Every Friday night, Dave Jones, a 30-year-old computer technician, hops in his 1969 modified Camaro Super Sport and roars on over to Fairfax City, to a parking lot bathed in the orange neon glow of a Roy Rogers restaurant.
His car usually gets only two miles to the gallon -- three if he is easy on the accelerator -- which means that the trip to the parking lot of the Pickett Shopping Center on Main Street and back home to Herndon costs him $10 for his high-octane fuel mixture.
But for Jones, president of the Northern Virginia Street Machines, as well as for the other street rodders who turn out, it's worth it.
Jones is one of about 100 or more enthusiasts who gather in the parking lot each Friday evening to trade car tips and visit with car friends. There's nothing organized about it, and the police say that since it's on private property, it's no problem. People just show up, although about half of them usually belong to one of two Northern Virginia car clubs.
"Once cars become a part of your life's blood, they become kind 'a hard to purge," said Jones, who has been into big, shiny muscle cars for as long as he can remember. "So, you come out here to see your friends, to check out everybody else's rides, to see if there's any new machines around."
Friday at 7:45, with the sun going down over the restaurant, the lot was beginning to fill. It could have been a scene from "American Graffiti." The only things lacking were the girls in poodle skirts and the drag races.
Jim VanTuyl, 29, president of the 40-member Northern Virginia Street Machines Inc. -- not the same organization Jones heads, despite the similarity in names -- scanned the scene.
VanTuyl, in his "other" life a courier for the Central Intelligence Agency, has not always been a car nut. His first car was a 1968 Dodge Dart with a stick shift, a radio and a heater. "Your basic everyday car."
Now, he's strictly into street machines -- usually modified early-production Chevys or Fords.
"It'll be packed by 9:30," VanTuyl said, looking around. "From the Roy Rogers, all the way up to Sloane's, from the street to the 7-Eleven. Cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, four-wheel drives. Anything, if it's on wheels, it'll be here.
"The thing is to just circulate around and talk. If somebody's trying to sell a car, it's up to the individuals. But there's no organized selling of cars or parts going on. Mostly, it's just looking.
Standing near a Datsun with a small-block Chevy V-8 in it were owners Michael Runnels, a 24-year-old Fairfax County firefighter, and his wife, Roxane, 22, an accountant. "My dad's the original owner of the car," Runnels said.
"He got tired of the Porsches beatin' him on the highways. We heard about this V-8 conversion kit out of California and decided to do it."
The car was a 1976, painted the same yellow they used for Corvettes in 1976. It had 450 horsepower, and it shone like a lightbulb.
"I've backed off at 140, and it still had plenty to climb," Runnels said.
How does it feel to go that fast?
"Sets you right back into the seat," his wife said.
Mike Schipono, a 23-year-old service adviser for a Chevrolet dealer, was there, too.
"I come to compare cars, to get new ideas," he said.
On a Friday night there are plenty of folks to give their ideas on everything from carburetors to waxes.
"I know one thing," Schipono said, "I am pretty particular on what wax I use. I go with Meguiar's. You'll find a lot of guys here, they'll go with a high-dollar wax."
Which wax job did Schipono admire most?
He looked around and decided on an Oldsmobile that belonged to Robert Davis Sr., a 44-year-old painter from Alexandria. Davis was there with his 13-year-old son, Robert Jr.
"They only made 623 of these," said the Davis not yet old enough for a learner's permit. "It's all stock. It's a 442-W30. It has a 455-engine with ram air, a 411-rear posi positive traction and four-speed."
Under the lights, the car glistened with what appeared to be a high-gloss midnight black finish.
"Not really," said Robert Jr. "Look at the paint. It's got gold misted on the body lines, and it's got some red pearl mixed in, also."
About 9:30, Doug Phillips, a 20-year-old auto mechanic from Vienna, cruised into the lot with his 1967 Camaro, built mostly from scratch, using a "500 cubic-inch Chevy rat motor." He said it could do 140 mph in 9.60 seconds. The license plate read "Sit n Lo."
By 10 p.m., soft rock flowed out of the windows of a few cars. Some people stood around with beers. Mostly, though, they gathered in small groups, admiring this paint job, that suspension system.
Chuck Jones, 45, a District plumber, and his wife, Sue, hung around their 1914 Model T -- outfitted with a Pinto engine and a Jaquar rear end -- eating take-out ice cream. On all sides gleamed big, polished American macho machines, with hood scoops and chrome.
Why had the Joneses come?
To talk cars, they said.
"And, because he's a young boy at heart," said Sue Jones.