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GAY: Great Autos of Yesteryear

For the casual online surfer checking out the Web site for Great Autos of Yesteryear, the group’s status as a social club for gay and lesbian car enthusiasts may not be readily apparent-that is, until the realization hits that its name abbreviates to GAY. The worlds of gays and gear-heads collide for the club’s members, who number surprisingly few in Santa Barbara but form one of the largest groups of its kind. GAY’s members reside from Santa Barbara to the south, while those with similar interests and a home in northern California would likely join the San Jose-based Freewheelers, the oldest gay car club in the world.

Local gay car enthusiasts probably know of San Luis Obispo’s Forward Look Flashback, the premiere gay auto nut event for California residents. (And for those yet unaware of who falls into both categories, consider this your news flash.) This July 5, hundreds of gay car club members from throughout California and even beyond will convene at S.L.O.’s Embassy Suites for a weekend during which they’ll shoot the breeze and talk shop with scores of like-minded friends. It’s a chance for many to socialize with people who understand where they’re coming from-and that they came from there in a vehicle styled in the retro-wonder looks that newer, rounder, blander cars just can’t match. The event has become so popular, in fact, that past attendees have ventured from as far as England and Germany. (Though one presumes they did not drive.)

For Claude Raffin-a Santa Barbara resident who counts his convertible 1958 Edsel Corsair among the favorites of his collection-the attraction to classic cars represents a nostalgia of a younger, freer time in his life. “They reflect an era,” Raffin said. “There’s nothing we couldn’t do in those days.” But he also said clubs like GAY and S.L.O.’s annual July event represent a unique social opportunity. “It’s more than just the cars,” Raffin said. “It’s meeting new people and enlarging your social circle.”

For more info on GAY, visit greatautos.org.

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