Beetles, Vans, and Cabriolets: VolksWorld 2018
I have followed the automotive trail for the better part of forty years. Planes, trains and automobiles have been the main ingredients of this odyssey, race to race, show to show. For that reason, it's a welcome change to have something taking place almost in my own backyard rather than on a distant continent.
The town I live in is a sleepy, almost anonymous place, mainly favoured by commuters to London who can reach Waterloo in under half an hour on those rare days when the rail network goes to plan. Almost 150 years ago a horse racing track opened here, but mad as the Brits are on 'The Sport of Kings,' it is not enough to support such an enterprise. This is how Sandown Park became the venue last week for the 2018 edition of VolksWorld.
Clashing dates had meant that I had not attended this very conveniently located show for a few years. Friends who had been part of the organising committee warned me that changes to the event were not likely to be for the better, but I thought that I should assess this prediction for myself.
I attend most events with the privilege of media accreditation, swanning around for free whilst pretending to work. With VolksWorld, I don't bother. If it's raining or worse, I just stay indoors and miss the show, so I don't ask for a pass beforehand. In any case, it's not expensive. So when I approached the ticket booth, I was mildly surprised to be asked for 20 pounds. That seemed steep, and a quick check of the tax records showed that it was a 66 percent increase in two years. This show had better be good.
VolksWorld is based in and around the main building, with the various clubs pitching their displays out front and back of the grandstand. My first encounter of note was this very tidy VW K70, with proper stance.
The K70 dates back to 1970 and is the legacy of Volkswagen's takeover of NSU, who were in financial trouble at the time. It was initially built as the NSU K70, but that brand disappeared when they merged with Auto Union to form Audi. The cost of developing the rotary engines for the NSU Ro 80 and initial reliability issues with this advanced car sank the company. Phoenix-like Audi rose from the ashes to become one of the powerhouses of the modern motoring universe.
My next treat could not described as tidy. It wasn't even a VW, but a Porsche 365. Patina is certainly the word that springs to mind, though this is taking it to the extreme.
The engine looked fully restored but the rest...not sure I would like to crash test this little wonder. That said, it is no doubt a jewel in the eye of the owner and attracted plenty of attention.
Rust and decay were worn as a badge of pride. It was a common enough theme around the show—lived-in as opposed to Concours d'Elegance.
Beetles abounded, in all colours and conditions.
Details took on a great importance. Little things matter to those who care.
There were a number of Karmann Ghias brought by the clubs, ranging from some in better than showroom condition...
...to some that can best be described as works in progress. VW is a broad church.
One thing that was bugging me was that the number of cars on show seemed to be much less than I remembered from before. Perhaps it was time to look round the front.
Here the numbers were what one might expect, with the Split Screen examples being as popular as ever.
For some, stance is everything.
Some had a more commercial angle.
Volkswagen may have started as the People's Car, but there is a theme of individuality running through the vehicles in the paddock.
Some were more in tune with the brand than others.
I headed into the halls and discovered gold. Ask the Volkswagen faithful which is the Holy Grail of collectable VWs and those in the know will declare it a Hebmüller Cabriolet. Around 700 of these charming and elegant cars were produced between 1949 and 1953.
It is thought that around 100 of the cars are still around, though the usual squabbles concerning authentication exist. Here at Sandown Park, there were four, yes four, Hebmüller Cabriolets for our appreciation and admiration.
I must confess that the Hebmüller Cabriolets were new to me, but they looked just right. I'm surprised that they aren't more high profile outside the VW universe.
This fine set of cars went a ways toward making up for the reduced scale of VolksWorld, at least in my eyes.
One rule about car shows that usually pays dividends is to always have a good look around the car park. It was there that I found my favorite car of the day.
No rust, not flashy, just a plain example of a truly classic car, the Porsche 912.
This was a breathtaking example. I need to win the lottery so that I can afford this '60s classic. Clearly I was not the only admirer, as this note on the windscreen will attest.
Reading through some of the social media channels afterwards would not have been comfortable for the organisers of VolksWorld. There was a lot of criticism for the increased costs and reduced scale of the event. This was disappointing because there is clearly a market for showing these cars, and the public is interested in them. The trick is getting the price right to encourage participation.
Hopefully the organizers will notice these comments and take action. It would be a pity to lose such a great event. From a selfish point of view, I like the fact that I can walk to it. Cars and exercise: a virtuous combination.