Downforce and Downpours – Waterfest 2005 Coverage

Yep, it rained again. Strike that – what fell from the sky during the Sunday portion of Waterfest 11 must certainly deserve a description more appropriate than the word ‘rain.’ Noah himself would have been scrambling to patch up the old ark had he witnessed the menacing clouds, fierce cloud-to-ground lightning and event-ending tropical deluges that this year’s Waterfest attendees endured. By the time the deluge stopped, a plane had slid off the runway at the nearby airport, exit roads were flooded and several cars in the parking lot had been struck by lightning.

Bad weather aside, we’ll still remember fondly the eleventh iteration of the nation’s largest VW/Audi event, and the truth is that Sunday afternoon’s biblical rains didn’t occur till after 2:00 pm, and that allowed for an almost full day of fun for those who got to the event early. Let’s also not forget that since 2003, Waterfest at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ is a two-day affair, and Saturday was completely rain-free.

Saturday is set-up day for vendors and definitely possesses a more laid back atmosphere compared to Sunday. Attendees show up to mingle with their friends and many car show entrants use the time for last minute prep work to their vehicles. We’re big fans of the two-day event format as it affords everyone a chance to ease their way into the hectic Sunday schedule and Saturday itself offers a more laid back atmosphere.

Attendance numbers for 2005 seemed well up from last year, with more vendors choosing to participate as well. Vortex Media Group extended an invitation to several Volkswagen and Audi employees, of which several took us up on the offer, one of which was none other than VWoA’s Executive VP, Len Hunt. If you happened to see a tall, stately English gentleman wearing a black VWvortex polo shirt while walking around the event and chatting with various vendors and enthusiasts alike, well, you can assume you saw VW’s enthusiastic US pied piper with your very own eyes. No doubt some of our readers got a chance to actually share their Waterfest experiences with him as well.

Say what you will about Volkswagen and their recent ups and downs in the North American marketplace, but to have someone of Mr. Hunt’s caliber mingling so freely at Waterfest is a positive and rather hopeful sign that good things are in store for US and Canadian VW enthusiasts. It also shows just how far Waterfest has come over the last eleven years.

Since its inception, Waterfest has highlighted for the entire VW/Audi enthusiast community many of the styles and trends created by various show car builders. This year was no exception, but for the most part it seems that the scene is moving forward at a slower pace compared to other years. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and a few Mk2 owners took the opportunity at this year’s Waterfest to completely and utterly blow away everyone with the some amazing projects, several of which were actually constructed while VWvortex readers watched via multi-page chronological forum threads. It’s interesting to note that the recent Euro trends centering around multi-tone paint schemes, air-ride suspensions, and bling-bling wheel choices have not made huge inroads here in North America. Specific highlights include:

Autotech’s Zender-kitted fifth-gen GTI turned more than its fair share of heads.

VW Accessories brought out a new B6 with some tasty accessories (naturally).

Kommisar’s Jetta looked amazing, but in this environment it was almost too subtle for its own good. Isuzu door handles were a nice touch and helped keep Joe’s car keys safely locked inside.

Bobby Digital’s J4 looked as stunning as ever with blended side skirts offering that extra special touch.

Dubfetish’s Garbino-kitted Golf had a crowd around it at all times. Full VWvortex feature coming soon…

Greg Tivadar let little brother Rob drive his immaculate Jetta from Chicago to New Jersey. Quite predictably, things did not exactly go as planned.

This Corrado was chock full with interesting and unique touches. It’s not easy these days to successfully pull off a new approach in the Corrado styling department, and we applaud this owner for doing such a wonderful job.

Doesn’t get more German-look than this, now, does it? Round Golf lights and filled side strip indentations go beyond simple restoration.

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Recaro A8 seats with painted backs and chromed bracketry. Throw in a set of polished MAE Monoblock wheels and you have yourself a real stunner.

Now with VR6 motivation EastCoastSponger’s Jazzbrio was one of the highlights of the DubAudi Gruppe booth.

Biz’s beautiful and brilliant bay.

NGP’s A59 replica now has VR6T power to back up those looks.

HPA displayed their new single-turbo kit.

APR was there with this 340hp Stage III+ GLI. In fact, APR was everywhere.

VF-Engineering brought out their 3-door A3 3.2 tester imported from Europe.

Five generations of GTIs at the VWvortex booth.

VWvortex and Fourtitude display areas were consistently inhabited by people looking to get a first glimpse of the new MkV GTI and GLI, as well as the new B6 Passat (that happened to be fitted with some previously unseen VW accessories). Complementing the black fifth-gen GTI were black examples of the previous four GTI generations, and with them all lined up neatly in a row, the evolution of the series was perfectly illustrated.

Fourtitude took the opportunity to display for the first time its 4 Seasons S4 cabriolet, newly resplendent in a tasty set of 19” BBS CK wheels and Avon tires. Neatly juxtaposed next to the S4 was Phil Ackley’s amazing ur-Quattro with RS2 running gear under its immaculate hood. Also in the 4T booth was a striking black A3 kitted out with a variety of aero and custom wheel goodies from the Audi Accessories catalog. Sunday saw the addition of another perfect ur-Q for good measure when Phil had to hit the road a little early.

Vortex and Fourtitude visitors were treated to a bunch of free T-shirts and decals as well as the option to purchase the ever-elusive VMG t-shirts, hats and plate frames.

The Waterfest vendor area has gotten absolutely huge with just about every single big name in the industry with a sizeable tent and professional display area. But it’s not just the big-boys who come to attract the eyes of VW/Audi enthusiasts – Waterfest now attracts such a large and varied audience that each year we see more new companies trying to get their name out and they’re counting on the hugeness of this event to help.

At this early date we’ve yet to hear specific details of major incidents at the various host hotels, but it’s pretty much a certainty that when you have such a huge collection of rabid enthusiasts in one area, all sorts of shenanigans are inevitable. One early rumor suggests that several cars were stolen during the two-day event, and if this proves true, it would appear we’ve entered into a new phase of shocking behavior. Let’s all hope that this sort of behavior is a onetime fluke and nothing more.

It’s hard to believe another Waterfest has come and gone; so much is the anticipation level for each event. When the rains came on Sunday and everyone made their way home, Raceway Park began to look like a dark and dreary place. A collective lack of sleep was felt by all and the dreadful traffic jams that awaited people traveling both near and far added insult to injury. Still, there’s no better place than Waterfest to catch up with friends, purchase some goodies for your car, show off your latest modifications, and just generally enjoy spending time with thousands of others who share your love for all things VW & Audi.

No doubt next year’s event will be even bigger than this year’s.

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