Photography and vehicle information by Jeroen Willemsen
European automotive staple, the Essen Motor Show could be likened to a mixture of the SEMA and PRI shows in the United States. This enormous exhibition celebrated its 50th anniversary recently, and sought shelter from the cold winter at the Messe Essen in Essen, Germany. It combined more than 500 exhibitors and 356,000 attendees to culminate into one of Europe’s greatest automotive experiences. Our overseas correspondent, Jeroen Willemsen, was on site to record his favorite vehicles from this colossal showcase.
1. First we’ll start with this stout and spotless Volkswagen Scirocco. This classic from 1976 has had every piece on the engine refurbished, its displacement increased from 1.8-liters to 2.0-liters, and twin Weber 45mm carburetors affixed to the head. It now makes a very peppy 175 PS from its improved power plant. An Airlift V2 air suspension system with an 11-liter (2.9-gallon) tank, and Viair 380 compressor provide the necessary adjustment to get the ride height looking perfect. While OZ Fittipaldi wheels modified from 16-inch to 17×6.5-inch complete the stance. For an especially unique trick, the actual rim itself has been reversed, so you are looking at the backside from the outside. If that wasn’t enough, the wheels also utilize a special BBS Motorsport one-lug system. The remainder of the refinished exterior is pretty much standard, however many parts have been recreated using carbon fiber, like the side view mirrors and bumpers.
2. It’s not often you see a modified 1979 Ferrari 308 GTB, the car immortalized into stardom by the famous Magnum P.I. television series—note the “ROBIN 1” license plate on this one. Its original 3.0-liter V8 engine has been rebuilt with new pistons, bearings, cylinder shells, you name it. This is the modern definition of a restomod, which photos just can’t highlight properly. It was built by Kean Suspensions from Belgium, and features a custom-made air suspension system with Kean one-off air-struts and Accuair E-Level management including touchpad. Custom three-piece BBS Motorsport E50 wheels with aggressive sizes of 18×8-inch in the front and 18×10-inch in the rear occupy the fender openings. The wheel centers clad in the iconic BBS gold color complement perfectly with the high gloss polished lips. The entire car was renovated and repainted in the original Ferrari Rosso Corsa color, removing the spoiler and right side mirror in the process. Similar to the Scirocco above, carbon fiber was used to recreate the front bumper, rear bumper, and remaining left side mirror for a sporty twist on this classy restoration. Every piece of the car has been remastered in some way including the interior, which has been reupholstered in the original beige Ferrari leather. Hopefully this trend of restoring and modifying older Ferrari models makes its way to the United States soon.
3. Are you ready to buy a modified Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta with that $38M burning a hole in your pocket? Not quite? But you want this striking looking car? Well fear not, we are actually looking at a 1975 Datsun 280Z. It has been transformed to look like the illustrious 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO by using a complete Tom McBurnie kit from Thunder Ranch. An Airrex air suspension system with Accuair E-Level management helps this 2.8-liter-powered replica navigate the roads, while 17-inch Rotiform DNO wheels fill the arches. In order to match the outside, the interior has been reshaped to make it look like a real Ferrari 250 GTO, too, complete with a Nardi steering wheel. Clever!
4. This was Willemsen’s personal favorite from the show, also built by Kean Suspensions. A BMW E46-chassis M3, powered by the stock 3.2-liter S54 engine. As you might have guessed, it is using custom-made air suspension system with Kean custom air struts and KNTRL management. It was equipped with 18-inch three-piece VIP Modular VLS-450 wheels finished in Candy Rot with polished lips, and wrapped in Toyo Proxes R888 tires. The exterior wears a completely modified Rocket Bunny kit, with a CSL-looking front end constructed entirely from carbon fiber, which contrasts the paint and draws immediate attention.
The plush German interior has been semi-gutted, in favor of a more hardcore aesthetic. To aid in rigidity, Kean fitted a Wiechers roll cage, and metal Kirkey racing seats. Rumor has it; this car is for sale, too.
5. Most of us with access to the Internet have heard of “shrunken cars”, well, this one-of-a-kind creation applies that vision to real life. ODDautos, a customization shop in the United Kingdom, developed this unique little Volkswagen Mk2-chassis GTI into what they call a “Shorty”. It was completed by basically cutting three-quarters of the hatchback’s shell off the front, including the roof, then fabricating it back together without doors. The end result is the most adorable interpretation of one of the world’s most modified chassis. Oh, and the best part? It still runs and drives like a normal GTI.
6. Another special vehicle at the Motor Show was this 1991 Volkswagen Golf II. The drivetrain was reformed using a spotless 2.8-liter VR6 engine. The engine bay underwent extensive resurfacing, shaving, and smoothing to match the seamless lines of the exterior. Suspension was supplied by AH-Exclusive and consists of H&R parts along with axles and a brake assembly, which have been painted to match the engine bay. 17×8-inch three-piece Gotti wheels are equipped at all four corners with the wheel centers flipped, so the inside is now on the outside. There’s so much work into the exterior of this car to make the final product including retrofit Audi A6 door handles, an Audi 80 electric roof, and G60 wheel arches just to name a few. The interior has also been reupholstered with Audi Nappa leather and Alcantara, and features a super cool BBS wooden steering wheel. The modification list goes on, and on.
7. With a constant incline of popularity in the E30-chassis M3, the market seems to be reinvigorated with new examples. This 1987 BMW E30 M3 Turbo was built by Jonas Granath from Sweden, but just recently sold to the guys at JP Performance. This car looks mega! It features an M50B25 engine with a 2.8-liter crank from the M50B28, now making 800 horsepower at the wheels. It’s also stuffed with forged pistons, rods, ARP hardware in the whole engine, custom valve springs, and a Precision 6766BB billet turbocharger to finish it off. The exterior hosts centerlock 18×9-inch wheels all around, which have been rebuilt brand new, but in the classic DTM-spec sizing using a Flow Form technique to make them strong yet very light. They were produced with a concave look in order to mimic the famous Tic-Tac-sponsored DTM E30 from the golden era of sportscar racing. The pristine white body now sports M3 EVO fenders to alleviate any clearance issues with the aggressive wheels.
8. You either love the wheel setup on this Pirelli-edition 1983 Volkswagen Golf 1 GTI, or you hate it. They are actually 17-inch three-piece BBS E50 wheels down beneath their guise of protruding Ronal Racing centers. Its 16-valve motor comes from a Golf 2 GTi. Using double Weber carburetors and aggressive Schrick camshafts, it now produces a lively 180 PS. While the exterior has been resprayed in Heliosblau-metalic, an original Golf color, the entire body of the car has been made to look as original as possible including the interior. Everything except for the engine bay, which contains thoroughly shaved and smoothed components, a more attractive alternative than their OEM counterpart.
9. Oh, how trends change. This 2000 Citroën Saxo is a real time machine. Back in the day, European enthusiasts went crazy for this kind of build. It was a treat to look at it as a time capsule of the dramatic change to style over the years. Every aspect of this Citroën has been custom made, but an interesting highlight was the air suspension system with the hidden air tank integrated into the car’s roll cage. How crazy is that? It has 19-inch wheels in the front and 20-inch wheels in the back, all painted in a very bright orange hue. The owner, specifically for this Saxo, made the widebody kit to his/her own liking. It really speaks to an era not long ago, with the hood opening to the side, taillights integrated into the rear hatch, and a completely shaved body painted in a green color named ‘Latte Menthe’.
The Essen Motor Show has already become a fundamental source of automotive enjoyment in Europe over the past 50 years, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for such an incredible event. There were dozens of other incredible cars, builds, and displays present so be sure and look through our gallery below for more highlights.