By Emell Derra Adolphus
Lambda Car Club Detroit was founded in 1981 as the Gay Old Car Owners Society. The club is the largest LGBT collector car club in North America with membership of more than 2,000 people in 32 regions.
Making friends is easy when you have a cool car.
“What year is that?” is usually how conversations start says Rich Kwiecien, owner of three classic cars: a 1962 Ford Galaxie 500, a 1963 Lincoln Continental Sedan and a 1979 Lincoln Town Car.
“You don’t even have to know a person. All you have to do is go up, if you like their car, ask them what year it is and it takes off from there,” he says. “It’s kind of a weird thing in that you never talk to anybody that you don’t know so matter-of-fact for anything else. But when people enjoy their cars, it’s just one of those things that you have a bond or a real common interest in and everybody is always willing to talk.”
These bonds are what drive the Lambda Car Club Detroit. Founded in 1981 as the Gay Old Car Owners Society, the club is the largest LGBT collector car club in North America with membership of more than 2,000 people in 32 regions.
You don’t need a classic car to join, just an eye for a well-made car. Kwiecien has been a member since 2002, as he explains, “I’ve always liked cars.” His first car was a 1976 Pinto. “Those were the highlights of my life,” he says with a laugh.
David Struck, vice president and activities director of the Lambda Car Club Detroit. BTL photo: Alexander Godin
Recently the club traveled up north for their annual Fall Color tour. And although driving anywhere in a classic car can be a leisurely experience, Kwiecien says leisure doesn’t come cheap.
“You should have a decent checking account,” he says about investing in a classic car. “It’s very much a benefit if you are handy at doing stuff and you can make some repairs yourself. Otherwise you are writing a lot of checks.”
He adds, “But you know what, the enjoyment you get out of driving far exceeds the few times you have to write checks to have a repair made.”
Lambda Car Club member Troy Congdon comes from a family of General Motors workers. His father was a home mechanic, but he still leaves the repairs to the professionals.
“I want it to run right,” he says with a laugh. Congdon joined the Car Club in 2009 and owns a 1967 classic Buick. The car, he says, reflects his fascination with chrome and color.
“I love chrome. It’s one of my most favorite things in the entire world. That’s why I love 50s and 60s cars,” he says. “Especially the late 50s, they were all about chrome – how much chrome you could put on the body and paint. That one (color of 1967 Buick) I believe is called fire mist red.”
And when you’re in a car that’s colored “fire mist red,” you don’t drive, you cruise says Congdon.
“It is very relaxing. I like the looks people give when you are driving a classic car. It’s a real mellowing experience. Especially when you are driving on the expressway and you’re just doing 60 mph when everyone else is racing doing 100 mph,” he says. “You sit back. Relax and drive.”
For David Struck, part of the relaxation of a classic car is having a car for work and a car purely for fun.
“Also, it’s the old adage of recapturing your youth. I always appreciate my modern car much more when I spend the weekend driving my classic car,” he says. “The first car that I ever owned was a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda Fastback. And it was the car that I said I was going to keep it forever. I drove it back and forth to college, put a 100 miles on it and swore I’d never get rid of it. Then one day something else caught my eye … I don’t say that anymore about cars.”
Currently, Struck has two classic cars: a 1967 Chrysler New Yorker Coupe and a 1968 Chrysler Newport Convertible. He purchased the New Yorker within the last year and has had the Newport for about 15 years.
“My dad worked at Ford Motor Company driving test cars,” he explains. “When I was a kid he brought home a different car every night. It was pretty cool.”
Struck is the vice president and activities director of the Lambda Car Club Detroit and has been involved in the club for about 14 years.
David Struck’s 1968 Chrysler Newport Convertible
“We do a lot of activities around town and to be able to socialize with my all my old cars when I didn’t do much of that before, I get to enjoy them with other people now,” says Struck, as he explains, a passion for cars is not limited to race, gender or sexuality. “People find us interesting, especially the straight car clubs – that we are a gay car club because they think that all gay men want to do is dress as women. They don’t understand that we’re just like them. And have the same passion as them.”