Photos via Jeroen Willemsen
In America, automotive events catering to the European car culture have grown immensely in size over the last few years. They begin as laid-back replicas of events based in Europe, with welcoming atmospheres where like-minded enthusiasts gather in unique towns for a celebration of their favorite automaker’s vehicles.
As these American shows gain a foothold and grow in size, they attract attendees from outside the initial realm of Euro enthusiasts. They morph into obscene party-like gatherings of people without any regard for respect, the law, or the creation of the event in the first place.
Recently added to the list of departed events are H2Oi and Southern Wörthersee, but there is hope as the original culture in Europe still holds true. Events like Men in Volkswagen (MIVW) in the Netherlands assembles Volkswagen – and select other – enthusiasts to provide a relaxed atmosphere filled with some of Europe’s highest quality builds.
Hosted at Valkenburg Naval Air Base outside the city of Leiden, the inactive Dutch runways and hangars provide the perfect backdrop for an event of this magnitude. As MIVW houses thousands of Volkswagen and Audi vehicles on its grounds, attending vehicles are judged for their parking location upon their arrival.
Accompanied by the extremely low Audi L100 pictured above, this pristine white 3.5-liter Mercedes 280SE utilized air suspension to lower its original body over a chrome set of OEM wheels with period-correct whitewall tires. Wouldn’t mind scraping around town in this at all!
In 1999, Audi released the Allroad version of their A4 body style. The Allroad’s production with unpainted fender flares and the intention of semi-offroad capabilities has since continued, but it’s gained a new occupation when lowered with air suspension and Rotiform CCV wheels like this B8 – taking over car shows.
Black on black on black… Hailing from Poland, this murdered-out A6 Avant with OZ Futura wheels and air suspension drapes its lack of color across every piece of the body, and is referred to as the Stealth Bomber.
Airlift Performance never disappoints with booth cars, even across the pond in Europe they showcased this super-clean white MKIII Jetta with BBS RC 041/042 wheels and the company’s own air suspension setup to lower the car onto the ground.
This Audi RS4 from Dub Fiction sports a purposely-tarnished replica of the Audi Sport DTM livery. The exterior image is cleaned up with a set of wide RAD48 RSI wheels tucked inside the fenders for the perfect blend of motorsports styling and aggressive wheel fitment.
The glossy orange paint on this MKI was a bright contrast to the semi-gloss black finish on the Zero-RS Racing centerlock ZV wheels fastened to the hubs.
European racing cars offered in limited homologation quantities never seem to make it into the United States – at least none of the cool ones. In 1989, Volkswagen released this beauty called the Golf Rallye. With boxed fenders grafted onto its side panels and a set of projector headlights, it mimicked the styling of the then-popular E30 M3 and Audi Quattro. It utilized several pieces from other VW models including a supercharged G60 engine and the Synchro all-wheel-drive system, but with a price tag almost double that of the standard-issue Golf and only five thousand units produced, it’s not hard to guess why we never received any Stateside.
Zero-lipped wheels are a relatively new concept; they involve mounting the face of a three-piece wheel on the outside of the barrel and lip with an extended wheel mounting surface. In the case of a BBS E50 wheel, this causes the wheel face to protrude past the wheel’s lip, hence the zero-lip moniker. Enter this stunning burgundy MKI with centerlock BBS E50 wheels as a perfect execution of this style; it features air suspension, and a 2.0-liter TFSI engine. It was a favorite among showgoers, and it’s easy to see why.
Continuing the presence of perfectly executed vintage Volkswagen chassis, Jay from Players drove his immaculate green MKI Golf on Rotiform YVR wheels all the way from the UK to Holland for the event. I especially like the assortment of Stack gauges in the instrument panel.
Martini Racing has a long history in European motorsports and this MKI adapted their famous livery onto its white panels flawlessly. Served up over a zero-lip set of Ronal Turbo wheels, this Rabbit stood out in the crowd.
A modified van is not very popular here in the United States, but the people-carriers seem to be gaining a bit of traction elsewhere in the world. As evidenced by this Volkswagen T5 Transporter van with an Audi RS4 engine swap aptly named the “RST5”, modified vans aren’t necessarily a bad thing. It would certainly make picking up the kids less of a chore.
Seen here is a great representation of the variety of automobiles that pile into the depths of the Air Base. A Pure Orange 997 GT3RS and a well-restored blue MKI Golf offer up the question: Which would you rather drive?
How much chrome is too much chrome? The answer depends solely on whom you ask. Jörg Ballermann – the owner of this incredible MKI Golf – will probably tell you there is no such thing, as he has dipped every piece of his engine and suspension in the reflective coating. The shiny exposed spindles get their transferred power from a highly-coveted 1.8-liter Oettinger 16S engine.
The Volkswagen Fridolin, is a now-retired postal service truck and probably not the likeliest suspect for a full restoration. Luckily, people like the owner of this particular example exist, and they were crazy enough to fabricate a tube-frame mounting solution inside the cabin, which houses the mental Volkswagen W12 engine transplant. You can see some of the progress pictures here.
On his way out of the event, our star photog Willemsen happened onto this unsuspecting MKIII GTI with Rotiform DIA wheels. What looked to be just a clean respray with air suspension, turned out to be the shell of a GTI mounted over the frame of an old Beetle. Notice the tubbed front end and the rear-mounted engine. What a unique take on two commonly modified chassis!
As the day wound down, the entire mass of award winning show cars assembled in parc-ferme in front of the stage. This was the perfect sendoff to conclude another successful event that keeps true to its origins and provides the atmosphere every Euro enthusiast is after.