Speaking with a classic-car enthusiast like Rusty Davis is both inspiring and infectious. It's no wonder that shortly after hiring him at Trees, the venue's owner, Clint Barlow, wound up buying himself a champagne colored '64 Lincoln and his wife a '55 Bel Air. Davis has that kind of effect on people.
Barlow also saw the potential of Invasion, a classic custom and hot rod show that Davis and his car club THEM! took it upon themselves to organize. So Barlow had the boys relocate the thing, packing up shop on Commerce Street and cruising over to its location of (now) three years, the long strip of road in front of Trees. Now they can show off the cars properly. Barlow's also started hosting massive, rockabilly-tinged after parties at the club.
In its fifth year, Invasion has become the biggest, and one of the only, gatherings of pre-1964 vehicles to show in Dallas annually. And thanks to THEM!, you'll get a chance to eye-fuck roughly 400 of the suckers this Saturday, September 1 when the party takes over Deep Ellum.
Oh, and you'll get to do it for free.
Sixty-four was a pivotal year in car design. It gave us the birth of the muscle car, and a point of division in the car-collecting community. While Davis and his friends like the look of the things and invite them to attend, muscle cars cannot be registered or compete on Saturday. In fact, they have to park their chop tops and open wheels in another area entirely. The reason for this isn't so much the rides themselves as it is another factor.
"Muscle cars bring a different kind of owner," said Davis. "They're kinda crybabies."
Most shows that include muscles are primarily focused around competition itself, Davis went on to explain. For fellow greaser enthusiasts of pre-1964 models, that doesn't seem to be the case. These guys aren't out to prove anything to anybody. Sure, there are ten categories up for grabs on Saturday -- covering everything from Best Engine to Best Paint -- but nobody gets too crazy about it. "Most of the people who come to our event don't care if they win a trophy," said Davis. "They just want to have a good time."
That hasn't been a problem. Invasion is growing exponentially and folks are flying in from as far away as London to attend. Clubs from Austin, Oklahoma City, Houston and even a few rouge drivers from California are all blocking out their weekend to party next to their cherished rides here in Dallas. Pre-registration already looks to be double what it was last year, so THEM! is bracing for whatever descends upon Deep Ellum tomorrow.
The club has spent nine months planning Invasion, so there's a safety net for every situation. The city can close more streets. They can hire more cops. And beer? Well, nobody's running out of that either. But for all of the labor involved in organizing this thing, THEM! doesn't take home a dime. The small price for vehicle registration barely covers their fees to the city, and that's how the four-man club likes it. They want to keep Invasion free for as long as possible so that even casual enthusiasts can swing by and fall in lust with the genre.
It's a labor of love, and Rusty is finally allowing himself to get excited about it. "I'll probably just be walking around, drooling on cars all day," said Davis, as he polished out his 1958 wagon with a hunk of steel wool.
Check out the after-party at Trees. It's an early one featuring surf rock legends, Los Straightjackets and Big Sandy. It's an early one, with doors at 7 p.m. Ticket range from $14 (in advance) to $19 at the door.