H2O International is undoubtedly one of the East Coast's biggest Euro shows. Its size means that only the show portion happens on Sunday, while the days leading up to it include everything from impromptu parking lot meets to illegal street racing and tire shredding.
The event takes over Ocean City, MD, as it has for the last 15 years. There are VWs and Audis everywhere, parked and driving. In fact, it's safe to say that at any given point on Friday and Saturday there was some kind of gathering taking place, whether it was organized for certain models within the VAG family or even the many other enthusiasts that flock to Ocean City to absorb the automotive vibe. We saw meets for BMW and Porsche owners, but the streets were littered with everything from Mustangs to GT-Rs, S2000s to STIs.
Almost every parking lot was overflowing, but the most popular venue was easily the Taphouse restaurant on 45th Street. The lot was saturated with cars and spectators practically 24-hours a day. Even on Thursday evening, many had taken off work to enjoy Ocean City. And after scarfing down a quick bite, we were blown away by the turnout before the event had officially begun.
It was in the Taphouse lot that we first encountered a VW Lupo on the back of a VW flatbed. It was parked in the middle of the lot and after closer inspection we spoke to owner Jamie Orr, who had imported both the Lupo and the truck - a right-hand drive Mk1 VW LT car transporter!
Unix Performance took Top Dawg honors with its impossibly clean Mk1
Friday was the day for cruising the strip. From 1st street down to well past 100th, the sidewalks were lined with people watching the flotilla of modified cars rolling past. Some were racing light to light, others were just enjoying a leisurely cruise and, of course, some were so low their bumpers were cleaning the streets. The main excitement came courtesy of the Ocean City PD, which probably looks forward to H2O more than the enthusiasts themselves...
One of the prime destinations was the Dapper Meet, which was filled to the brim with more than 400 stanced cars. However, we also stopped by the Mk5 meet at the Jolly Roger Amusement Park, where we met Erik Gillund. He's the owner of an exquisite Mk5 Jetta with a Mk6 front-end conversion, which we immediately photographed for the next issue.
As the sun went down, the party returned to Taphouse, where the previous night's crowd seemed to have doubled. It was mayhem. Especially when an Aventador rolled up!
Saturday was the "real" start of the H2O activities. This year it was held at Fort Whaley Campground, which had space for days. As is traditional, we attended the BBQ and MusicFest. It isn't the most populated event because many showgoers usually prefer to sleep-in and stay local on Saturday. As a result, the activities at the campground were less crowded and we got to spy the cars being selected for the Top Dawg show class. These are the elite show cars, which were out in full force to display their rides and be judged in the hope of selection for Top Dawg, with the winners awarded trophies on Sunday. This was great because we were able to see the very best cars without the large crowds on Sunday.
As we arrived at the BBQ, Volkswagen of America was unloading the car we were most excited to see: the Design Vision GTI. Starting life as a Mk7 GTI, it has undergone a massive transformation with a widebody conversion, all-wheel drive and a 500hp 3.0L VR6 TSI turbo motor. The interior was completely redesigned, with some styling cues from the Lamborghini Reventon. It was over the top, but in the best way possible.
Once Sunday finally arrived, the campground was loaded with cars. There was the Top Dawg area as well as the vendors section. On either side were big parking lots, and we even found cars in the woods!
There was so much to see, including a cool Taxi-themed Audi RS4, an off-roading Mk4 Jetta, and even the VW Beetle from the Shark Week commercials!
Unix Performance brought its amazing Mk1 Golf that won the $1000 Top Dawg prize. It was mint (literally), with a shaved bay, huge turbo and cage. It also had a cool air setup in the trunk, with hard lines run above the matching BBS spare wheel.
Another car we liked was Louis-Philippe Leroux's white Mk4. He'd swapped an R32 motor into the bay that was so clean you could eat off of it. Inside there was diamond-stitched burgundy leather, and with so many impeccable cars, we were glad we weren't the ones judging!
Some people might find all of the partying and craziness at the H2Oi weekend a bit intense, and we're inclined to agree. Staying up all night partying at Taphouse made waking at the crack of dawn so much more difficult. And yet it was totally worth it. That's what H2Oi is all about. You come to relax, but it's an action-packed weekend, and one of the few times we get to see the best cars on the East Coast while hanging out with friends. It's what makes the show and our Euro scene so great, and why we'll definitely be back next year.