For car fans in Germany, the Essen Motor Show remains one of the longest-standing events in the world, first opening its doors back in 1968. Consider it a bit like SEMA, but with more schnitzel.
I’ve been a regular visitor to Essen for the past few years, and after its (inevitable) cancellation last year I couldn’t wait to get back over there in 2021. Sure, there would be some restrictions in place, but it’d be worth it.
Friday’s preview day is when I’d normally attend Essen, and while it’s usually quieter than the public days it still felt really busy. This year though, the halls felt eerily empty in comparison.
Don’t get me wrong – there were a lot of people there, but you could actually walk around comfortably and take photos without being bumped into. Sure, this created a bit of an odd atmosphere for the show, but it made my life as a Speedhunter much easier, and I could actually take in and enjoy the cars on display. If this is the future of car show media days, I’ll take it…
One of the main attractions at Essen is always the display of privately-owned modified cars. This is where you’ll find out what’s happening in the German tuning scene right now, and from where I was standing these generally felt like more stance-orientated builds, but not in a bad way. The quality of all the cars on display felt super high.
In previous years, there was always the classic ‘Instagram’ build that looked great in pictures but didn’t hold up to scrutiny in person. Not this year though; every build felt like it belonged here. Maybe people have had longer to really finish their builds, or the shift has moved from quantity to quality.
Outside this hall, Essen is packed with industry names displaying their latest builds and products. One thing I noticed in 2021 was a few more wheel manufacturers than before, and it seems the German aftermarket industry is embracing a more varied choice of cars too. Around every corner was some kind of modified Hyundai, and this bagged i30N on the Wheelforce booth was an example of one done right.
You can’t have a German tuning show without BBS, and it was awesome to see such an impressive line-up and display for this year’s show after the wheelmaker’s merger with KW Suspensions earlier in the year.
BBS’s Heritage range will never not be cool – the RS and LM still seem current even on modern vehicles, which is a real sign of a good wheel design. A neat touch was the display of tiny BBS wheel models showcasing some of the company’s upcoming wheel finishes.
Also interesting to see at Essen was the inclusion of lifted and off-road vehicles. Considering that you’re basically not allowed to do any real off-roading in Germany – apart from visiting dedicated off-road parks – it’s good to see that demand is increasing for these kinds of activities.
Of course, road-going suspension was still king here, and the biggest and most impressive booth belonged to KW Suspensions, sat directly against the BBS booth. Given their merger, it was awesome to see a range of ‘shared’ show cars on display fitted with both BBS wheels and KW suspension. My favourite? Easily the BMW E30 M3 sporting some classic BBS RS wheels.
Staying with suspension, Essen wouldn’t be Essen without air ride. The guys from Nullbar, one of the biggest air suspension specialists in Germany, provided the backdrop for the Air Lift Performance booth with a couple of ALP-equipped builds taking centre stage.
German tuner and YouTuber Jean Pierre Kraemer of JP Performance displayed several of his cars, amongst them the now well-known ‘Thunderbunny’ Mk2 Golf which broke the internet a short while back. Other highlights included a VW Beetle concept car recreation and a colourful, bagged A90 Toyota Supra.
As is traditional in Essen, it’s not only show cars and stance builds – there’s a huge part of the show dedicated to motorsports as well. One of the centre points this year was the so called Tourenwagen Legenden – a race series dedicated to the touring cars of the golden years of the DTM and STW. There were multiple displays, and I’ll go into further detail on one of them in a separate post.
Of course, it’s not only modifications and motorsports at Essen, even if they are the main focus of the show. Hyundai’s luxury sub-brand Genesis showcased some of its new cars with the GV70 and GV80 models taking center stage. I have to admit that the GV80 impressed me, although I’m not really a big SUV fan.
While it may have felt a little quieter in attendance, it was good to be back at Essen and super-encouraging to see so many tuners and brands supporting this historic event. Stay tuned for our next Essen story focused around some of the classics on display this year.