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Clifton Cruise-In is Sept. 1

Hot cars, hot weather and a hot time are in store for those attending the fourth annual Clifton Cruise-In. Slated for Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., in the Town of Clifton, it showcases street rods, custom and antique cars, muscle cars and true classics.

"It's gonna be huge," said Clifton's Jim Chesley. "I'm getting calls from people as far away as the Carolinas and Pennsylvania, wanting to know if we have space for them."

Sponsoring the event are the Custom Cruisers of Northern Virginia and the Clifton Lions Club and, besides being Clifton mayor, Chesley is a member of both entities and is organizing the whole shebang. There'll be trophies, door prizes, entertainment and food — and a whole lot of fun.

"It's an open show, meaning it's open to everything from a 1908 Buick to a brand-new Dodge Viper," said an exuberant Chesley. "And the participants have an appreciation of each other's vehicles, so everyone has a good time."

Vehicle registration is $12; call Chesley at 703-830-2129 or see the Hemmings Motor News Web site, hemmings.com, and click on "shows." Or register that day, at 8 a.m., in front of the Heart in Hand restaurant. The event is free to spectators.

"Last year we had 130 vehicles," he said. "If we have a sunny day, it'll be a tremendously big show. We're expecting 1,000 people throughout the day. Open shows attract [a larger audience], and people have told me they like the old-town setting." Besides, said Chesley, "This spring, many other shows were rained out — so the car people are just itching to bring their cars out."

MAIN STREET will be closed to through traffic during the cruise-in, and cars on display will be parked all up and down the street, and in the adjoining parking lots, including those belonging to the Heart in Hand, the Hermitage Inn restaurant and Clifton Presbyterian Church. Said Chesley: "We should have 150-175 cars and trucks and about 50 motorcycles."

He said some car clubs, such as the Culpeper Hot Rod Club, arrive in a unit because their members ride together. But others come as either individual participants or spectators. "They look under the hoods and admire the vehicles," said Chesley. "And the caboose and town park will be open for the kids. It's just gonna be a fun day."

A deejay will play 1950s music outside the Clifton Store, and Lions Club members will cook hot dogs and hamburgers to sell with chips and beverages in the caboose parking lot. And across the street from the Hermitage will be a vendor making commemorative T-shirts.

On the front will be pictures of a 1956 black Chevy and a 1932 yellow coupe from the movie, "American Graffiti," plus the words, "4th Annual Clifton Cruise-In." And, said Chesley, "They may even be able to take digital photos of your car and put it on a T-shirt or plaque."

Proceeds from the event go to the charities supported by Custom Cruisers of Northern Virginia and the Clifton Lions Club and aid the hungry, the homeless, the sight- and hearing-impaired and abused women in the local area.

It costs some $2,000 to put on the Cruise-In and, until now, most of the costs were funded by the vehicle registrations. But that only left about $500 for each sponsor to donate to their charities. So this year, Chesley decided to pull out all the stops and raise some money beforehand.

"I started talking to friends and calling in chits, and I've been able to raise over $6,000 for the charities," he said. Chesley also got 30 additional entities to contribute either monetarily or in merchandise — such as meals at the Heart in Hand and Hermitage Inn, tickets to Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas and car servicing at Centreville Goodyear — for the doorprizes.

"THERE'S BEEN A HUGE outpouring of support — especially when those donating realized all the charity work these groups do," he said. "It's all tax-deductible, and it's all for a good cause that goes back into the local area."

And as the event has grown, so has the number of trophies and plaques awarded. The first year, just three trophies were presented. This year, there will be 20 trophies and 20 plaques — for 40 prizes total. Trophies will be awarded at 2:15 p.m.; the top three are for Best of Show, Mayor's Pick and Lions' Pick. And all vehicles registered will receive dashboard plaques.

Attendees will feast their eyes on the newest, most exotic cars from local dealers, plus classics, such as a completely restored 1966 GTO. Other highlights include a Winston Cup car, some NASCAR racers and a snazzy, new bike from Patriot Harley Davidson of Fairfax.

"There'll be everything from Model-T's to the hot rods of the '40s and '50s, the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s and even an English Bentley GT with a jet engine," said Chesley. "People will need to wear dark glasses because the chrome from all the cars will be blinding."

The cruise-in honors the best in American engineering and design. "Cars aren't made like these, anymore," said Chesley. "They're one-of-a-kind, real steel, real motors. Instead of a tiny, rotary engine, you'll see, for example, a big, 600-horsepower, 502 cubic-inch, chrome engine stuffed into a 1932 coupe — and wonder how they did it. This show mixes hot rods and antiques in an appreciation of American iron — when cars were cars."