By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
When Rhonda Berry overheard her husband and brother on the phone a couple of years ago talking excitedly about purchasing “slingshots,” she didn’t know what to think.
“I’m a country girl, so I thought it was the old-school toy at first,” recalled Rhonda, who is from Bessemer, Alabama. “My husband, [Andre Berry], and brother, [Kenyon Taylor], were on the phone like two women discussing getting slingshots. My brother was really making a move on getting one, and Andre was trying to convince me about getting one as well.”
She would learn that her husband and brother were talking about those cool-looking roadsters with the top off and three wheels. The vehicle is called the Polaris Slingshot—and it is not an automobile or a motorcycle but is classified as an autocycle in at least 44 states, including Alabama.
Kenyon would go on to purchase a 2016 Slingshot SL, and Andre got the 2021 version of the same model.
After getting inside the roadster with her husband, Rhonda was sold.
“When I saw it, I knew we made the right decision,” she said. “When we got in and rode around, and I fell in love. [Being in a Slingshot, casually called a Sling], is a refreshing feeling. It felt like we could get to live part of our life that we didn’t get to live in our 20’s because we got married at such a young age.”
Earlier this year, the Berrys and Taylor, along with Brandon Williams and Carlos Fuller, founded the 205 Kingz and Queenz of Slingz, a group that has about 30 members.
“We all just meet up on a weekend or whenever and go for a ride,” said Isiah Simms, a member of the group. “We’ve been to Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Memphis, Tennessee; Houston, Texas. … We love to meet up with other people who have Slings or just take them out.”
The idea for a new group in Birmingham came after Andre and Kenyon attended a SlingFest event, a gathering for owners of Polaris Slingshots, in Atlanta, Georgia, in July 2021.
“We were having a good time, and we were like, ‘Birmingham needs to get ready for something like this on a larger scale,’” said Andre.
“We knew the vision that we wanted to bring to the group based on our experiences and our experience at the festival,” said Kenyon. “The festival was very fun, and everybody was gathered with one common interest—the love of riding and owning a Slingshot, nothing else.”
For members of 205 Kingz and Queenz of Slingz, it’s hard to go unnoticed: “Every time I take my [Slingshot] out, people stop and stare,” said Taylor, a co-founder of the group. “Then they ask me what it is I’m driving and where I got it from. … I’ve even taken pictures with people.”
How it Began
When Andre and Taylor returned to Birmingham from the 2021 Atlanta SlingFest, the idea for Birmingham’s 205 Kingz and Queen of Slingz took off.
“We came back ready,” said Taylor. “We knew how we wanted the group to look and feel, so we started a Facebook group and contacted a few members of a previous group [of Slingshot riders] and asked them if they wanted to join and be part of it.”
The new group came with new changes. “We added ‘Queenz’ to the name because more women riders started joining as the group grew,” said Rhonda. “It was no longer a group dominated by this person or that person. … It’s just people, people who have Slingshots and want to ride. That’s all.”
The first thing you notice about the group is how close-knit they are.
“We have many things in common, but the unifier for us all is the love and enjoyment of riding,” said Melvin Bimbo, owner of a 2021 Slingshot R. “With that being the main factor, we’re not really thinking about anything else, just enjoying ourselves and fellowshipping. … We always say a prayer before we ride out.”
They work as one, added Taylor: “If somebody needs something, we help out. You need to pull over and get gas? We all pull over with you,” he said.
Rhonda said, “You don’t have to go to a club or party to have fun. Sometimes we will just pull up to a place to get drinks or something to eat and just hang out in the parking lot talking and goofing.”
The members of 205 Kingz and Queen of Slingz also have another thing in common: entrepreneurship.
“A lot of us own our own businesses or are entrepreneurs in some form,” said, Bimbo, who owns Cut Creators Lawn Service. “People have landscaping businesses, concrete businesses, embroidery businesses; some people are retired. … A lot of us have our own separate things outside of riding Slingshots, and I think that is what also allows us to get along so well. We have the bond of having our own, and we just take our Slingshots out whenever. … There’s never really a set time that we take them out together unless we have a specific event we are going to.”
The Love of the Ride
“Road trips are definitely an experience,” said Williams “It’s like there’s not a care in the world. When we meet other people who have Slingshots, that’s how they describe it, too.”
In March, the group rode to Selma, Alabama, for the commemoration of Blood Sunday, when state and local police used billy clubs, whips, and tear gas to attack hundreds of Civil Rights activists as they embarked on a march Selma to Alabama’s state capitol in Montgomery on March 7, 1965.
“That particular ride was educational and more serious than our usual rides,” Williams added. “We went down to not only fellowship with other Slingshot riders but to be part of history and to learn about our history. That just goes to show you the diversity of owning a Slingshot: road tripping is not always just for fun.”
Members of the group aren’t shy about making modifications to their vehicles.
“Some people have really amazing Slingshots, and it’s a sight to see,” said Rhonda.
One such person is Taylor, who has logged more than 38,000 miles on his Slingshot thanks to driving across Alabama, including stops in Selma and Tuscaloosa, as well as across the United States to locales like Panama City, Florida, Memphis, and Houston. He prides himself on being more than just a member of the group. Taylor considers himself the “King of Slingz.”
“Whatever I do, I do it big,” he said, citing, for example, the time he invested three months and more than $20,000 into modifying his 2021 Polaris Slingshot SL.
“I’ve got 24-inch gold rims. I’ve got peanut butter seats, gold trim, wheels, a gold steering wheel, and my new sound system,” he said. “Mine is a sight to see.”
Williams is another passionate rider.
“I personally have added bigger wheels and more lights, installed cameras, detailed my emblem, and done other things,” he said. “Once you get yours, it hard not to make it your own and have it stand out. … Definitely get your money up if you want [your Slingshot] to compete with others.”