straight Eights, you don’t have to own a classic or unique vehicle—only a passion for them. Members show everything from brass era antiques to cutting-edge technological marvels and from Japanese micro cars to huge American land yachts. While some members own fleets of collectible automobiles, others own one, or even none. If you’re into cars, whether it’s an acquisitive obsession or it’s just an interest you enjoy from afar, you are very welcome to participate!
The Straight Eights car club has always supported CAMP Rehoboth in various ways over the years, and the two organizations enjoy a good relationship. Bill Teaney, Straight Eights President, puts it this way: “Much like old friends, we always pick up right where we left off.” Greg Oliver’s spouse even ran a bed and breakfast right next to CAMP Rehoboth for 20 years.
The Straight Eights are a very warm, supportive, and friendly car club of local community professionals. They love all types of vehicles, and welcome new members, offering camaraderie, networking, and new experiences. When you own an old car, your friends in the car club are your best friends when something goes wrong. It’s a great opportunity to share the love of cars with the local LGBTQ community.
And for the owner of a beat-up 2006 minivan, a vision of old cars that work and look great! ▼
Michael Gilles is a playwright, actor, and director from Milton, and a regular contributor to Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.