Article And Photos By: Chris Callen
Originally Published In The July 2011 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
About six months ago, this cat starts coming around and telling us about this rockin’ event in Iowa. Okay, not to be a smartass but until recently, I always thought of Iowa as one of those states that I had to get thru to make it to Sturgis. His handle is “Cycle Nazi” so I figured he was probably as hard as they come and we decided to trust him and check it out. We started to ask around and before too long, it was time to head out to Vintage TorqueFest. All joking aside, we knew when we first hit the sleepy little town of Maqueta, Iowa that this was a place filled with motorheads. Sprint cars and late model dirt track racers were all over town and not because it was race day; you could tell these guys lived for the track. Hell, even their hardware store is named Gasser True Value. It’s also one of those rare towns to have a working drive-in theater, very rich in hot rod roots, but just how rich, well we were about to find out. We got the Limpnickie rig set up in what John Wells, VTF organizer, had set aside for the expansion of motorcycle-rama. We started to survey the landscape and it seemed like the typical greaser hoedown. There were tons of stripers, people selling hot rod wares and a general feeling of Rock-a-Billy vivation that calls to the car kooks like a pied piper. For me it was great early on because a few cats I’ve wanted to meet but had only talked to over the phone doing the magazine thing were on hand like Electric Solos and the Cycle Nazi himself, Jeremiah Levendusky. Of course our Limpnickie brethren, Papa Clutch, Union Speed, Pearson’s and Relic were also on hand. This couldn’t have been a bad time if that was as good as it got but it went up from there. A bunch of the Milwaukee boys came out and even Mr. Don Wood spent the weekend with us. He and the rest of the guys that were at Papa’s pad the night before looked a little haggard. I figured that Don had brought some of the good stuff to town so I sat with my cup in hand, patiently waiting.
That first night it was an all out party, man. We tore it up mildly as we watched Darren from Slingin’ Ink Tattoo, perform a wicked hand shifting burnout until the cops came. Now I thought there’d be hell to pay in this little goodie-goodie town and had bet the cops were dicks. When he jumped out of the car and said, “We’re taking this bike…” I filled my lungs with enough air to blow his straw house down. Before I could go to work on him, he followed with, “so we can ride it around,” and broke a smile. The whole crew let out a sigh of relief as I believe we were all ready to argue but there was no hassle to be had. Hmm, we wondered. Had we found “Motorhead Nirvana?” We did settle down a bit for the rest of the night and long talks filled with lies that men tell other men over a campfire and whiskey was in full swing. I can’t remember when I hit the sack but it was too late and morning came too early. As I cracked an eye open, I heard the rumble of many giant V-8 engines; the rodders had come to town. The little field that we were beside that sat basically empty that first night was filled to the brim and there was a line of cool cars out the gate. This event immediately took on the tone of the Lone Star Roundup, for any of you who have been there. There were killer rat rods that were not shit boxes at all; some very fine work with plenty of attitude. Betties and Johnnies were all over the place and then in the middle of it, there we were. Our hodgepodge of generations and styles with the common bond of scooter tramp among us, we were certainly outnumbered but no way were we outdone. For as many cool cars that were on the other side of the lot, the bikes were smoking too. I sat back and watched the scene and thought about the fact that back in the day, greasers and tramps in a setting like this would be sure to end up in a rat pack or two, but this was a perfect example of the crossover that exists between the two worlds now.
I think it has a lot to do with the caliber of car guys that were there. The major supporter of this event was the Cheaters Car Club and these guys are a class act. They signed on with VTF last year in support of the cause behind the event, John’s young daughter Hannah. She has a heart condition and all proceeds from the weekend go to the “Helping Hannah’s Heart Foundation” to see that she gets the help she needs. The Cheaters weren’t the only club in attendance; there were tons of other car clubs on hand. At the height of the event, they gave out awards for the “Best Ofs” at the show. Kendall Lutchman won the “Best Bike” award for that sexy little Triumph he’s been seen around town on. I believe it will be in a national publication very soon. As the day went on, we would venture over to the ½ mile dirt oval where not only were classic and vintage rods taking laps but there were also old bikes in what they would call “demonstrations.” Yeah, for anyone who has been to Mt. Fest in West Virginia and at their “demonstrations” it’s much the same. I call it flat-out racing. These boys were getting it and on some old ass iron, too. The stands were full and trophy girl be damned, these guys put it on the line for bragging rights. What a blast! Saturday night brought more Rocka- Billy bands to the arena and the local drive-in was showing a double header of “American Graffiti” and some other car classics. So, Cycle Source and Papa Clutch threw a double feature of our own. We pulled out the projector and had an impromptu motorcycle drive-in theater against the outside pavilion wall. First up was the “Glory Stompers,” an early Jack Nicholson flick. Next of course, was “Wild Angels” featuring Heavenly Blues, Fonda’s character before he was Captain America. It was great fun and ghetto as hell. Cats passed around popcorn and fruit, jugs of shine and between features, Don Wood saved the lot of us with a truckload of pizza. Thanks Don, you’re the best. There are still a few men who take care of their brothers out there! As we rolled up the cords and put away the projector, one cat came up and asked if he missed it. Damn, I wanted to play another movie just for him. He was bummed, so next year we’re comin’ back and we’ll make sure to set the movie schedule ahead of time. By the end of it all I was so glad I didn’t skip on this one. It was good old time fun like we rarely have anymore. The stuff there was all culture, guys who build shit and just badass everywhere, man. Mad props go out to not only the organizers but the folks from the Midwest who get down on such a serious level with the custom culture. I will never fly thru Iowa again without going slow enough to spot towns like Maqueta. So mark it down, don’t miss next year and find out more on their Web site. www.vintagetorquefest.com