Cars Have Always Been A Powerful Platform For Pride

The stars of Pride marches are undoubtedly the members of the community who show up in full force to have their voices heard, but I also have a humble respect for the cars, trucks and bikes that make the vast Pride parades of today and decades past possible.

This June marked the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march held in New York City on June 28, 1970. Back then, it wasn’t called Pride. In its first year, it was known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, for the street on which the now iconic Stonewall Inn is located.

The event itself was organised by activists Craig Rodwell, Fred Sergeant, Ellen Brody, Linda Rhodes and Brenda Howard, who proposed an annual march on the last Sunday of June to commemorate the infamous night at the Stonewall just a year prior, in which members of the community began fighting back against police violence.

In the decades since, Pride parades around the globe have served as critical displays of visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community. Let’s explore some of the iconic two, four, and ten-wheeled machinery that’s ferried those fighting for rights and liberation through the streets of cities around the world.

Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Dykes on Bikes are a sure bet at any Pride march. The chaptered lesbian motorcycle club was founded in 1976 in San Francisco, and has spread to include 22 chapters around the world.

You’ll typically find motorcycle riders at the front of a Pride parade. As the first group, they can maintain a bit more speed than the groups in the middle of the march, which is key for two-wheelers. Here at New York’s 31st annual Lesbian and Gay Pride March — as it was then called — a massive group of motorcyclists that are part of the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club lead the parade. I spy an early BMW R1100S, the rest are a bit too obscured to identify for someone with sparse knowledge of motorcycles such as myself.

Photo: JACK GUEZ, Getty Images

This is a tough one. Look past the bright Brazilian colours these queens are wearing in late ‘90s Paris. Is that Land Rover 110? A 90? I was hoping the headlights could tell me but Land Rover practically kept the same front end from the Series III onward. I’m tempted to say this particular Land Rover is painted in Monte Carlo Blue but it looks a bit flat. Either way, it’s a great colour. Really brings out their eyes.

Photo: Leo Vals, Getty Images

I didn’t think I’d see the words “leather fetish” published on this site, but I’m proud to be the first. And let’s discuss the convenience of a Jeep Wrangler: windshield down, good conversation with your fellow leather enthusiast lying on your hood. Pretty sure these folks are enjoying the open-air freedom of a CJ7. What year? I have no idea. Help me David Tracy.

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriugez, Getty Images

So it’s 2007, and you need to ferry Mr., Ms., and Miss Gay Pride around Los Angeles. Is there a more fitting car than a Pastel Yellow PT Cruiser Convertible? That massive roll bar in the centre makes for a perfect grab handle for the winning contestants, the 2.4-litre turbo four-cylinder provides plenty of low-end grunt, and the car itself is flourishing during the peak of the retro-styling fad that brought us the New Beetle. What a time to be alive.

Photo: Getty, Getty Images

In the UK, drag queens in Northern Ireland are ferried by what appears to be a ’59 Cadillac DeVille and Porsche 356 Cabriolet during Belfast Pride in 2017. Those rear tail fins are unmistakable on the Caddy, and the powder pink paint job really sells it.

Photo: Getty, Getty Images

The Porsche appears to be a 356 B judging from the twin rear taillights instead of the quad lamp assembly that early A models had, as well as the single rear vent over the air-cooled flat-four.

Photo: Steve Eason, Getty Images

At London’s Lesbian and Gay Pride march in 1995, Gay Men Fighting Aids took to the streets in — and on — a vehicle plucked from Her Majesty’s armed forces.

This one took a bit to track down, because I don’t know about you, but the bulk of my mechanical familiarity tops out at about two tons.

This is an FV433 “Abbot” SPG, which stands for “self propelled gun.” So, not technically a tank, but equally as effective. That pink paint job is also reminiscent of the infamous “Pink Panther” Land Rovers the British SAS used in Oman in the 1960s.

The scale of current day Pride marches have eclipsed the grassroots events of the ‘70s and ‘80s, creating a large scale intersection for major manufacturers to showcase products, like BMW did with Jonathan Adler in 2019 for World Pride.

And while it is cool to head up a massive display of queer identity with a rainbow livery 8 series, a powerful woman on her own personal Harley feels a bit more exemplary of the power of machines and the people who drive them.

Cars are and always have been a queer space, and they’re only better when they flaunt it.

Jake Margle is a part-time wrencher and full-time idiot. When he’s not chasing leaks on his ageing machines he’s reviewing cars with his friend Chris Landry over at @gearsandqueers on Instagram and YouTube.