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Euro-Trip Part III: Players Gonna Play

Euro-Trip Part III: Players Gonna Play

Holiday, a natural time to relax, unwind and recharge the body. Early June, with two full weeks booked off work, would be absolutely ideal for catching up on sleep, chilling out and enjoying a few cold beverages in the sunshine. It’s natural, but our man Cian doesn’t conform to normality. The following is an excerpt from the EuroTrip travel blog of a an absolute automotive nutter, and that’s in his own words!

Eight letters, six of which are repeated. One word. Thousands of connections. History drips off its syllables, each utterance conjuring up romantic, misty eyed notions of the Good Old Days. The sickly stench of carburetor fed fuel hanging in a mist before being absorbed into woolen fibres and tweed regalia. Moss, Fangio, Clark, McLaren. The gleaming white environs has seen them all. It’s a world of high end living, highbrow spectacles and tangible decadence. Plonked before a menu item or a clothing piece, the premium is noticeable, as people pay to be a part of the emotion of the place, wrapped up in the awareness that every morsel of fried beef passing through their hands has a connection to this most hallowed corner of old-money living lost on a modern world. This is Goodwood!

Goodwood is a truly wonderful place to be, and it truly feels like a remnant of a time long gone only found in Pathe News reels or Downton Abbey. Set in the tranquillity found on the edge of Chichester on England’s South Coast, the area is a transposition it seems. Tree lined avenues, old stone walls and rolling farmland within minutes of Roundabouts, Industrial Estates and Wetherspoons. Gravel lined driveways into the hotel are my first taste of the experience, a car park brimmed with new Jaguar’s, Land Rover’s and Bentley’s being the next. Like a fish out of water, I felt overwhelmed, but then, in the corner, sat a Sierra Cosworth, and a Bagged Polo, and I knew there were a few others of a similar ilk around.

While Goodwood is known worldwide for the rather epic Festival of Speed, which I really really need to get back to again, and the sheer value-crazy affair that is the Revival, the Goodwood Circuit is still an active venue all year round, home to all manner of classic car events. It’s a Nostalgia fest, with the wonderfully preserved paddocks, regal looking phone-booths dotted around and the unmistakable sight of a replica facade of the Earls Court motor show all aiding the theme. Then though, a few years ago, a group of enthusiasts prised open the fabled gates and allowed a totally different crowd to pitch up, and in turn them created possibly the best modified car show anywhere in the world.

Players classic has been on my radar for quite some time, but I’d always been caught with work or some other excuse. When plans were discussed one night in a friends shed about making the trip over, cogs began to turn. Cork to Goodwood is a sizeable trip as is, but I look at things in an odd way. Google maps loaded and Goodwood pinpointed, the realisation dawned that the Channel Tunnel was barely two hours further. Hmmm. And then Ypres is only 70 mins from the other side of the Channel. Hmmm indeed. The dates lined up perfectly, and as seen in Part 2, about a full day of travelling had me sat in a field in Belgium!

Parched, dust covered and destroyed in sunburn, road was hit Saturday night. Making it onto the crossing as the very last vehicle, I rocked into the affluent surroundings of the accommodation to be met by bemused friends seeing my appearance, and the fact my car now resembled a Belgian Beer truck such was my ‘holiday souvenir shopping’. Washed, rested and savouring a rather expensive ‘Goodwood Burger’, talk was of the show. Everyone else at the table were making two days of it, whereas I was cramming it into one, so plenty of discussion about the best cars was deceptively avoided.

As the sun scorched down, armed with a single camera and a crate of Jupiler, it was time. Oh good god! Barely in the door, eyes on stalks and twitching, it was an overload of vehicles and styles. That’s the whole point of a show like Players Classic is that it welcomes everyone. I’ve talked before of how adventurous it was of Dubshed to let in JDM cars last year, but that’s still a hugely German exclusive show. Ford Fair isn’t going to have Porsche’s or Nissan’s, but Players brings them all together. The best of the best, all in one of the most chilled out, relaxed environments ever seen at a show. No loud obnoxious music blasts, instead everyone seems to sit around and enjoy the unseasonable weather.

That’s what I found was the best part was the relaxation of the whole thing. I could have and shot every single car on a spree like Nürburgring or Ypres, but said no. I made a single sweep of the show and had a few beers in the sun with friends. It reminded me why I love cars in the first place, the enjoyment of seeing something cool up close, jesting with others about personal tastes and just having a laugh. Players did all that and more.

Hungover, scorched and tired, it was time to strike for home. The prospect of 6 hours crossing the UK Motorway network in the mid-day heat is rather un-appealing, so it was only right that we’d make a stop half way. Again, cogs had been spinning and come up with a gem. In a quiet industrial estate in the Midlands, down a narrow and non-descript lane not too dissimilar from the road to Stone Motorsport, lay one of the single coolest sheds in the motoring world. Retro Power is an absolute sweet shop of cool cars, mad design, insane fabrication and all manner of one-off jobs. If you have an idea of what you want to do with a classic car, these guys can make it work. We spent an hour drooling over their collection of projects, so much that I just took it all in. The camera in my hand never once clicked. I did have to get one shot of the welcoming party that met us on arrival though!

And that was it. Overnight crossing of the Irish Sea and a final run from Rosslare later, I was in the door of home and reflecting on one of the craziest fortnights ever put down. Months of hard work working to save money, simply to spend for no other reason than to travel to events simply for the enjoyment of it all. That’s what the Euro-Trip was all about, getting away from the everyday to enjoy a passion. I hope you enjoyed the tales from the road.

Another Year another VAGE.ie Car Show 2018

Another Year another VAGE.ie Car Show 2018

As sure as the River Lee running through Cork City, summer to the motoring enthusiast means the annual Volkswagen Audi Group Enthusiasts Show and Shine in Fermoy Co. Cork. In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit to having an inside track on this subject, as I made a small contribution to the organizing this year.

2018 brings about the 16th edition of the VAGE Show and Shine from the Corrin Events centre.

Over the years there’s been a change in the venue from time to time, but no change in substance. The show has always maintained it’s laid-back vibe and atmosphere. Make no mistake, that approach is by design and not accident, the club will tell you the show is as much a chance for them to meet up with good friends from around the country as it is for guys and gals attending.

 

As with any outdoor event, the show is always dependent on the weather to play ball, and in one of the driest summers in years, surely there was no cause for concern…well maybe a little! In nearly a carbon copy of the 2017 show, the day started out overcast and drizzly, but as lunchtime approached the weather final started to co-operate. Summer was once again alive at the VAGE show.

That said the early morning weather didn’t deter car enthusiasts the land over. A steady stream made their way to the grounds throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. Strong attendance from clubs like Autostadt, MLVW, GTINI and DB Dailys really added to the atmosphere. Show sponsors George Dalton Revo and D&D Detailing Gtechniq also put on a fantastic display of high quality motors.

 

In recent years the show has open up to become an all German show, why should the VAG gang have all the fun they thought? It turned out to be an inspired decision as the quality of BMW, Opel and Mercedes on display was phenomenal. It just goes to show that you don’t know what little gems are tucked away through out the land.

Case in point was the beautiful 1979 Mk1 Opel Kadett that picked up the runner up car in show award. Talking to the owner after picking up their prize, I found out that it was only the cars 2nd spin in 12 months. The weather had cleared enough for them to make the spin down and it paid dividends!

Winner of the best in show was the beautiful little mk1 VW Derby coupe. A fantastic car and a credit to its owner. It’s reassuring to know that these great cars are still knocking around the place and long may it last! Owning motors like these must be closer to a vocation than a hobby such is the level of detail and love gone into them. I’d hate to be trying to find parts for them!

So another year down for the VAGE show, and the future looks bright. Like the economy there seems to be a real bounce in the car scene in Ireland lately, long may it last.

 

Here’s to VAGE 2019, we hear the weather is going to great!

Northbound and Down

Northbound and Down

There’s a certain misery to standing out in the rain, a sense of self-derision that makes you question every single decision that led to that very point. You consider your sanity, or the lack thereof, you contemplate the effect on body and equipment and weigh up the multiple alternatives and value the opportunity cost. As the deluge continues to seep into every inch of the not-so-waterproof gear that you’ve packed, things turn into a battle of attrition. But it’s the battle through the bad times, that makes the good times much more enjoyable, and all things being equal, a weekend away in Northern Ireland chasing cars is no bad way to pass a few days.

I enjoy almost every sphere of the automotive world, as you may well have sussed reading this site, but it’s incredible the amount of people I encounter that go about their business totally oblivious to events and styles happening close by. Two events happened in Northern Ireland that I took in over the weekend. Both were sizeable in their attendances and their importance within their respective areas. Based less than 35 minutes apart though, it would be fair to say that the vast majority of the rally set had never heard of Dubshed, nor the stance set of the UAC Easter Stages. To me though, it had all the makings of a perfect weekend, taking in three full days of action.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Rallying in Ireland has come through one of its hardest winters, and is in the midst of what may be a crucial season for the future of the sport. The Irish Tarmac Championship, still without a title sponsor, was dealt a number of blows in the off-season. While the cancellation of Galway prompted much debate, the choice to not-run the Circuit Of Ireland was almost swept under the rug. The debate on ‘The Circuit’ could run for days, but now is not the time nor place to get into that rant, but an event was needed badly to fill the breach. Up stepped the UAC and the Easter Stages, Round 2 of the 2018 ITRC.

Based out of Ballyclare, the event attracted the usual cohort of championship contenders, with Josh & Sam Moffett, Robert Barrable, Desi Henry, Johnny Greer, Daniel Cronin and Eugene Donnelly all behind the wheel of R5 machinery, yet was bolstered by local entries like the Subaru WRC’s of Stuart Biggerstaff & Derek McGarrity as well as the always very rapid Skoda Fabia R5 of Marty McCormack.

For such an event though, many would have been mistaken for not even knowing that the rally was taking place at all. Very little was known about the event right up to the time that cars landed into scrutiny on Thursday, something I found by chance. The detail would be got from the rally programme, but even that was available to purchase in barely 10 locations close to the stages. For an event based in Ballyclare, the large petrol forecourt on the edge of town had no idea the event was on, never mid have rally material, and on Saturday, a whole crew I met in a Tire shop in Ballymena had no idea that a rally stage passed within 7 minutes of their door. As for the entry, while the top 15 seemed stacked with big entries, it was obvious that having a round of the Irish Tarmac Championship and the National championship share a single weekend (The Circuit of Kerry ran on Sunday in Tralee) had a big knock on mid-field entries. The Junior section of the ITRC attracted only 2 entries!

Come Friday afternoon though, all thoughts of negativity was to be forgotten, and the joy of watching rally cars was to be the plan. I had made a point of driving the Friday stages to scout the best spots, and an uphill hairpin into a flowing section seemed ideal. Set into the sat-nav, I arrived in plenty of time. Plenty of other spectators had the same idea and were already in place. Positions were taken on the ditches, in preparation of the 1st car. It never made it to us. With 45 minutes notice, word reached that the stage had been shortened. It arrived not as a clear message, but as a whisper of ‘I’ve heard….’. It took 10 mins to get clarity. Alas, a rush on to simply get some location on stage, the rain began to fall as finally Stage 1 got set to start.

Friday was, in all sense of the word, a wash out. When I say it rained, it properly poured for hours on end. Perched at a fast left, it was amazing to watch the various four and two wheel cars struggle in different was in the deluge. The R5’s remained planted, as if the rain was non-existent, while the Escorts encountered some very hairy broadside moments. It was no surprise that as the day went on, social media was littered with rally cars dotted around the scenery. Amongst the downpour though, the trusty Impreza WRC came into its own and led. I wasn’t there to see it, as camera gear took such a beating in the rain it was decided to retire to drier surroundings, and a certain car had made it as far as Lisburn.

I’ve talked about Dubshed before, and how large an event it is in the Irish show car scene, but also marveled at the vastness of the spectacle. To see the Eikon center devoid of all bar six or seven cars on the Friday evening before the show was a rare sight. The rest of my travelling party had arrived for the weekend, with Ronan, owner of the previously featured Akai Golf, marking the long-haul debut of his newly built MK2 Golf Fire & Ice. We will have a feature, in time, but it has a date with PVW first! The plan was to drop the car off and expose some more people to the wonder and joy (!) of a day’s rallying, but soaked through the mood was just not there.

While Friday was a misery, Saturday started with a bright sky and sunshine……then my car had a puncture in the car park, and then one of the cameras started acting up from Fridays rain soakage and to round it off I fell knee deep into a bog hole. As starts go, this didn’t feel like my day, but that’s the beauty of rallying. While falling around in the mud, I spotted an ideal shooting location at a square left hander, and with a bit of heat from the car vents, the camera came back to life. As the first batch of cars passed, it was obvious that McGarritys Impreza was missing. The overnight leader saw his rally end with an issue preventing the Subaru from leaving Parc Ferme. Not only was it a joy to get such a prime spot, it also allowed a view back the road before the junction, and what a treat lay up there.

In this world of health and safety, every effort is being made to keep things becoming safer and more controlled. Rallying is the same, with shorter stages and numerous chicanes employed to reduce the chances of anything spectacular happening. As such, the prospect of finding a flat out 6th-gear jump is incredibly rare, never mind one that has plenty of prime viewing in safe locations. While some took it easy over the flying crest, it’s pretty clear that others had cleared with air-traffic-control before taking off. Rally cars in mid-air is always the money shot when you can get it!

Come the end of the two days, it was the Moffet brothers who would lead the way, yet again pushing each other to the very last. While there were 9.3 seconds between the brothers after two days in West Cork, there was a mere 4.6 seconds between then in Ulster. For the second event in a row, Josh took the bragging rights, and won the event as well in the process. Marty McCormack put up a strong battle, but finished 16 seconds back in third, while Robert Barrable and Daniel Cronin scored strong hauls of ITRC points. In the modified race, it was a two horse battle that saw Kevin Eves in the Corolla take the spoils by beating the flying MK1 Escort of Philip White.

Rallying done for the weekend, it was time to engage the VW and stance of my brain for the rest of the visit up North. Any mention of Mk1 or Mk2 had to be taken as now meaning a Golf rather than a Ford Escort, much to the amusement of those probably not accustomed to there being interpretations of their car jargon. What was obvious to see all weekend though was the sense of community and camaraderie that I never knew existed amongst the VW community. Groups that had travelled from all over the country were all there to have a good time and simply enjoy cars. Over a few refreshments, a local Weatherspoon’s must have been delighted with the sight of over 40 people opening a circle in the midst of their pup talking about build, showing pictures of engine bays and making plans for shows and the next vehicular purchase. I nearly bought a MK3, a Golf or an Escort I’m not sure, after a few beers, as seemed the mood of the night, the temptations to make silly car buys forgotten amongst the wonder of finding out there is an app that gets drinks delivered to your table!

Dubshed is quite an assault on the senses, with show car after show car stretching as far as the eye could see. My first visit seemed spectacular as the sheer variety and creativity on show. The second year came with more of an appreciation of the vehicles on display, but having watched a buddy spend a year building a car for this year, I spent the whole show looking at details, build styles and the execution as a results of countless hours of dedication.

While the show had stirred the waters over the past few years by allowing non-German metal to enter its hallowed walls, the invasion, save for a few exceptions, seemed pretty non-descript compared to previous years. The redesign of the show space, and the differing uses of indoor space, made it feel like a large trade show at times, but the car quality remained the same. My eyes, now trained to spot things I may never have paid heed to before, wandered often past the modern bags-and-wheels efforts towards the more hands-on old-school builds. A MK1 on carbs or an R32 swapped MK2 got more attention than some Audi or modern VW offerings.

Some cars really caught my eye this year, from the madly wild Sirocco, finished in Baby Blue with a massive GT style wing bolted to the rear, through to the much more sedate. If I was to pick a favorite car at any show, admitting to it being a mid-90’s Diesel VW Vento would be a hard argument, but the quality of this car just sucked me in time and time again every time I passed. So simple on the surface, the exterior very mildly altered from how VW intended, the addition of a Leather interior was sweet but the engine bay blew me away. The nod to old school tuning was there with the Austin green engine paint used, and as a car geek I absolutely adored it.

My coverage of Dubshed should not be taken as being anywhere near as thorough as others, but that is because it has transcended now from a Car event to a social event. It’s a chance to meet people, talk shite about silly low cars, have a rock shandy and just enjoy yourself. I probably should have taken more photo’s, as there was some cool stuff there, but why not just take a look for yourself next year. You won’t be disappointed I guarantee.

Anyone For Golf??

Anyone For Golf??

Car’s, like people, evolve over time. Build’s grow, modifications become wilder and reputations soar. To many of us, the internet has become the go-to place to get an overload of forum Build Threads, Instagram posts detailing every nut and bolt or even dedicated online video series’ all allowing the masses to watch on as yet another PetrolHead dumps their own money into a labour of love. The likelihood is that we may only physically see the finished product out of the digital world and in the flesh at a large show or event, but on the flip side there are always the select few local car’s who’s evolution can be tracked in frequent passing glances. This Golf is definitely one of these cars.

Growing up in Cork City through the middle of the recession, the car scene was certainly there, but so too was a distinct sense that every conversation was verging on going down the route of “It used to be soo much busier” or “All the best cars are gone now”. That’s natural, that with time people hanker for what isn’t there anymore, but us new breed continued to do our thing. Toyota’s ruled our lives, with the local Topaz liable to see an influx of up to 15 of the brands finest on a Friday night with everything from my Corolla Gti through Glanza’s, Levin’s and all else. Around the City, cheap affordable JDM goodies ruled the streets, but there was always a mysterious Black Golf roaming.

The car, in it’s first guise, was hard to miss. Personally, I’ll always have my head turned by the MK1 shape as I’m an freak for all things old-skool, and so the sight of those distinctive lines was enough to lure me in. To other’s, the bright red BBS mesh wheels were certainly eye catching. Parked around the City and in other locations, I often passed feeling admiration for the mystery man doing things soo differently to the rest of us, keeping things real and doing so with style. Over time, the car changed. These changes wern’t seen on a screen, but with each passing glance subtle differences became obvious. And then I met the man behind the creation, and became aware of just how potent this machine was, and would ultimately become.

It was the Sunday of Dubshed 2016 when I was introduced to Ronan Hickey. Waking up incredibly hungover and having slept on a hotel room floor, I was asked if I had room for a stragler to take to the show. My little 106 was in full anti social form at the time with little in the way of interior, smelled strongly of fuel and was covering as a make shift van carrying all manner of ex-works Peugeot goodies. Effectively a single seater, a bearded man managed to somehow fit in the passenger seat with the flexibility of a Gymnast, head pinned about 6 inches from the windscreen thanks to a pair of bumpers for a car not much longer than it is wide. This was Ronan MK1, the man behind that Golf I’d seen for soo long and now here we were talking pure shite about cars driving around siuth Belfast headed for the show. Plans were forged to get photo’s taken, but thankfully the 14 month wait allowed the car to hit peak evolution.

Now on a set of Ronal Turbo wheels and sporting a seriously aggressive and uber-rare Foha front splitter, the car really felt more shouty then I had remember from years ago. With very little in the way of body modifications, it made it even clearer just how good a job the boys with the pencils did in Wolfsburg when drawing that now iconic shape. Finished in that sumptuous VW Schwartz black paint, the MK1 just seemed to shout ‘look at me’. After the show, I finally got to see the car I suppose ‘in the wild’, to hear the racious exhaust roar, to smell it’s dumps of un-burnt fuel and to experience the immense task of trying to keep up with it along a back road.. It seemed fitting for a guy who always wanted to stand out from the typical JDM crowd, that one of the best reactions to the car I ever saw was when it gatecrashed a local Japanese Car meet!!

Over last winter, I’d heard that the car was undergoing a change of look, but when I saw the first teaser images, my inner motorsport geek was intrigued. Emulating historic race liveries has become a thing of late among the VW show scene, with countless iconic colour schemes seeing modern twists on all manner of German metal. Here though, this is no spin on a household style, but a complete detailed reproduction of the GTI Engineering Group 2 race car campaigned by Peter Lloyd in 1979. Finished to an incredible standard by Seamus Walsh in Moose Design, this truly was the icing on what was in reality an incredibly executed cake.

A quick meet up in a local car park allowed me to see the end product first, but it just wasn’t enough. A few quick pics blew up online, so reality hit that I really needed to pull the finger out and get a proper shoot done on the VW. Initial thoughts were veering towards using a local Kart Track, but things spiraled. Suddenly, the shoot became my very first feature shoot for a massive Car Magazine in Performance VW simply by a few chancing-my-arm email’s, and before I’d fully processed things, two weeks later I stood in the paddock of Mondello Park, deserted bar our little cohort including the E34 BMW already featured here and the Golf. This was dream material, mainly as my utterly dreadful Alfa Romeo actually made it (and yes it was on an AA truck the next morning), to have all this to ourselves to create automotive art.

As I already mentioned, the car’s exterior is totally original bar the wheel’s and splitter, but step inside and it’s a world apart. Ronan was a former Kart racer, and a quick one at that, so a love of motorsport has fed through into the cabin. A pair of beefy Recaro bucket seat’s grab the headlines straight away, the driver’s one in particular being a full wrap-around piece, but are added to by a Weickers half-cage to add to incredibly chassis stiffness. Ably assisted by a complete set of Poly-bushes all round and BC Racing coil-overs, the car sit’s with purpose, and even at speed remains flat with all the required agility to justify the safety additions. Nestled in place, the other main practicalities are special aswell, with the steering controlled by a small Momo steering wheel, yet it’s between the two occupants that a bit of engineering-porn sits.

 

Milled from Billet Aluminium, CAE have become famous for producing some of the most eye-catching gear shifters around. Looking like a sequential, this ultra close shifting unit not only cost an eye-watering amount, but is simply beautiful to look at. Mated to a standard 5-speed box, the gears click through with immense speed and are often accompanied with loud bangs of fuel out of the hand built stainless steel exhaust. The driving gloves are a gentle reminder that while this car can strut with the best on the show floor, it is was for simple driving pleasure that it came to be.

For how cool the whole things look externally, pop the bonnet and watch jaw’s drop. Where a humble 8v engine once sat, now resides a G60 Supercharged lump. The blower itself is a G-Werks unit, while the engine has been treated to all manner of goodies including a Large Port Head, Schrick Cam’s and Covers and an all-new ECU. Add launch control into the mix and this little car certainly doesn’t hang about, ever further cementing the need for the safety gear loaded inside. Being a welder by trade, much of the piping is both home-made and exquisite, while the lashing’s of gold insulating foil just finish off the bay to a tee.

For a car that took almost 10 year’s of evolution to get to this point, there was a distinctive sense of closure. Although the old saying is that a project car is never done, to Ronan it was. He had brought the MK1 as far as he wanted, and it was time for a change of scenery. About a month after the shoot, as is the way soo often in the car world, the MK1 had been stripped of many parts and was on it’s way to a new owner. And as for the change of scenery, well that changed aswell, and who can go to OZ these days when there’s and uber-rare MK2 Golf after landing in the shed…..and a 3.2 VR6. Ya, you might want to stay tuned for that build thread!!!

What the Faak is Wörthersee?

What the Faak is Wörthersee?

 

Right about now, a small quiet village in Austria is playing host to the VW Group’s single most important event where it aims to connect with its petrol headed roots and launch the latest breed of performance fare. All week, talk of the UP GTi, a Hybrid Golf GTi and all manner of other new models have been spoken about, but their launch is not at Geneva or the regular show halls, but a pilgrimage site for the VAG faithful. To try and explain the event, and perhaps entice you into making the trip next year, I’ve looked back 2 years to when I landed myself into 3 weeks of Europe’s maddest modified car festival.

 

Once you have to explain it, or even rationalize it, you’re onto a loser straight away. If you’re not into the scene, chances are you’ve probably never even heard of it. Worthersee is an enigma of an event. To VW guys it’s up there as their Mecca, the ultimate dream show to attend someday, and they spend countless hours online soaking in every last bit of coverage. To an outsider though, it’s pure madness. But that’s what makes it soo damn appealing. For such a well-known event, a lot of mystery still revolves around this most unique of gatherings. As part of my college degree, the option was available to spend a year abroad. Little did my parents know the true reason I jumped at 10 months in a very sleepy corner of Southern Austria.

The Worthersee, which lends its name to the festival, is a stunning alpine lake, roughly an hour from the Italian Border, surrounded by the foothills of the Southern Austrian Alps. The city of Klagenfurt lies at one end, and 10 mins driving later you have Velden at the other. The term picture postcard comes to mind a lot in this part of the world. Tourists flock for countless outdoor activities, and the clear calm waters are enjoyed year round. But then, for three weeks in April and May, the quiet serenity is utterly shattered, and all hell breaks loose. Living less than 10 mins from the lake, I was ideally right at the centre of what must surely be one of the world’s craziest car events.

The very first thing to note is there is actually no physical event called Worthersee. ‘Wait what?’ you ask! In the late 1980’s, as the popularity of the Golf GTi was at fever pitch, a group of owners left Germany looking for adventure and a good weekend away. Reifnitz, located along the Southern shore of the Worthersee, became the go to spot for a few days away, and word soon spread about the antics that went on. Year on year, as car modification grew, the connection between the area and the custom VW scene went hand in hand. GTi Treffen was born out of these early pioneers. Centered in the town of Reifnitz, a tiny spot home to no more than a few hundred people yet boasting a stone statue of a MK2 Golf, the GTI Treffen (essentially German for GTI Meet) has grown now to a 4 day long celebration of all things VW.

This is, to many, the ‘official’ Worthersee. Backed by local government, ferry’s and busses are on the go all day getting people in and out. Crammed among the small streets, the big VW-Group brands all have official stands, akin to full size dealerships advertising their latest creations. It not until you look back that you cop that it was all proper performance vehicles that were on display, and there were no cloth-seated, TDi A4’s on the Audi stand, but rather the full range of RS machinery.

It has also become common for the various companies to unleash their own modified creations at Worthersee. Audi brought a Twin-Electric Turbo’d TT, Skoda an R5 Fabia estate and VW had both the Golf Clubsport Concept, and the Golf R Wagon. The VW stand itself is truly massive, with regular shows, dancing, official Volkswagen Bratwurst and forever pumping out their GTI theme song. It exists, but god it’s awful.

The GTI Treffen is designed as an attraction. As you stand on the deck of the Seat party boat, drinking vodka from a Skoda cup, you’re treated to a bird’s eye view of Sebastian Ogier doing a few rings in the Polo WRC, and he’d give King of The Cone a fair run!! Trade stands are everywhere selling everything from vinyl sticker’s right through to 400HP engine packages, yet it feels stale. Vehicular access is expensive, so the few cars driving around get rather tiresome after a while, although then again you’re never far from the next mind blowing build rolling past.

But hang on a second, what of the famous petrol station, the daylight burnouts and the millions of scene points. Well, let’s take a step back. While GTI Treffen is a large event, it is merely the end of one of the maddest months I’ve ever experienced. Three weeks before the Treffen, Vor Dem See kicks off. Many would assume that this is an organized thing, but genuinely it isn’t. This is the true side of what people would know as ‘Worthersee’. Velden is where everything starts. A very affluent lakeside village, this spot is the getaway retreat for countless wealthy continental tourists. Boats line the water front, and swanky restaurants and boutique’s rule the high-street. But up at the top of the hill overlooking the town lies Mischkulnig, a very non-descript Eni petrol station. It’s just like any other petrol station I suppose. The fuel, in typical Austrian standard, is similarly priced to Ireland. The day I first made the trip to Mischkulnig was a cold wet Tuesday in April. The forecourt was full of everyday vehicles and all seemed normal.

Then it begins to attack your senses. The concrete area next to the petrol station is home to 15 or twenty highly modified cars. Each bares a German plate, and each almost more stunning then the rest. This is 2pm in the day, yet not unlike what we’d know of Irish stations at night, the owners stood about talking about their cars while sheltering under the canopy. A constant stream of more modified cars roll past, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

What brings these people here is the allure and cult like following this event has gained. Groups generally travel in groups, convoys of 5 or 6 cars making the journey together. My plate spotting instinct sets in. The Germans are out in force early on, as naturally are the Austrians. I spot nearly every EU plate over the next few weeks, I only found one Irish plated Jetta, as well as cars from further afield. But they all come simply to hang out and enjoy the cars. Guys from Amsterdam drove in a static MK1 Golf for 8 hours, washed the car, sat on deckchairs on the side of a road for a few hours and headed home. It’s all bonkers. Over the next few days, Mischkulnig gets busier. The wash bays are working round the clock, and the spaces next to the shop soon spill into the car park across the road.

But this isn’t just a case of park up and sit back on your phone having a nose at who’s checking out your car. People set themselves up on the banks along the road to take in all the cars coming and going. Queues back up for a few hundred meters as everyone wants to bounce off their limiter in front of the crowd. The braver fall for the chant of ‘Gumi, Gumi, Gumi’ and leave black rubber lines on the road. Oh and the beer is flowing!! Public drinking is legal, beer is cheap and everyone’s having a good time. By the end of week 1, the weather had picked up, and soo too had the crowds. Velden main street was a constant bottleneck, yet nearly every car in the traffic looked deserving of a prime spot had they been at a show like Dubshed or Players.

Now starting to get my head around what was going on all around, I got more adventurous. The sole reason that the name Worthersee is soo apt is that the whole are comes alive. Any large public space is liable to become an impromptu car show at a moment’s notice. Overlooking the whole lake is the Pyramidenkogel. A pretty tall radio transmitter, it’s known for its views, and the chance to travel down its 100m height on Europe’s largest slide. It’s a cool place, but even here the car parks are swamped with modified VW’s and plenty more. The road up the mountain is littered with lay-by’s, yet every one of them seem peppered with small groups of cars, their owners planted firmly in a deckchair enjoying the stream of cars blasting up the Pass.

Reifnitz lies below the mountain, and although preparations are underway for the upcoming GTI Treffen, every inch of footpath is covered in expensive, polished metal. Rotiform are holding a social gathering of a few cars running their wheels, while others scurry to similar events held by Vossen and others. Among these gatherings are properly big names in the tuning world, all enjoying their holiday in Austria among fellow petrol heads. Towards the end of the second week, the amount of British cars becomes noticeable. The Players crew are in town, while Brian Henderson is floating about in his bagged R8. Cars you know only through your phone screen are suddenly right in front of you, and you constantly have to stop and think before your head fry’s with the sensory overload.

The openness of the event, both in its loose nature and ability to hang out with car people is something I’ve never experienced before. There is very little parking up and just walking away from cars here. Owners really enjoys chatting about their creations, little tricks they’ve used or even just chatting about the adventures of getting here, or for a few lads from Belfast the adventure was in getting home!!

While I was able to take in soo much of the event through public transport and plenty of walking, there were obviously parts I’d not see. Secretive late night locations are the stuff of legend in any car scene, and Worthersee is no different. There are certain remote spots where burnt rubber has to be shoveled off the road each day, and it’s not uncommon for the walls of some underpasses to be black from exhaust flames. It’s all part of the underground appeal of this side of the event.

Certain cars will always attract a crowd, eager to take it all in. Nothing, and I mean nothing, drew more people in than the Donkey Tech MK2 Golf. To the casual observer, here was a very clean looking white 1980’s VW. It came complete with steel wheels, had a nice sedate brown tweed interior and even boasted knitted covers on the rear speakers. The only noticeable visual clue was a large, neon green sticker of a donkey on the side. Oh and it was pushing nearly 850BHP to the four wheels. Ya get the attraction I suppose. This was the epitome of sleeper, yet every time I was in its presence you would have to battle the masses to take a look. Everyone knew the DonkeyTech crew were coming though, as anything less than 4 of their cars banging anti-lag in traffic was highly uncommon. But that’s the beauty of Worthersee, that form and function exist soo happily side by side.

But there was one last spot worth getting to. While Mischkulnig and Velden are the marquee locations, out at Faak-am-See is the core of the madness. It’s probably known better as its alter-ego, TurboKurve. A small family-run entertainment venue not unlike Funtasia or Trabolgan, the site is your standard holiday park. During the high season, tourist flock, but during Worthersee, the huge car park is pushed to its max. Cars are parked for miles either side along the road, while during its height the traffic is backed up for 5KM!! This is a special place. A large sweep in the road is black with people, 5 or 6 deep in places. That car park I mentioned, well it just happens to hold 800 cars, and it’s full. Limiters are banging everywhere, tyre smoke fills your nostrils, everyone’s drinking, the sun is shining and it feels like heaven. The fact this is all happening on a public road in the middle of the day makes no difference in the slightest. The police look on, but are there to facilitate rather than disrupt the goings on.

So that’s just a glimpse of my Worthersee experience. Nothing has ever come near touching that madness, as  there are just very few places in the world that would take the swarm of 3/4000 modified cars over a few weeks, and make them feel welcome. This isn’t an organized show, more so a chance for car guys to go and chill together. If you don’t get it, its perfectly understandable, but Worthersee is something much bigger than anything we may ever see on our isles, so should be a bucket list item to go and experience at some point. Anyone looking to go, google the date of the GTi Treffen, and work back 2 weeks!!

Obviously, the dream is to drive over. It will take you minimum 2.5 days each way, and be aware that you must purchase a valid toll tag to drive on Austrian roads. Also note the police can be strict on certain vehicle modifications. To fly, Vienna is a direct hop from Dublin and is a 2 odd hour drive, whereas a much better option is to connecting flights to Ljubljana. About an hour’s drive across an Alpine pass is a great way to start any trip. Don’t want to drive, then public transport will get you round the spots, with regular trains and buses running. Prices are similar to Ireland, although Beer is about 80c a can in the shops so can’t go wrong!!