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Cool queer cars
Carolina gay men talk about their unusual choice of wheels

by David Moore
Q-Notes staff

John Fryday with his 1961 Lincoln Continental.

Scott Lindsley’s 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood.

The end result of hard work: Brooke Smith’s 1968 BMW 1600-2.

Gay and lesbian car clubs abound throughout the United States. Ever wonder why? It’s no secret that the LGBT community has always had an appreciation for the exotic or stylish — so it should come as no surprise that there’s a fairly sizeable number of gay vintage car collectors — many of them right here in the Carolinas.

So what prompts an individual to spend inordinate amounts of money on an auto of yesteryear, when they could get a brand new one for less?

“Because it’s something distinctive and different. Who wants to drive something like everybody else has on the road when you can drive something like this?” Says John Fryday, as he opens his garage door to reveal a stunning sultana white Lincoln convertible. “It’s a form of self-expression.”

Fryday is an architect at the firm of Fryday & Noone. An avid fan of vintage cars, he’s the proud owner of a 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible.

“That was the first year for that body style,” says Fryday. “I always wanted one of these because my neighbor — a woman named Josephine who lived across the street — had one and I thought it was just the deal. She actually let me drive it to my prom when I was 16.”

Fryday’s sensibilities as an architect clearly lend to his appreciation for the striking design of the car. “The style and the proportions are just remarakable,” he offers enthusiastically. “When you put the top down, it’s like an aircraft carrier.”

For the uninitaited, Ford Motor Company produced The Lincoln Continental convertible sedan in the same basic body style as Fryday’s — with chariot or “suicide” doors, as they’re often referred to — from 1961 to 1969.

“There were some changes over the years,” Fryday explains. “With the grill and headlight and taillight design. They lengthened it in ’64 and in ’66 changed the lines somewhat — but they basically kept the image of the car.”

According to Fryday, the car originally came from Connecticut, but he purchased it from a friend in Atlanta.

“I had the engine redone, took off all the chrome and had it repolished and had the car repainted.” He also had the seats recovered in turquoise metallic leather. All in all, Fryday estimates he’s invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-30,000 on the car.

Like most vintage car collectors, Fryday has another car he uses as a daily driver and only takes his convertibIe out on special ocassions. “Josephine — I named her after the woman across the street — never goes out in the rain and she stays garaged most of the time. I usually take her out once a week or so.” In early September Fryday drove the car to Ohio — for a competition held by the Lincoln Continental owner’s club — where Josephine captured the coveted Lincoln Trophy.

A vintage car enthusiast to the core, Fryday recently announced the formation of a car collector’s club for gays and lesbians in the Charlotte area. You can get more details at gaycarclubnc@yahoogroups.com.

Scott Lindsley manages the Dilworth office of Urban Realty. He also renovates homes in Charlotte’s inner city area. Both he and his partner, hairstylist Joey Hewell, are fans of vintage cars. When the two spotted a champagne pink 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood on Woodlawn Rd., they knew they had to have it.

“We got it in February,” says Lindsley. “It originally came from Vermont, but the guy who bought it decided he didn’t want to put any more money into restoring it.”

The previous owner’s financial woes turned out to be a coup for Lindsley and Hewell — they got the classic car for a steal — $3,000.

“It was a great deal and the car’s in fantastic shape. It runs good — but it’s going to need some body work. So far all I’ve done is install dual exhaust.”

The car is a stark contrast to the subdued lines of Fryday’s Lincoln. With an oversized toothy grill, massive, sharp fins jutting off the rear and an overall length of more than 18 feet, the car is truly a sight to behold.

“You just don’t see things like this on the road anymore,” says Lindsley. “It’s incredible and so much fun to drive.

Like Fryday, Lindsley also owns another car that he uses for business. “I’ve been taking the Cadillac out once on the weekends or so,” he explains. “We haven’t had the air conditioning repaired yet, so it wasn’t so comfortable to drive when it was really hot. Now that we’ve got cooler weather, I like driving it around a lot more because you can put all the windows down.”

Cadillac first added rather lumpy tail fins to their product in 1949. As the decade progressed the fins became larger and sharper, culminating with the 1959 that featured outrageously large rear fins with dual torpedo-shaped taillights. The following year the topedo taillights were replaced by a slender light that followed the line of the fin, stacked over two round lights on each side — one for braking, the other for back-up. By 1961 the fins were somewhat smaller and the lights beneath them had been repositioned horizontally. It was 1965 before the classic fin disappeared entirely.

“I love this car,” says Lindsley. “It’s like art on wheels. Everytime I drive this car downtown I get offers to buy it and nods from other people who are into old cars — it’s a lot of fun.”

Brooke Smith is a sales manager for a wine distribution company. If there’s ever a blight on grapes and the wine-making industry falls by the way — he’s got another career waiting in complete car restoration. We’re talking top to bottom, inside and out — including rebuilding the transmission and the engine.

Smith puchased his 1968 BMW 1600-2 from a previous owner in Concord.

“I got it for $700 back in 2001,” he recalls. “It had been sitting in Gastonia, prior to that, for about 20 years,” Smith continues. “Around 2000 that owner had started to restore it. They took out the engine and interior, but never finished.”

The Concord owner only had the car a short time, before reselling it to Smith, who began a complete restoration project that would eventually take about two years and cost around $15,000.

“It cost me a lot less because I did almost all of the work myself,” he explains. “I prepped the body for painting, put in the interior myself and the engine and transmission.”

Like Fryday, Smith’s fondness for older cars dates back to his childhood.

“My mom had a 1972 BMW 2000,” he recalls.

Ever wonder how a wine salesman learned how to do all that mechanical stuff?

“My mom’s boyfriend at the time worked on BMWs,” Smith explains. “He and my mom eventually broke up, but we all stayed friends. So I learned how to do all of this, mostly, from just watching.”

From 2001 to 2003, Smith spent weekends and some evenings after work restoring the car to its original grandeur.

“When I was finally done and actually driving the car, it was such a great experience because I put so much work into it — it was a blast!”

If you see Smith on the road there’s no possibility you’ll miss him — the car was repainted in its original issue color: an extremely bright orange, labeled by BMW as “Colorado Orange.”

Smith’s next project is another vintage BMW for his partner.

“It’s a 1972 BMW 3.0 CSA. We’ll repaint the body to the original polaris silver and do the interior in dark blue. We paid $3,000 for that and fully restored it’s valued at $30,000.”

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