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2012 H2O International

The biggest year yet

Ezekiel Wheeler
Feb 28, 2013
Photographer: Josh Brown
Epcp 1302 01 o+2012 H2O international+top dawg corrado VR6 Photo 1/21   |  
Caged Top Dawg Corrado VR6 slammmed on Porsche wheels

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.

Epcp 1302 02 o+2012 H2O international+fifteen52 three piece teardrop Photo 2/21   |   Fifteen52 displayed its new three-piece Teardrop

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.

Epcp 1302 18 o+2012 H2O international+VW golf Photo 6/21   |   2012 H2O International

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.

Epcp 1302 05 o+2012 H2O international+SLAW interior Photo 7/21   |   SLAW interiors had everybody talking as well

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.

Show Time

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.

Epcp 1302 09 o+2012 H2O international+45th street ocean city MD Photo 8/21   |   45th street remains the epicenter

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.

Epcp 1302 21 o+2012 H2O international+VW golf Photo 9/21   |   Mud in the vendor area was a real hazard

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 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.

Epcp 1302 11 o+2012 H2O international+unitronic rabbit Photo 13/21   |   Unitronic's insane Rabbit sported a new livery

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.

Epcp 1302 12 o+2012 H2O international+mk4 r32 Photo 17/21   |  
One of the meanest Mk4 R32s of the weekend
Epcp 1302 03 o+2012 H2O international+SLAW Mk3 GTI Photo 21/21   |  
SLAW's flawless Mk3 GTI created a big buzz
By Ezekiel Wheeler
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