It's common for Euro enthusiasts to prefer informal gatherings to complicated car shows. After all, we're all part of one big, happy family, right? We aren't here to wage war against each other, or prove our car is better than the car parked next to us. It's about making friends, sharing ideas and appreciating our passion.
One event that exemplifies this philosophy is H2O International (H2Oi) held in Ocean City, MD. Although it now features a car show, the two-day event started as a get-together and its main focus remains a laid-back atmosphere for enthusiasts to unwind and relax.
Beginning with the journey to the event, hardcore enthusiasts from almost every East Coast and Midwestern state caravan in groups like the annual DagBall Rally, organized by DubAudi Gruppe. This is one of the bigger caravans drawing over 150 cars.
Upon arrival in Ocean City, attendees check into beach houses and hotels that encircle a tightly-knit area. At night, the party begins as hundreds of cars congregate on a ten-mile road coined "The Strip" which features cruising, burnouts and fun.
On Saturday, the first day of H2Oi, organizers host the "Big Ass BBQ". Participants enjoy great food and catch up with old friends. On Sunday, the cars pour into Ocean Downs, a facility normally used for horse racing. The laid-back theme carries over with no drag racing, autocross or road course in sight. Even the car show takes a casual approach, as opposed to the strict rules and guidelines of other events.
This year was highlighted by the return of several Mk1s. Also, the trend for custom and color-matched wheels stopped us in our tracks several times. From classic color-matched BBS wheels, to enormous-dished Fittipaldi Indy wheels and even painted Corvette wheels, there was an excellent display to capture the imagination. Even the rat-style cars were alive and kicking with new examples featuring two-tone primer and wood grain paneling.
Our Mk5 Project GTI traveled to H2Oi and hung out in the APR booth. It was easily spotted with one of the first VW Drivers Gear bike racks and some gnarly old school BMX.
Volkswagen of America was in the house with the garage display it introduced at Waterfest. The famed Helga made an appearance to sign autographs, take photos and flash her VW hand signals. Also situated in the VW booth was a Mk5 R32, one of its first official appearances in North America.
Other incredible VWs included Steve Brown's custom Mk2 GTI with a 2.9 liter VR6 turbo and 16x9" BBS three-piece wheels. Another magnificent Mk2 Golf was Mike Herman's 1.8T AWP swap with standalone fuel management, boasting over 300whp. And who could forget Mike McCoy's Mk2 VR6 masterpiece? The immaculate Jetta recently added Porsche GT3 seats to its repertoire.
The Mk4 platform was also well represented, including Michael Katashev's flat-blue GTI with air ride suspension, plaid interior and Corvette wheels. Our Readers' Ride winner of et 12/06, Robert Farr, was also in Ocean City with his custom green R32 turbo.
If you haven't already checked out H2Oi, we suggest you put it on your to-do list for '07. It might not have the size, racing adrenaline or vendor rows that bigger shows bring, but the event is a pleasant weekend getaway for many East Coast enthusiasts. There are hundreds of VWs and Audis, the autumn colors, beach houses, cruising and drinking; what else do you need to relax and enjoy our passion? See you next fall!