Iron Invasion: Last Gasp Chopper and Van Invitational
The Iron Invasion vintage moto and car show now in its 8th year has always taken place in northern Iowa in the heart of some great motorcycle and car history. We wanted to see what this fantastic show was all about and this year it took place at the famous Davenport, Iowa Mississippi Valley fairgrounds which extended the show even further adding dirt drags, mini bike racing an incredible swap meet and tons of room for Zak of Heavy Clothing and Matt of Rolling Heavy magazine to also do a seperate show indoors this year named the "Last Gasp" chopper and van invitational in one of the bigger buildings. We got a chance to speak with the shows founder and organizer John Wells about just how it has evolved over the years and the revelation that made him want to bring the motorcycle and car sub cultures together in the spirit of unified celebration. The gap certainly needed to be bridged and the spirit of the show aimed to do just that by the blending or "invading" of each of these subcultures to bring them together into one show. So whether your ride of choice is an Econoline van, a vintage Honda or Harley Davidson or 3 ton Buick fastback the name of the game here is vintage, and no matter what your passion vintage is better!
Ok so first up, how many years have the vintage torque fest and iron invasion shows that you organize been running?
Well we have 2 separate events that happen in the Spring and fall each year, first is Vintage torque fest and second Iron invasion which is a basically a branch off show from that. Iron invasion started in 2012 in wood stock Illinois and it started really strong but we were plagued year after year with bad weather, we even had snow one year if you believe it the 1st week of October, literally snow! So it never really got the traction it deserved. As a result the fairgrounds who charged us a lot of money at the time made it a bit harder for us to stay there so we moved the event out here to Davenport and the people all love the grounds and the fairground staff is just so great to work with, it sort of all came together here. In addition Zach and Matt got the chance to have an entire building here for the Last Gasp portion, you also have the dirt drags and the swap area it all just turned out to be really good and I think it has been a good vibe.
So with the "Last Gasp" chopper and Van portion of the iron invasion added into the equation was this the first year for that addition and how do you feel that went?
For sure it was a collaboration between Zak Doom from Heavy clothing bringing in the choppers and Matt of Rolling heavy magazine bringing out all of the great vans it became this 3 way conversation at 1st like "Hey we have this giant building and we could have bikes, vans and live music included, lets make this work" then it just sort of picked up steam and became a reality and I think it turned out really great.
This was actually Old bike barn's first year for attending iron invasion and it was pretty impressive I have to say. It's something I know we would enjoy every year, it definitely encompassed a whole big mix of vintage subcultures all-in-one and we love embracing things that bring light to that it. Also to me it kind of felt like a mini version of the famed Davenport swap meet as well on top of everything else included in the event as the swap here was one of the great added bonuses to the show.
Haha, well I don't wanna say that personally or compare the two because Davenport swap is just so legendary and I've been out at that event 15 years as a vendor and its way up there in terms of being like a world class event. That being said the people here this weekend doing the swap were really stoked and many vendors said they would come back next year no doubt even if it was only a month later after the Davenport swap. I thought that was pretty cool and hopefully you can have two cool swap meets in the same spot. Which this tends to be more of cars then motorcycle vendors but we had some really good motorcycle vendors this year as well so it all sort of leveled out.
Well say you are a tried and true Davenport swap meet enthusiast, what would you say that iron invasion offers someone like that to make them want to come back and experience this event as well?
I think this is a very different experience than the Davenport swap, their swap meet is very direct and focused on vintage motorcycles and we are very much more of a hangout kind of vibe or like "Hey let's get the people that have the same kind of mindset together and let's all vibe and just hang out." I think you'll see sometimes that some car guys don't always get this idea and that's OK because they'll come one year and be gone and you won't see that negativity come back. Then you replace that with 3 other guys who do "get it" and all of a sudden it's a chill vibe and everyone is happy to come and hang and have a great time.
You know something I was even remarking to one of the guys here earlier was its like I know so many people in the motorcycle scene but I don't know a lot of the Van or car people so it will be interesting to see that mashing of those subcultures that normally would be attending separate events or shows all together. Actually for the most part throughout the day I thought that everyone's vibe very well there were smiles on everyone's faces and everyone was very welcoming.
Well you know it's funny because I was raised with my dad, he just always had motorcycles. I had a Yamaha 80CC when I was only 6 years old out there blasting through the fields and he was always with cars in-and-out of the driveway all the time, always flipping cars, you name it. So I was raised with motorcycles and cars side-by-side my whole life so it's like there has never been a delineation between the two. I didn't realize until people have said to me personally do you really want that element, quote unquote, haha "element" at your event and I specifically remember the person who asked me that and I honestly looked at him and asked , what do you mean, like I didn't even understand the question and then he said "well you know those biker guys you know" Im still like, I don't know what you mean? "Well you don't want those kind of guys coming to your shows right?" He actually said, and I thought to myself, well why not, I've been raised around those guys my entire life side-by-side with the car guys and so it just kind of blew my mind that some people actually do think like that! So it got me to thinking I get along with all those biker guys why wouldn't the car guys get along with them? So i ask him, are you a cool guy? "Well yeah of course" he answers. Well ok, so is this biker guy over here, he might not dress like you but you know what, You probably have 98% of the things you like in common and don't even realize it so why not put those 2 groups together and all just have a good time? I truly think we all have a lot more in common as people than the other way around and that's the vibe, its love.
So would you say that would be the invasion part of this show then? Is the iron invasion essentially the "invasion" of the car culture with the motorcycle "iron" culture then?
Yeah I think so definitely and honestly to I'm just a huge heavy metal Iron maiden and Judas Priest fan and they both have songs called invader, Haha. I'm really big into heavy metal in general and there's always been a big metal motif with our show art work and designs so I think it's like yeah I think we do invade both cultures by kind of forcing them together into one show and you know what it's been successful! Everybody has a good time. I hope that people will maintain an open mind when they come to an event like this.
So last question what do you have planned going forward with the iron invasion and vintage torque fest shows and will we see this on the 2021 schedule for next year?
Well we are looking ahead to Dubuque Iowa April 30th and May 1st for vintage torque fest happening at the county fairgrounds there in Dubuque and then we will find out if the Mississippi Valley fairgrounds here in Davenport wants to have us back here for the iron invasion last gasp show....... I suspect that they do though.
Well thank you so much and I appreciate all the hard work you and your team puts into this event bringing everyone together.
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff