West London has its own unique car culture. It’s fast-paced, family and friendship-oriented, and rooted in community.
Once a year, on a late summer’s Sunday, you and I get a chance to dive into the heart of this community. The place to do that is the Westside Show & Shine, a car show for everyone, with a heavy interest in all things German and all things classic.
Come with me as I take you for a walk around the Chalfont St Peters Cricket Club venue, and show you what there was to take in this year.
Westside’s full show title used to be Westside Treffen, with ‘Treffen’ being German for ‘meeting’. Informally, many of my friends refer to the show as Westside VW, due to its huge affiliation with Volkswagens. Some of the gents who are behind running Westside for the last decade or so are big in the VW scene and have owned their Mk1s longer than I’ve been alive.
One of those people is Sency, who’s had his Mk1 GTI since it was his first car back in 1993. That’s a story for another day though…
I guess it’s why the show has such a Golf-heavy reputation. This year, a good quarter of the show grounds was occupied by the iconic VW hatchback.
But the Westside boys and girls know better than to pigeonhole their interests into a single make. Their event was never destined to be branded as a Volkswagen show, and whilst it is dominated by VWs and other German cars, different makes are also included.
Despite being far from a German car, the Impala fitted right in. The ’90s hip-hop songs coming from the main stage next to it neatly suited the Chevy, and set a precedent for the atmosphere on the day: laid back, relaxed and welcoming.
As with every show, I had my favourites.
The first of the bunch – a 2003 E46 BMW 330i Touring in manual that’s undergone the full AC Schnitzer conversion, making it an ACS3 C30 – grabbed my attention for just how rare and special it is. This car has everything, with the first and most obvious part under-hood being the ACS supercharger, which boosts the plucky M54 engine up from 228 to 295bhp. It has the full exterior kit too, both bumpers, side skirts, mirrors, wings… the lot.
At the turn of the century, AC Schnitzer was having trouble finding customers who were interested in bored-out, bigger versions of BMW’s engines. Simply, the cost of cracking open a new M54 and making it more powerful outweighed any profits to be made from new customers. It’s because of this that ACS went down the supercharger route, moving away from the naturally aspirated engines they were accustomed to.
The second car that caught my eye was this bagged and BBS-kitted BMW E28. The wheels’ super-wide barrels gave this car a beefy stance that you don’t normally associate with E28s, paired up nicely with the low-hanging BBS front valance and decals.
From one BBS kit to another, this time keeping in mind Westside’s VW roots. I waited till the end of the day for the surrounding cars to leave in order to get a better look at this gorgeous Mk2.
There was definitely a more dominant theme at play at Westside though, and it wasn’t VWs. Interestingly, what started off as a VW-first German car show has developed with time. The VWs were dominant 10 years ago, but today there’s a new chief in town. Any idea what brand that may be?
Mercedes-Benz, of course. The three-pointed star was out in full force at Westside – R129s, W126s and W124s are more popular than ever now. Affordable prices, nostalgia of the ’90s and early-’00s mixed with contemporary pop culture and media influences have seen the Mercedes brand as a whole absolutely sky rocket to the top of the internet. These are currently the cars to have, both at Westside and right across the rest of England.
Many people here were Mercedes-Benz owners before the recent influx and hype though. At Westside, a lot of projects and builds are a family affair, and my personal experiences find that Mercedes owners usually come from families where the brand has been valued since they were children. Dad had one, dad’s dad had one, and so on…
The 190E is the most iconic of the bunch though. It’s arguable that in recent times, the 190E has matched, and maybe even overtaken the E30 as the quintessential ’80s car. Design-wise, it’s the straight lines on the outside and classy interior on the inside that give the model its status.
Or is it the motorsport influences and achievements? That could explain why the non-AMG W202 hasn’t received as much attention amongst car enthusiasts as the W201.
Whilst the W202 did compete in various touring car events, it just didn’t have the lucrative history to match its predecessor. Do you reckon A$AP Rocky considered these things before getting his NFS Unbound cover car? Or is the 190E simply cooler?
Ultimately though, if you like one of the German brands, you probably like them all. The cars and the laid back atmosphere give Westside a unique feeling that I instantly associate with the West London organisers and roots.
Remember Sency, who’s had that Mk1 Golf forever. The white E36 belongs to his young son Levi. This is just one of many examples demonstrating the family-oriented nature of the event. Everyone knows each other here.
While yes, mostly everything here is German, the range of cars inside that genre was great.
The Westside bunch do take their show and shine entries seriously. Look, they even get high-vis vests!
Westside has taken place at this location since forever, and for good reason. The term ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ has never been more relevant. I’ll be back next year, and this time hopefully with a German classic of my own.