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'If you see a Camaro convertible, there's more than likely a blonde driving it. For some reason, the ladies like Camaros," says Ray Taylor, who founded San Diego Auto Swap (also known as Ray Taylor's Swap & Sale) in 1990. "As far as I'm concerned, anything motorized -- or it doesn't even have to be motorized -- if it has wheels, bring it," says Ray.

The next of Ray's monthly Auto Swap events will be held on Sunday, March 20, in the parking lot of Grossmont College. There will be approximately 200 vendors selling new and used parts and accessories to those who wish to "pimp their rides" -- a term popularized by MTV for "soup up your vehicle" or "trick out your car." Many vendors sell parts for older, collectible cars. Classic cars and other vehicles will be for sale in the Show and Sell section.

It costs $25 for a vendor space and $15 for a spot in the Show and Sell area. When asked how many cars are sold each month, Ray replies, "Most of the time I don't hear about the sales because they're afraid I'm gonna hit them up for money, I guess." He assures me that he takes no commission from any sale. "I know there have been some beautiful street rods which sold for over $50K, and I've seen some basket-case vehicles go for a couple of hundred."

Ray has some advice to those buying and selling: "As far as bad checks go, I always tell people to treat sales at our events just like they would at their home. Cash is king! Even cashier's checks and money orders can be bogus. I tell them to take a cash deposit and then meet the buyer at the bank to make sure the funds are valid. We aren't involved in the sale. We just supply the venue for buyers and sellers to meet."

This year there will be a new section for motorcycles. The entrance fee for a vehicle includes admission for the driver and one passenger. Motorcycles have the same policy, but their entrance fee is reduced to $10. "That includes the driver and the guy on the back," says Ray. "I tell my guys, 'If someone comes in with three people on a bike, let me know, because I want to see what that looks like.'"

As part of a push to increase the number of motorcycles at the events, Ray says, "All the motorcycle guys [receive] my world-famous continental breakfast." This usually includes coffee, hot chocolate, donuts, and bagels. "I really like motorcycles," says Ray. "Almost everyone who has a nice car has a nice motorcycle. My partner has eight of them." Chuck Swimmer, Ray's business partner since 1997, owns Charco Construction, a local remodeling company that has been in business for 37 years. In addition to his bikes, "Chuck has 30 or 40 cars in his collection."

Entertainment and awards are a part of the Auto Swap. Each month there is a Best in Show award. The winner receives a three-foot trophy and $100. It's a people's choice award -- everyone who attends the event is given a ballot to vote in their ten favorite cars.

The top 24 car owners (not including Best in Show) receive a small trophy and food. Breakfast starts early, but at around 10 a.m. Bernie and Heidi (professional food vendors) will most likely make "breakfast burgers" because, according to Ray, "These guys like to eat burgers for breakfast." No alcohol will be served. "These are family events, first of all, but we also wouldn't want these guys getting sauced and then driving their cars."

And there's music. "Some disc jockeys spin tunes for us," says Ray. He explains that the DJs, Bob and Geoff, play mostly "old rock-and-roll music and some country and western." Ray once tried letting a band play but says the vendors were not happy with the distraction to their potential customers.

All visitors to the Auto Swap can have a professional picture of their vehicle taken with Autumn Maze, the official Miss San Diego Auto Swap. When asked how he discovered Autumn, Ray says it was during a bikini contest he held five years ago. "She was one of the contestants, and the guys got along with her great."

Ray has seen it all. "This guy just landed his helicopter in a vacant part of the lot, in 1999, where we were holding the event at the stadium. He got out and asked if he could show his bike. That was the weirdest thing we ever saw coming." -- Barbarella

San Diego Auto & Cycle Swap Sunday, March 20 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Grossmont College, 8800 Grossmont College Drive El Cajon Cost: $5; children under 13 free Info: 858-484-9342 or www.sandiegoautoswap.com

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