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Lately, I’ve read in our forums a number of complaints about how stale the VW/Audi aftermarket scene has become. So, during our summer trip to Waterfest, I took it upon myself to investigate if in fact such sentiments are true and to then report back to you readers on my findings.
In reality, such a task is for all intents and purposes impossible – the relative stagnation of any particular car-modding culture is a subjective argument at best. What seems cutting edge and mind-blowing to one person could very well be yesterday’s news to another. Still, any car scene can and will become relatively stagnant at one point or another, so I do believe it’s worth taking a detailed look at the state of the North American VW/Audi tuning scene (or at least a rather East Coast-flavored look, considering I’m using this year’s Waterfest for examples…).
If Waterfest 2004 is any real indication, it seems to me that, if anything, VW and Audi owners have become a bit restless with the aftermarket scene and have clearly decided it’s high time to start pushing the envelope, so to speak. Oettinger Golf 4 body kits have not become any less attractive over the years, but the fact that so many people seem to agree on that fact and therefore the kits have become quite common means that those who pride themselves on truly standing out from the crowd must now look elsewhere. And since there’s no new “it” line of tuning products from Europe lately, it appears that the hardcore Euro modders have begun to fully embrace the full-on custom scene. Full-on custom work encompasses one-off kinds of body and interior modifications, wheels never seen before on a VW or Audi, and several other touches that for all intents and purposes used to separate us from the street and hot rod guys and girls.
At this year’s Waterfest, we saw a few folks attempting such modifications, albeit on a smaller scale as compared to our Euro contemporaries and executed with varying degrees of success, but the message is clear – the current scene is on the move. You just need to pay a little more attention to what’s going on around you. If you don’t you’re likely to miss such subtleties as the silver B5.5 Passat with the beautifully blended rear lip spoiler (one of my personal favorite touches this year), various custom headlight arrangements contained within OE housings, painstakingly detailed engine bays (clean and cleaned), fully integrated Corrado rear spoiler to a Golf 3 Cabrio, as well as quite a few mild front and rear böser blick treatments.
Of course, the subtle stuff is only one aspect of today’s modding scene, and there are several others that even the ADHD-impaired amongst us would have little trouble recognizing. It seems that the Euro-embraced trend for two-tone paint and billet wheels is taking a foothold with several North American owners, and none better appropriates the best of that particular scene than Craige Ohlstein’s Golf 4 1.8T. Cleaned, flared, double-dipped, with böser and billets – this Golf would have been just as cutting edge at Wörthersee as it was at Waterfest.
A Mr. Patrick Cosgrove seems single-handedly intent on reviving the once popular US Tuner/Motorsport theme, and his Abt-solutley stunning Golf 3 GTI, known as “Red Sled”, is likely good enough to have convinced more than a few folks that it’s 1995 all over again.
Old School parts and themes grow stronger every year, and 2004 continues the “everything old is new again” mentality. Poster child for the crusade would have to be GMP’s two-tone Scirocco 2, complete with Zender Z400 wide body kit. Sprinkle in several cars sporting classic wheels such as the Borbet Type A, ATS Cup and Classic, Ronal Turbo, and Centra Type 11, and it looks like folks are finally ready to embrace and even celebrate their older cars’ seniority, rather than spending a lot of time and money trying to make them look much younger than they really are.
As much as we try to quantify various modding styles and trends, the VW/Audi aftermarket scene is supposed to be about the quest for individuality, and a show the size and scope of Waterfest is the perfect place for those who prefer to “go their own direction” to showcase their talents (or lack thereof). Some GTOD examples would be a Jetta 2 with Golf 4 taillights, a Jetta 3 with Lexus IS 300 taillights, a Jetta 3 with Integra headlights (what the hell is up with Jetta owners and their apparent lighting inferiority complexes?), a B4 Passat with Audi A4 headlights, a Fox coupe with a carbed 16v swap, and many others as well…
So has the North American VW/Audi tuning scene become stagnant? Well, again I’m going to go the cop-out route and say that the answer to that question is too subjective to declare with a straight face. Truth is that the actual scope of this article was simply to take a slightly more detailed look at some new trends and styles from this year’s event and to perhaps get a few people thinking about what may be around the corner as far as these things go. The Euros seem to have gone a bit off the deep end as far as their rather obvious homage to the US street and hot rod scene, and there seems to be such a well established resistance on this side of the Atlantic to the point where it’s doubtful that in the future the Euro-scene will have the massive influence on us North Americans that it once had. If so, it’s only natural to wonder where we’re headed, right?
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