If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are you have seen Chay’s main coverage of this year’s Retro Rides Weekender. In that report, Chay covered where the show came from, and what it looks like today.
My favourite thing about the Weekender is that, within the theme of retro, it’s inclusive to all. There’s no badge snobbery or made-up rules here; simply bring along your pride and joy and get amongst it with other car enthusiasts.
As car enthusiasts, we understandably celebrate incredible projects that break the rules of we think is possible: Custom one-off engines; sophisticated suspension set ups; 4-piece wheels made on Mars; the list goes on… However, more than often, automotive joy can come from recipes older than time itself.
I’m of course talking about OEM+ (I’ll get into the plus in a second). OEM, or original equipment manufacturer, is a term we use in the automotive world to describe car parts that you can pick up for your model from your local manufacturer’s garage.
The ‘+’ sign is where things start to get jazzy. We’re talking automotive parts cross-pollination; a mechanical breeding exercise to create something funky out of your own back garden’s harvest. The most vintage example of this is the Volkswagen Audi Group builds. Bentley wheels on an Audi, Audi engine swaps into VWs etc…
Things can, and do, get weirder. I’ve checked with my friends, and everyone seems to have a different definition of what OEM+ means to them. Some say once you start crossing brands with no relation, like a Ford with Honda parts, you’ve gone past the OEM+ mark into straight-up, good ol’ fashioned modding. My interpretation is that anything made by a car manufacturer counts.
For the sake of this article, I’ll roll with my take on the term.
So, why did I choose Retro Rides as my exemplar of the OEM+ arts? Because OEM modifications give the greatest flexibility in modifying your car, whilst being constrained by retro car caveats such as maintaining originality.
OEM+ modifications are also a great way to get stuck into a car without requiring all of your capacity. It’s easy to forget that your average car enjoyer doesn’t have an unlimited budget and time for aftermarket work, or a car ramp to work on.
Your average car enjoyer is someone who probably only owns one car. It’s someone who might need this car to get them to work and back, or to see their family on the weekend. Retro Rides engages this average car enjoyer to come to their show by opening their doors to unrestricted variety.
That’s why OEM+, for me, is king of the castle. The safest way to get stuck into the big car community machine. So, let’s see what the Retro Rides Weekender had to offer in this respect…
The best place to start? BMW. I’m biased, as I’ve owned a few OEM+ ones myself now, but if you ever want endless OEM options to make your car stand out, this is the place to be.
I found a pair of red Compacts to help prove my point. The first one started out as a standard 316i but received an M52B25 swap (the S54 plate came with the car from factory) and a full set of Sport bumpers. Chuck in a set of coilovers and pick your favourite BMW wheel – of which there are plenty – and you’ve got yourself a usable, fun, plug-and-play sports car.
This other Compact went the extra mile with OEM goodness by sourcing an individual interior. I’ve never seen this set before, so if you know what it’s called, leave a comment, I’d love to know. It goes to show no matter how much you think you know, the factory catalogues will go deeper. Side note: Check out the fitting number plate.
Want to go really extra? Convert your wheels into split rims, as demonstrated on this Baur E30. A rare enough, OEM+ pinnacle of a motor as standard, its owner, Tony Forbes-Marsden, went the extra mile by converting his Style 13 ‘Bottlecaps’ to the shiny splits you see here.
If you look close enough, you might see a 327i badge on the boot lid, and an M20 2.7L under the bonnet.
It’s worth pointing out, OEM splits aren’t just a BMW thing…
Next up was this nicely sorted Mk5 Ford Escort in the Red Room, owned by Craig Thompson. Very much the everyman’s car in the ’90s, we’ve got touches on this one to make it stand out in the pack, namely Cosworth wheels and interior, paired up with an ST170 engine to match the punchy aesthetics. Craig takes my OEM+ thing a little bit further here, having boosted the engine with a turbo for a nice, round 250bhp at the wheels.
OEM+ is a dish served in a variety of flavours, as demonstrated by Jake and his 1988 Renault Extra van – a random side project he started for a bit of fun. Jake had a Renault GT Turbo drag car project on the go which he cannibalised for this thing. The whole running gear and front end came off the hatchback and right into the van. A lick of paint on the front end to make it look presentable and the idea came to life. Jake takes pride in the car being home built, whilst being well loved and still driven to death on a regular basis.
I love small hot hatches, especially if they come in a form that is now rarely seen. These little Vauxhall Corsa Bs punch out small numbers but have a huge following, which speaks highly of how much fun they are to drive.
The pair of Sports caught my eye. The black one is a great example of how OEM wheels can be paired with aftermarket touches such as Morette headlights and Kamei front facia to create a comprehensive package.
Japanese cars also famously have endless, rare OEM parts that owners love to hunt for. Honda is a great example as they have a unique, family-like partnership with Mugen who manufacture OEM parts for them. Technically though, they’ve never been under Honda’s ownership, so some may argue that Mugen is not OEM+.
But, as I said earlier, I make the rules here. Here’s a gorgeous Prelude on a set of Work Ewings, with a Seibon carbon fibre rear wing modelled on the original Mugen parts, to match the NRG Carbon8 bonnet and OEM Honda bonnet spoiler. The interior has also been swapped from an SiR with Type S seats. The front grill, front lips, fog lights and rear bumper are all from an OEM Japanese Type S Prelude. The cat-back exhaust? Mugen.
It’s safe to say then, OEM influences run deep in car culture. I’m glad that I finally got the chance to share this with the Speedhunters audience as it’s something that I’ve had a personal affiliation with for a while.
Retro Rides was the perfect place for it. The show inspired me to go hunting for some rare, OEM+ goodies for myself, and I hope this article has done the same to you. Maybe I’ll even see some of you there next year. And then you can take in all the OEM+ stuff for yourself, alongside the everything else the Retro Rides Weekender accommodates.