SoWo Or Bust: Georgia Does Wörthersee
Welcome to Helen, GA

Have you ever heard of Helen, Georgia? Probably not. It’s a small, one-horse, Bavarian-themed township tucked away in the Appalachian mountain range in the northern part of the State. The total population just barely exceeds 500; there’s not a single stop light and the entire town primarily consists of two main roads – one of which is called Main St… Come to think of it, Helen probably has more horses than one could count, and every year this quaint little community that sits alongside the the luscious Chattahoochee River is torn upside-down by thousands.

The reason? One of the most anticipated VAG enthusiast meets in the entire country: Southern Wörthersee.


Forget what you know about that famous Wörthersee event in Austria. Forget what you know about ‘turning up’. And forget what you know about the South. This is so much more than a mere spin off…


Sure, SoWo (as it’s more commonly known) it may have started that way – a bunch of dudes looking to have their own Wörthersee experience without the need to stick their pride and joy in a shipping container and travel across the globe.


But it’s so much greater than that now. Not only has the annual event been around for eight years – its popularity has never wavered in that time. In fact, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger; expanding from parking lot to parking lot and gaining new vendors every year.


The fact that Volkswagen set up a booth, and that a company like APR was offering on-site ECU upgrades should give you an indication of just how big it’s become.


SoWo may not be as extravagant as the event it was originally modeled off – one Bryn began checking out 2014’s preparations for earlier in the week – but for the folks in attendance this is one of the biggest weekends of the year. An event where life’s problems can be put on hold and swapped for a few days of pure hooning bliss.


To be honest, I really had no idea what to expect as I’ve actually never attended this event in the past. I suppose that’s due to my previous work being primarily driven by modified Japanese cars, but believe me when I say that SoWo will be on my annual must-attend list from here on out.


Maybe it’s because the vibe was completely different than what I’m used to. Instead of groupies walking around with shirts along likes of, ‘Drive Slow!’ and ‘Your burnouts ruin car meets!’, the roads were lined with young rowdy folks screaming for the passersby to lay some solid tread and exercise their ponies. So much so, that the catch phrase for the weekend quickly developed into ‘BURNOUGHT!’


You may stick your nose in the air in reaction to this kind of behavior, but it was all in good fun and there wasn’t a sore face in sight. Even some of the older participants were itching for a solid sideline scream – and not once did the tire frying antics ever really ruin the meet. Yes, a few folks got tickets and they were expected, but sometimes you’ve got to pay to play. It is Southern Wörthersee after all..


Past the shenanigans there was an undeniable sense of camaraderie spread across all generations and genres of auto enthusiasm, and it made you feel right at home.

The Grassy Knoll

One great thing about Southern Wörthersee is the effort put in to make the event as authentic as possible. As I mentioned at the beginning, the show itself is held in a Bavarian-themed town. Can’t have a meet around an Alpine lake? That’s okay, it’s been replaced by the Chattahoochee. And just as with the original Wörthersee, the main competition only extends to VW, Audi and Porsche models.


Even with the selection being trimmed down to a single auto group, the variety was still impeccable. There was a place for everything – old school cream puff Audi Foxes included.


Right through to all-out Volkswagen show car builds.


Speaking of all-out builds, this twin turbo, wide-bodied Audi R8 by TopSpeed Motorsports had to be one of the most talked about cars of the show – but don’t call it a show car. I’d love to go further into detail about its immaculate paint job, its fresh set of HRE wheels and how a local body shop out of Randomville, GA, was trusted to sculpt and construct the custom kit entirely from scratch – but I’ll save all the juicy details for its upcoming feature…


I’ve never really been into wraps, and as a photographer, the thought of shooting a car completely drenched in highly-refective gold vinyl is on the same level as gouging my own eyes out. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this CC was a definite show stopper.


If you’re into Mk1s, there was certainly no shortage of those scattered over the large grassy knoll.


Aside from the R8, one of my personal favorites from the main competition had to be this absolutely raw Volkswagen EA 142 coupe, complete with a little hint of bosozoku styling in the rear.


Well, that was until I spotted this 1984.5 Wolfsburg Scirocco sporting Kamei X1 aero, Ronal R8 wheels and a Calloway Stage II turbo setup. Absolutely immaculate doesn’t even begin to describe this thing.


And check out the attention to detail in this MK2’s engine bay. Perfection.


Amongst many high profile cars, there were those that went largely unnoticed – unless you knew what you were looking at. Can you guess the paint? It’s not Nimbus, nor Aviator, but actually one of the only B5 S4s in the country sporting the new RS7’s exclusive Nardo Grey. Along with many others, I’ll go more into detail on this hard-tuned bad boy in my upcoming Spotlights of SoWo post later this week.

Walk it out

The main competition field was definitely an awesome sight, but the cars I found around the outskirts of the event were equally as impressive.


At first glance, you might think that if a car’s not in the actual show, it wouldn’t be seen by many people. Wrong! Not only did the outer areas provide enough available space for all of the enthusiasts that converged on the town, but there was just as much foot traffic – if not more. Too bad this lil’ guy just couldn’t hang!


One moment you’d be stopped dead in your tracks over car like this flawless 911 on the Air Lift Performance booth.


Only to turn the corner and spray your drink over a Caddy with a mid-mounted turbo VR6 engine, parked outside of one of the many overflowing hotels located directly on Main St.


In fact, the variety out and around Helen almost exceeded that of the main show’s grounds. Eliminating restrictions, the town was filled with just about every style of build under the sun.


My favorite? This mint condition baby blue Volvo 142 on Gotti 55As.


Even though the style is not for everyone, there was a rusty, rat rod influenced build on every corner that either made you think, ‘What the hell were they thinking’. or ‘Sh*t, why doesn’t my car look like that?!’


When I finished sifting the town and made the call to walk back to the main event, every exhaust note that greeted me came as a new surprise.


Even the overflow had lots more than a few solid gems tucked away.


The best part about the event outside of the main competition? It never stopped. I was never able to set my camera down. There was no escape. Even when I was sitting on a balcony trying to recoup, there was a constant stream of cars I hadn’t yet seen driving past.

The Oddities

Though the show was an incredible experience, I’ll be the first to admit that it was definitely a bit – for lack of a better word – stancey. Maybe that comes with the Euro territory, but with how much frustration I’ve picked up on from ya’ll since joining the Speedhunters team, I knew I had to make a solid effort to overcompensate and showcase the more meaty side of things. Just remember… you asked for it!


Remember what the Audi brand originally stood for? This lifted Allroad on Enkei RP-F1s is the perfect example. Just look at the mud splattered about the side. That’s #JoyofMachine at its finest!


And how about this rare four-wheel drive Mk2 Golf Country just aching for an off-road excursion. Sure, it’s definitely not the sort of VW you’d normally find at at event like this, but tell me you wouldn’t love to get behind the wheel of this thing and fling some dirt in the air.


Got that out of your system yet? Hope so, because we really do care about your interests. And with that out of the way, let’s get back to shaking your knees with this R32 engine swapped Corrado.


A flawless bay with power in mind, wet paint and a set of gold BBSs. Really, what’s not to love?


Need more power? Love the B5 S4 but are terrified of having problems? No worries, a 2JZ conversion with a huge turbo will take care of that…


Still not enough!? Fine. I present to you the gnarliest Caddy I’ve ever seen in my life. Think rear-wheel drive, think 5.4L Triton swapped, think enough character to put even the hippest of cars to shame. And you’d better believe we have a full tire-slaying feature coming soon!


Let’s not forget about all the slightly off-beat details present though – like this LEGO-lined trunk and sub box display.


Or this R32, which has gone the completely shaved route and creatively had its fuel outlet relocated behind the tail assembly.


A few of the bays even had their own touches of individuality. To each their own, but I’ll have to hand it to the owner of this particular car for pulling off a leather-wrapped engine cover, which of course matched the interior.


Another aspect I found myself growing very fond of throughout the show was the versatility of the VAG group. To me, this slammed Passat on OE Landrover wheels was a perfect example of that.

As a Western-influenced guy in pretty much his first fully-blown Euro getaway, I’ll be the first to admit that selecting images for this post was a challenge. But I hope I clearly portrayed all the joy that is Southern Wörthersee. And if you’re sitting in front of your screen thinking, ‘Could this possibly be all SoWo had to offer?’, be patient because round two is just around the corner. In the meantime, check out a load of bonus images in the next chapter.

Matthew Jones
Instagram: matthewjonesphoto

Cutting Room Floor


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Last Jetta is minty!!!


Spaghetti  Couldn't agree more. Maybe a feature should be in the works? ;)




Nice story Matt! I've been hanging out for this coverage, and now I'm hanging out for the spotlights! :)


I fell in love with that lego sub. <3


Damn you Jones. I've been dreaming of a Caddy lately and you have to go and fuel the fire posting a bunch of them.




Love the idea of the bonus images.. Just a little bit more!

Great coverage Matt!


Hey Matt thats not a mk3 it is a mk2 country , and its not a build its a full production car, got to learn more about VW

turbo BEAMS ae86

ok not in to this VW/audi sene at all but...the tail light petrol cap is very cool..nice attention of detail men.. Good one


dr770  You're completely right my man. As I said in the coverage, this was actually one of my first real VAG meets. Definitely looking forward to diving into the scene a bit more. Thanks for the catch!


Thanks for the great coverage so far, Ive always wanted to see a good feature about SoWo instead of just a yearly droolfest on instagram. And PLEASE tell me you are doing a feature on the Wolfberg Scirocco! so 80's!


7th photo down on the first page reminded me of the shock mansion boys photo from a few years back


Not a vw nut but i do like them as i am a petrol head."cool as"


Great article, kept me reading lol! Also, awesome photography!


Great article and thanks for the shots of my Corrado.  Those are copper and nickel not gold though.  Im not that baller haha.


Great story Matt. I really appreciate seeing engine bays that are sooooo clean as these. I have lived in Georgia for
years, and I have never heard of this event. I will cut it short with, all of the w's.


I wish I had know about this!


You could say this was a real... GRASS-roots event... HAHAHAHA!

I'm sorry, I'll let myself out...


Performance2ning  Ha!


@turbo BEAMS ae86  You see it in other scenes like kustoms, hot rods and minitrucks, pretty cool to see it in the VW scene.

Thashen Naidoo

Please can we have a feature or maybe just some more pictures of that Beetle 'R' on the last page, it looks completely mental!


Burnout contests on main roads and sidewalks lined with drunken idiots are a fantastic way of making sure you don't get invited back. The same thing happened to my local C&C meet. Twice. I'm not saying it's not okay to have fun, but keep in mind you are guests in these people's town. It's your responsibility to be respectful of that. 

And by the way SH, posting photos of that behavior only fosters and encourages it. "Oh look, I got my picture on Speedhunters by acting like an idiot! I'm gonna do something even crazier next year!"


Matt-  I'm with you...LOVE, LOVE LOVE the Volvo 142!


God I want an E28, brings me back to childhood driving around in the back seat of one.


absolut großartig, das beste was was seit Wochen von euch kam! Bitte stellt das ein oder andere Auto noch einmal näher vor.


2jz audi :)


Taryn Croucher  Just you wait! and thank you!!


CSFrace  Thanks bud! More to come!


@flushpoke there's a surprise in store for you my friend :)


wilfredcolon1  thanks man! Im trying! hah


Performance2ning  shhhhh! hahah


FunctionFirst  that portion of the coverage is definitely on its way ;)


Forget the R8, we need a feature on that Scirocco!


@Jake Laird  totally understandable, but realistically, I'm here to document whats going on, not regulate. It'd be a shame to not provide our readers with whats really going on, right?

With all being said, SoWo is a huge source of revenue for the town of Helen. The locals aren't always entirely stoked, but they understand how beneficial it is to their community. I don't expect it to be shut down anytime soon. Especially with already running 8 years strong.


AirLift_Brian  Couldn't agree more :)


Your ridiculous ... They just need to have a burnout pit


If I wanted to sit back and be a bore I would be a boring person like you jake liard ... Live live cause people have already forgot about you... And Matt I dig the story and as a fellow photographer keep it up!!! Wooooo!!! Do a burn oooout!!!


By the way I'm the one in that picture hahaha!!!


That R8 is just pure nastiness! And that Scirocco, enough said, feature on that please?! 
Still wish I had the money for that '85 Scirocco I spotted in a Phoenix salvage yard, still running! Positive that it's gone now.


The biggest growing VAG show in the USA .. our 7th year attending and the quality just gets better .. go see it , go Drive the mountains , the Helen ring is excellent with some epic roads .. go the Tail of the Dragon ...even better ..just go


okay, that gas filler relocated behind the tail light is AWESOME!


@Jake Laird C&C has a different audience from SoWo. People go to SoWo for the cars and to have a good time. SoWo only happens once a year so its tolerable to do this behavior is tolerable. No buddy get hurts, its just fun for all car enthusiasts.


House615 If not participating in drunken burnout contests in the middle of Main Street makes me a bore, then I'm a bore. Although I prefer to be called "mature".


Great article!


Matt Jones HA what an awesome surprise! I just got home from work hoping to find a reply from you and Lowe and Behold! the Scirocco is staring at me from the lead article opening image. Thanks again for the coverage!


Can't believe a picture of my passat wagon made it onto Speedhunters. Thanks!!!!


@Jake Laird i wasn't questioning your maturity...  instead of trying to be a moderator of of other people... live your own life...on the side lines... I'm living the way i do because i have no regrets... and I'm successful because of it... and by the way i wasn't drunk... i don't even like drinking... i just love to have a good time...your persistent i give you that, but it doesn't make you right... sometimes its ok to act without thinking... by the way no one got hurt, thats all that really matters:) #differentStrokesForDifferentFolks... 

ride er die!


Kinda makes me wish I put the grilles in, or finished removing the dip, or gave at least 1 fux. Either way thanks for the pic of my allroad, stance is relative.


Thank you for taking a photo of my 1996 Golf Harlequin number 42 of the 200 run.


What makes that 412 an EA 142 coupe? I guess you can call the 4 door sedan a coupe, but they also had a 2 door coupe version... the EA 142 was a prototype to the 411... which then evolved into the 411E... and then the 412 as you have pictured.


When is it ever tolerable to disrespect as a visitor?? To justify poor judgement as... "Oh, it happens once a year so..." or "no body got hurt..." just exemplifies that the behavior was indeed unacceptable. Even using the example that the event "is a huge source of revenue to the town... so they should just accept the disrespect." Am I really reading this?? Are people really this naive to their behavior?