This is one that I’ve been putting off writing for a while, for reasons you will soon see.
I should probably state the obvious from the get go, but this is intended to be a conversation starter, rather than an attack on the Volkswagen scene. It’s not a criticism of the show photographed within, or the people who attend. It’s just something which I feel needs to be spoken about.
If you have no love or interest in this automotive sub-culture, I would suggest that you move on. I really think that this is an important conversation that we need to have. If your only contribution is going to be that the Volkswagen scene is only “air and wheels” anyways, again, I would ask you to politely show yourself out.
While the seed for this story was planted quite a long time ago, it was early on Sunday morning when Jordan sent me a message on WhatsApp asking me if I thought it was worth covering Ultimate Dubs in detail, that I knew it was time to talk . “Looking at what’s there on IG [...] I’ve seen approximately 3 cars there that I haven’t shot or spotlighted before. Looks like a waste of time.” he told me.
Normally, I would offer words of encouragement and motivation, but I shared his reservations. “Not to worry” I replied, and went back to my own Sunday morning.
Luckily, our Technical Editor, Ryan Stewart, was in attendance with his E92 M3 on the Slam Sanctuary stand, and was able to capture the show for us. When I caught up with Ryan afterwards, he shared an interesting insight with me, “All the most interesting cars were non-VW.”
My first car was a Volkswagen, and I’ve only ever owned German cars since. I grew up within a rallying household and with friends deeply embedded in the Japanese car scene in Ireland, which remains the predominant car scene here.
In 2010, I distinctly remember attending my first Edition 38, and the profound effect it had on me. I genuinely couldn’t believe what the VW community was doing with cars, and how far ahead they were of any scene I had encountered on this side of the planet before. The ideas, the realisation and the attention to detail were all stunning.
When I look back at my first Edition 38 encounter, and compare it to what’s on show today, not a whole lot has changed. The cars, for the most part are still flawless and often display exceptional examples of craftsmanship. However, the concepts and ideas behind them have almost completely failed to evolve over this time period.
“The VW scene was so far ahead but hasn’t innovated, hasn’t pushed, so isn’t at the cutting edge any more [...] the perfect VW show car is so good, that it’s become boring” Ryan told me. I don’t disagree.
When you look back at what was considered top of the game in the early ’10s (I think Ron Huijzer’s MKI was probably the best of the best at the time), it’s still almost exactly the same formula that’s applied today. Perhaps it has taken a couple of steps further with regards to final finish, but the concept of perfect paint on a smoothed body, dropped on BBS RS with a fully tucked bay, polished components and an immaculate interior hasn’t changed at all.
Some might argue that this might be the perfect recipe, so why change it?
The best analogy that I can currently conjure is this; if you have the world’s greatest chef preparing their signature dish for you everyday, eventually, you’re going to grow tired of it. When exceptional becomes normal, it’s no longer exceptional. A scene like this, which generally holds itself to a higher standard, should never tolerate stagnation.
“Tangents have emerged over the years, like big wings and overfenders, but nothing of any substance. The VW scene feels like it’s waiting for the next breakthrough.” Ryan added to our conversation.
Curiously, when you take the VW Scene’s principles and apply them to anything else, be it a BMW, Honda, Lada or whatever, they will nearly always get more attention nowadays than a Golf with the same approach applied. That in itself is telling, and perhaps it’s time for the VW Scene to start looking outside its own borders for inspiration.
I don’t think there can be much in the way of criticism in the quality of the final product within the scene, but I do think there’s far too much emphasis on the execution, rather than the original concept. We need to question why we’re doing the things we’re doing more often, and figure out if there’s an alternative that might provide a much better solution.
Again, for the sake of emphasis, this isn’t condemnation of any event, car, person, company or other. It’s a burden which all of us within the Volkswagen scene must shoulder and attempt to figure out together. We’re a community, and a good one at that, that can achieve pretty impressive things.
This scene has brought many of us together and so much joy at the same time, that we need to continue to inspire in order to ensure that there is both a generation who will follow us and that they, too, can experience what we’ve been fortunate to be a part of.
What do you say?
Photos by Ryan Stewart