Early on a wintry Saturday morning, Phil Mitchell stood watch over his pride and joy: a black and orange 1989 Lotus Esprit.
Like any well-versed car buff, he proceeded to reel off bullet points regarding his handcrafted machine from England — precision engineered, small turbo engine, lightweight, "phenomenal handling and road-holding."
Mitchell, 53, of Brookeville, said he bought the car — which cost $60,000 new — on Ebay. His insurance is reasonable, about $450 a year. "I don't drive it every day."
He doesn't take it to his job as a safety engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center. Of course, he must use it to get to one of the car shows he enjoys being a part of.
"It's a weekend car. I put less than 6,000 miles a year on it."
Mitchell was one of about 25 guys who, since the event kicked off last summer, have been faithfully assembling at Sidamo Coffee and Tea in Maple Lawn to talk about the triumphs and the tragedies associated with the internal-combustion engine and their devotion to it.
While revving up on Sidamo's Ethiopian organic, shade-grown, fair-trade brew, they go on and on about fuel economy. And, the advantages of powering their dream machines with the use of timing belts instead of rubber belts.
How do their spouses and significant others feel about their shared avocation? There must be a support group out there somewhere.
What does Mitchell's wife think about his sidelight?
"I'm single," he said. "I was married. Now I don't have to ask permission anymore. My last girlfriend liked it. Well, that's what she said."
"My wife knows where I'm at," said Bob Pecker. "This works out good."
Pecker, from North Laurel, used to drag race as far away as Indiana, "but it just got too expensive."
At other car shows, like the one held Sundays in nearby Burtonsville, Pecker said he often runs into friends he hasn't seen in decades. "I see guys who are goofier now than they were 30 years ago. They've aged. I've gotten fatter."
Similar cars and coffee klatches pop up around the region, said Stan Bailey, who likes to join in the fun at Sidamo whenever possible.
The biggest, he noted, is at a coffee shop in Great Falls, Va., in Fairfax County. Bailey's been, and he said he's learned how to speak the language.
"There's more Lamborghinis, Ferraris and an occasional Bentley," he said. "They say `Porsche-aah.' The laymen say `Porsch.' You've gotta have the 'a' on the end. I've ... been corrected."
The weekly confab, said Sidamo's co-owner, Kenfe Bellay, "is not only good for our business, it is good for so many other businesses" in Maple Lawn.
"People are coming together and talking together. It's opened another community, like the farmers market."