Photography by Jeroen Willemsen
I’d like to talk about the automotive culture as a whole for a minute, and I promise I’ll end up with Volkswagens eventually. I know that—without trying—we in the automotive community organically divide ourselves into niche markets. Each market has its own specific set of unwritten rules within the respective communities. These rules were somehow built around a bit of nostalgia from an older generation, which may have originally spawned our motivation for tuning. Should you break said rules—for example, putting air suspension on a performance car—you are deemed a pariah, until a few years later when the rest of the community realizes that different people like different things. In turn, this makes the one who was considered an outcast into the trendsetter. It’s a continually cyclical trend in the automotive realm, but I’m here to show you why these cars from the Men In Volkswagen (M.I.V.W.) event will change your outlook and make you more accepting of other styles in the future.
Within the past decade or so, the Volkswagen culture has been the genesis of many automotive trends. Those within the society are known for pushing the boundaries that other car cultures are too afraid to cross, yet the VW crowd has this clever way of adapting and incorporating aspects of different communities into its style. While the rest of the world is busy casting these ideas aside, the VW culture is busy perfecting a new way of thinking. The community doesn’t just throw things together either; these projects are passionate, dedicated, and complex in design, though seemingly simple in execution. The resulting examples of automotive exuberance present quite a remarkable situation to enjoy as an outsider.
The 2019 M.I.V.W. Event, a gathering of some of Europe’s cleanest builds from the Volkswagen AG marques, was recently held at Aquabest in The Netherlands. You might remember Front Street’s coverage of it a few years back when it was held at Valkenburg Naval Air Base. For 2019 the event gathered dozens of vehicles—both new and old in production—into the grounds of the Aquabest Park. Located a little over an hour south of Amsterdam proper, this park is the perfect summer retreat, which offers a beach scenario within a landlocked park. While the park has previously hosted the Daydream Music Festival and many family holidays, this time around it catered to dozens of modified Volkswagens.
Our European correspondent Jeroen Willemsen was on-site to endure the record-breaking high temperatures, spotty rain showers, and unbearable humidity all so that we could enjoy this beautiful collection of automobiles. I’ve gone through and narrowed down my favorite few from the day. I hope you enjoy this bit of quality from outside of Front Street’s normal template.
Dave Paulus’ Transporter, Trailer, and MK1 / @daveke1977
I mean, come on. How could I not start with this magnificent trio of builds? It’s one thing to trailer your modified car. It’s another to trailer your modified car with a modified tow vehicle. Above all, it’s an entirely different story altogether to use a modified trailer, attached to your modified tow vehicle, to tow your modified car. (Phew!) However, that’s exactly what Dave Paulus of DP Design has created. At first glance, I noticed the incredibly detailed dark grey MK1 GTI perched atop the trailer. I couldn’t stop staring at the gorgeous, gold centerlock BBS Motorsport E50 wheels. My favorite part is something you’ll notice on a lot of these builds, and that’s the zero lip wheel setup. The normal construction order of a three-piece wheel involves sandwiching the wheel face between the lip and the barrel. Rather than adopting the norm, the face on zero lip wheels is mounted on the outside of both, which causes it to protrude past the lip. It’s an innovative tweak that results in some very interesting looking wheel setups. It still requires just as much care and detail into figuring out the perfect wheel and tire size, but with an additional factor to consider—the depth of the wheel face. In this case, it doesn’t hurt that the wheels in question are highly sought-after vintage motorsport wheels.
Moving my eyes onto the tow vehicle, I have seen others (like Nigel) around the world use a VW van for towing. However, this particular van—not a model offered in the States—was a little different. Paulus started with a T6-chassis Transporter van and reshaped the front end with a Tiguan R-Line bumper. He then continued to modify it with 20×9.5-inch RH RAN Crossline wheels. The rolling mass is equipped with AccuAir air suspension to drop the ride height at a moment’s notice—yes, even the trailer! It is such a cool combination and one that significantly altered my perception of what a tow setup could be.
Stephan Calles’ LowRulers Passat / @stephan_calles
While this one might be a little less in-depth than the tow setup I mentioned above, it still left a positive impression on me. This Passat R-Line stands out thanks to bespoke Bentley Mulliner two-piece forged wheels equipped at the hubs. Wheelworkx in Germany refinished, reworked, and assembled the wheels, along with the custom locking hub configuration. Through some social media digging, I uncovered that this is the last set of customer wheels to ever come out of Wheelworkx, as the man behind the scenes has decided to close up shop, which makes this particular set of wheels that much more desirable. While fitting wheels from another manufacturer is more commonplace now, it is still unusual seeing a set tastefully modified in this way. Hopefully, this setup showed you that a wider variety of wheel design has the potential to work on different cars depending upon its execution.
Turbo MK2 GTI / @ksmk2gti
I think I have a certain taste accumulating here. This car may bear resemblance to the aforementioned MK1 due to the wheel setup, however, that is where the similarities end. Yes, this car is also equipped with gold BBS Motorsport E50 wheels, and yes they are zero lip style, but taking this car at face value would leave you negligent in observation of its detailed construction elements. Diving deeper, you’ll notice the car isn’t the shade of black it seems but contains a slight green-brown pigment hidden within its deep tone. This camouflaged detail combines with the illustrious Recaro A8 seats inside, and the picture becomes clearer. The beautifully sparse engine bay houses a turbocharged 8-valve engine, which is adorned in a solid black finish. There’s nothing that seems out of place. The cleanliness of this build is otherworldly, and hopefully, it shows you large engines and exterior accoutrements aren’t important, but rather the perfect execution of what is already available.
Marc Mehlicke’s Porsche Carrera 4 / @marc_mehlicke
I can’t quite put my finger on what about this 964-chassis Porsche 911 Carrera 4 should change something within you, but it needs to be on this list. Why? Because it’s a perfectly modified Guards Red example outfitted with three-piece Speedline Mistral wheels, lowered flawlessly with Air Lift Performance air suspension. It’s just exactly the look these cars should have in this subtle, yet attention-grabbing form. I was an instant fan, and hopefully, you are, too.
Mitchell Hermanides’ Yellow MK1 / @mitchell.hermanides
Last, but most certainly not least, is Mitchell Hermanides’ MK1. This car stood out to me initially because it’s such a well-executed classic VW, but also because of its striking yellow hue. It packs a punch that the subtlety of the exterior would otherwise miss. I like the three-piece Gotti GTP wheels affixed to the hubs, and I especially like the inclusion of Bride seats into the interior. An accepted option for those of us in the Japanese automotive world, this brand of seats is a rare sight to behold in a Euro application. It’s nice to see Brides utilized in such a departure from their usual market. Above all, my favorite piece of this car was discovered when I took to social media to figure out some details and found out it gets tracked—how cool is that?! The owner recently took it around the iconic Circuit Zandvoort for an HPDE at dusk, and even on the Nürburgring Nordschliefe before that! As the adage goes, never judge a book by its cover, and I’m certainly glad I took the time to understand more about this car. To be so pristine and yet enjoyed on such demanding racetracks speaks to the character and quality of this build.
At the end of the day, I have a personal appreciation for anyone willing to step outside of their comfort zone with respect to automotive modification, and stronger admiration for the artisan when those builds are executed with outstanding quality incorporated into the process. So while this list of stellar standouts from M.I.V.W. ends at five, I always enjoy learning more about any well-built car. If we could all begin to take cues from other automotive cultures, ask questions, learn something, and pursue these new trends together, I can’t imagine the quality builds that our combined cultures could achieve. Isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway—pushing our automotive society farther each day? We’re much stronger unified than we are independent.