In 1939, Ferdinand Porsche purchased a summer home on the southern shore of Lake Worthersee, Austria. His grandson Ferdinand Piech still lives in the home, venturing to Reifnitz each May for an annual gathering of car enthusiasts. Yes, this is that Ferdiand Piech and yes, he goes to that car show named for the lake.
Maybe you won’t be surprised when we tell you that the good Dr. Piech was named an honorary citizen of Worthersee this year. I mean, it seems a foregone conclusion, but apparently there are only four of these ever and now he’s one.
Piech showed up during this final week of the event wearing his usual sun hat and surrounded by a veritable who’s who of Volkswagen Group management that included Martin Winterkorn, Rupert Stadler, Ulrich Hackenberg and more.
As a first-time attendee from America, the level of play, here along this incredibly picturesque lake, is hard to fathom. Over the course of the event, we’re told no less that 150,000 fans converge on the region for this meeting of enthusiast minds. That’s six times America’s largest show Waterfest… gargantuan in its own right.
Another interesting aspect: though the official calendar may read just a few days long, we know especially from this year’s coverage, provided daily on these pages by UK contributor Si Gray, that the span of the event actually pushes nearly three weeks.
By the time we’d arrived on scene, we’d hit one of the main official days nearly a week after Si Gray had headed home from the more serious gatherings early in the event. This meant the town of Reifnitz had transformed into a pay-to-enter jam of cars and fans, with over 120 vendors and cars parked in nearly every open spot. By afternoon the crowd was as thick as Mardi Gras, leaving us fighting a jam even on foot as we attempted an additional circle thorough the event. Water ski boats-turned-taxis ferried over fans from lakeside towns like nearby Velden, while a SEAT-sponsored cruiser offered up party barge services that would transport you in grand festive fashion, from one dock to another while choreographed dancers gyrated to dub step.
Walking the event turned up even more details other event planners may perhaps only imagine. Vendors line the sidewalks around town or fill open yards. Large tents enclosed parts distributors while smaller roadside tents hocked sunglasses, T-shirts and of course booze. On one corner was a BBS-sponsored burnout competition area, and across the street was a behemoth of a tent advertising lap dances inside. Beer and cocktails, seemed to be served everywhere, including places like the official manufacturer stands.
Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT and Skoda all officially manage stands here. Each even boasted its own concept car reveals. Even more interesting for those watching the goings-on of the Volkswagen Group as a whole, Dr. Piech hinted in his honorary citizen acceptance speech that the group’s sportscar manufacturers might show up here in the next few years. Given that, it seems only a matter of time before Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley and maybe even Bugatti get their own day here on the shores of this highly picturesque lake.
Walking the show seemed the best way to see all of the cars on hand. Unlike the simple formula of parking automobiles on a lot or field where seeing all of the cars seems simple enough, this event is much more fluid. Some cars show up early in the day and sit static on their spot all day. Others move around in search of better spots or may even simply cruise the circuit.
Cruising a circuit. That’s something more shows need. Forget what you know of cruising the strip at H20i. There aren’t really any stoplights in Reifnitz, and there’s no grand straight multi-lane strip. This is a small Austrian village and there is a slow-going stop-and-go cadence to automotive travel as one circles the zone that makes up the show. It offers a great way to see and be seen, which might explain why many seemingly rounded the course continually. It was also why many more simply lounged roadside and watched the show pass them by as they sipped their favorite beverage.
Volkswagen used the opportunity to show off a few concepts. Chief among these was the Vision Gran Turismo GTI. Part of a series whereby multiple manufacturers design cars specifically for the game, this open-top GTI-inspired racer was presented by none other than Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi.
Over at Audi, the A3 clubsport quattro concept took center stage. Though named an “A3”, Audi says the car is based on the “S3”. Given it’s got bulging fender flares and a boosted 2.5 TFSI 5-cylinder, we’re guessing it’s actually an early interpretation of what we might see from the RS 3.
Just in case it wasn’t readily apparent to anyone before, we hope that our two-plus week coverage of Worthersee has proven to our readers as much as it has to our staff that this event really isn’t just a bucket list item. Yes, you should definitely go at least once. However, we’d go so far as to recommend making a tradition out of it. Why?
There is Worthersee and then there are all other shows. Maybe partying is for you, in which case there’s none bigger in the enthusiast car show space. Maybe the industry fascinates you. This is the only enthusiast event where you’ll see concept cars unveiled and see if not rub elbows with the creator of Gran Turismo or perhaps the creator of such niche automotive milestones as quattro or the Porsche 917. No wonder European car enthusiasts plan their vacations around it. We’re thinking of doing the same and are wondering why more Americans don’t do it as well.