“Motor Family”--a term unfamiliar to many, but once one learns its true meaning, it becomes of such soulful importance, that they are in for life. This term has been used frequently by many in the Midwest car show and hot rod scene. I first heard the term from Max Grundy and John Wells, as they developed a series by the same name about car kulture--yes, that’s kulture with a ‘k,’ and the people who make it special. And that is truly what makes a Wells family show, like Vintage Torque Fest, special. It’s all about the people and their passions.
Many have the misconception that hot rod and kustom shows are a just a big party of debauchery, and although there are some PG shenanigans and hard core bands; these shows are family oriented and centered around a great cause. Vintage Torque Fest was created to raise money for a cause near to the Wells’s heart. Inspired by their own daughter, Hannah’s, struggle with a congenital heart defect; John and his wife, Kim, knew they needed to help others in their shoes. They began the non-profit “Helping Hannah’s Heart,” a trust to raise money for children with congenital heart defects. From that, Vintage Torque Fest (VTF) was born and this year’s show was bigger and better than ever with over 7,000 spectators and over 1,000 cars and motorcycles.
The show is a traditional hot rod, kustom, and vintage cycle show held at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds on the first weekend in May. They have vehicle specifications to create a special environment within the show grounds. All cars in the main spectator area should be pre-65 traditional and neo-traditional with no billet and no digital. However, ALL cars are welcome as there is also segregated parking for stock classics, and other show-quality vehicles at the show, so you don’t have to park your sweet ride by the family mini-van.
A well rounded combination of all aspects of car kulture are represented at Vintage Torque Fest. There is always something thrilling to keep spectators of all ages full of excitement, rain or shine. Attractions include an art auction, in which all proceeds are donated to Helping Hannah’s Heart; vendors galore, traditional pinup contest, swap meet, back roads country cruise, flame throwing, and a whole bill of bands from bluegrass and honky tonk to blues and psychobilly. This year’s show featured spectator favorites, 3 on the Tree, the Delta Bombers, and Mothership; just to name a few.
A love for traditional racing is evident at Vintage Torque Fest, and all of John’s shows, for that matter. This year’s VTF included more racing activities than ever. There are always designated times for any attendees to hit the dirt track with their show cars or with their car club in the exhibition laps. Many take this chance to rip around with their “motor family” for some bonding time. The show also features various activities to race vintage motorcycles, go karts and mini bikes. There’s truly fun for everyone!
But it is Friday night that provides one of the most unique racing opportunities at the show. Many die-hard spectators take off work on Friday so they don’t miss a chance to watch chain-racing. Anyone can participate, as a local salvage yard donates the vehicles for a fee. Two-person teams are provided with a front car with gas and no brakes, which is chained, by a 4 foot chain, to a back car with brakes and no engine. As one can imagine, this scene leads to some sticky situations and some wacky racing antics! Many car clubs organize a team and go head to head; all in good fun, of course. The last two years has even included a team from the Gasoline Dames, an all-girl car club that began in Chicago, but has expanded across the midwest. Chain-racing teams even get to spray paint their vehicles beforehand to show their team pride. Once they hit the track, it’s on! There’s no way to know what will happen and anyone can take the win, but one thing is for sure, the entertainment is at a height to start the weekend off right.
This year brought a new addition to the racing shenanigans at Vintage Torque Fest. The Dirty Drags, sponsored by Summit Racing, on Friday night and Saturday afternoon provided some fast-paced adrenaline in the form of ⅛ mile drags on the front stretch of the dirt track on the fairground. This is the first year VTF has offered drag racing, but it definitely left a lasting impression. The inclusion of this event came from popular demand and Friday welcomed open class, 1972 and older trucks and cars, racing on the dirt. The winner of the night drags was Brett Bennett, with his 1953 Chevy with fuel injected LT1. He went on to participate in the flame show that same night! That’s committment, folks!
Night Drags winner - Brett Bennett
Saturday afternoon featured vintage hot rod drags in single elimination. A specified purse was established to provide winners with some great prizes. This year Caleb Andreatta won the vintage class with his 1921 T Bucket and took home the custom designed trophy, but he donated his winnings back to the Helping Hannah’s Heart Foundation to support the true reason for this show.
Caleb Andreatta takes the win in Saturday's Vintage Hot Rod Drags
"I love putting on a show and give the fans a great show,” Caleb said after the race, “I owe my best friend Robert Barker a lot for his help. We will bring many more cars next year and will be signing up to volunteer."