When people who've never been, inevitably ask us what it's like to attend H20 International, we find it's very hard to actually put it into words. Our stock response is, "You shoulda been there!" because it's almost impossible to encapsulate the atmosphere at the show as well as all the sweet rides, the laid-back atmosphere, the late-night cruising, the camaraderie and epic nature of an entire city being taken over by a bunch of VW/Audi guys.
Ocean City, MD, is legendary in the community but it's a time-warp city lined with some of the most bizarre mini-golf courses on the planet (although we're big fans and regular attendees). As such, it might seem like an odd place to hold such an event, but that's essentially the charm of H20. It's become an oasis for Euro tuners to enjoy the lifestyle we've been craving for 51 weeks of the year.
H2O is anythings but conventional. The ocean-side is overflowing with tuned VW, Audi, Porsche and BMWs. Street races occur on nearly every block, local parking lots and hotels are packed with people watching the traffic, and the streets are lined for miles with happy enthusiasts enjoying the unique weekend.
But the show isn't just about the people; it's the cars that bring us together. From the wild Mk1 builds to aggressively-bagged late-models, everybody is here to see who will create the next legendary moment for us to talk about until next year and ping onto Instagram. What parking lot gem will be the talk of the town, and who will be selected for Top Dawg?
Our first stop of the evening was Big Peckers on the North side of the strip. Again, our east coast Euro-guru Josh Brown accompanied us throughout the night's festivities to capture the craziness.
We headed towards 45th St, the epicenter of the action. If you had a car worth showing, you had to stop here. Hundreds lined both sides of the street, hoping for a drag race or a burnout.
Of course, Johnny Law is no stranger to H2O hooning. They came by land, sea and air to ensure safety was enforced, along with the laws of the land. At one point we saw horse-mounted and bike-patrol police take a breather as the crowds became too large to bark at. We were swimming in a sea of rev-hitting, hard-partying Euros and couldn't get enough.
The main show had again moved, this time to the Fort Whaley Campgrounds in Whaleyville, MD. Getting there would prove to be the greatest challenge of the weekend. It offered various terrains, such as a mud-bog vendor area, grass knoll show parking, and an enchanted forest filled with parked cars. The sprawling grounds would host 667 show cars and an estimated 5000 visitors cars parked throughout the estate.
Two hours after we arrived, we learned that the police were closing the front entrance, diverting thousands of participants to find parking almost one mile away. This inevitably upset many people who either needed to be on show or simply near the action. After crawling through traffic for hours to reach the venue, this was no joke. But once in the campgrounds, surrounded by the cars they'd come to see, most would forget their frustrations and enjoyed the show.
The vendor area had many new parts and wild project cars. Fifteen52, for example, showed up with four new wheels and cars to match. HRE also unveiled a new design in its Vintage Series, dubbed the 935, and showcased a new flow-formed wheel line, which will make a formal debut at SEMA.
We also found IDF had developed Mk5 tubular rear control arms to allow for a more aggressive airbag stance without upsetting the suspension geometry too much.
SLAW, a fabrication shop from Blackwood, NJ, brought three stunning cars: a Corrado, Mk3 GTI and Mk4 GTI with a Jetta front-end. Each had flawless paint, stunning interiors and powerplants tucked neatly into shaved bays. Considering the shop started from a home garage, it was great to see such craftsmanship on display.
Show Field & Forest
We found a host of gems among the hundreds of show cars (more of which can be seen at eurotuner.com). New depths of low, coupled with new wheel fitments and styling were among the hottest things to emerge out of H20i this year. Vintage wheels are as hot as ever, while modern wheel companies are finding ways to pay homage to our heritage.
As always, the Top Dawg display never disappoints. Countless man hours dedicated to the tiniest detail on each car made our jaws hit the floor. Giant turbos, shaved bays and aggressive stance were a few of the notable features among the invitation-only display.
This year's selection was the usual mix of early- and late-model VWs separated from the rest of the field. We were happy to see a Corrado made the cut with one of the tidiest bays in its class.
H2Oi again proved to be the show of the year, and the one we'd been waiting for impatiently. We always enjoy coming out to catch up with our favorite tuning shops and builders, while partaking in a night of shenanigans on the strip. Thankfully, H20i will return next year and we look forward to another pilgrimage.