From Patina To Pearlescent Pinstripes, VolksWorld Had Every Flavor Of Vintage VW
Photography by Will Broadhead
Sandown Park, just south of London, is no stranger to horse power. Home of the Jockey Club, the purpose-built facility has been hosting horse racing since 1875. A diarist of the time once described it as being “A place where a man could take his ladies without any fear of their hearing coarse language or witnessing uncouth behavior.” A lot changes as the centuries march on though, and I wonder what the man who wrote those words might think about Sandown’s annual invasion of vehicles wearing the sun-bleached patina of a life in the desert, or flouting dress codes with almost obnoxiously bright custom paint jobs, all whilst spreading the odor of rich-running four-cylinder air-cooled boxer engines into the air. You can keep your Red Rum and Seabiscuit: this is VolksWorld.
Dubbed the “UK’s biggest and best VW show,” this weekend is all about the storied German marque.If you like your splitties, bays, bugs, and Karmanns, you won’t go wrong attending this show, and who doesn’t love a nice custom V-Dub anyway? It’s been a few years since I’ve attended this show I admit, but I was delighted to see that it has lost none of its variety or verve in the intervening years, with a fabulous mix of machines representing the very wide VW spectrum and of course sprinkled with the odd garnish of their Porsche cousins.
The show’s highlights for me included the superb display of Hebmüller Type 14As. These rare two-seater cabriolet versions of the famous Beetle were produced in the Hebmüller coach building facility in Wuppertal. 2,000 were ordered by Volkswagen, but a fire at the Hebmüller factory led to the financial ruin of the firm and the remaining Hebs were made by Karmann instead.
Whilst the Heb is celebrating 65 years since the last one made it off the production line, the icon it was based on also celebrates a birthday this year with the mighty Beetle reaching its 80th in 2018. As expected, they were out in force at VolksWorld. From the highly polished, no-expense-spared custom jobs on display in the main hall of the show to the enthusiasts and car clubs lining up on parade in the grounds of Sandown outdoors, there was every kind of variant going. Original to outlandish, racer to rat, it’s fair to say that the love for the Bug is just as strong as it ever was. Truly a car for the people, for all people.
As well as the themed exhibits at the show, one of the things that has always been a stand out feature of the VolksWorld weekend has been the amount of space that it allocates for display cars. Where other motor shows can sometimes feel like a day out to a shopping mall, the organizers here seem to achieve a great balance between retail therapy and eye candy. The star is very much the car here, and whilst there are trade stands and the autojumble for bargain hunters, they don’t take over, so praise must go to VolksWorld’s organizers for setting up a great space. Of course, all this room for gorgeous machines is useless without a well curated display and all examples were stupendous for one reason or another. My favorites were and have always been the Karmann Ghias though, for whilst I can appreciate a nice split- or bay-window Type 2, there is always something a little twee and picture-postcard about them for my taste. In my eyes and for my money the best-looking things here are the gorgeous, hand shaped curves of the Type 14 Ghias and the sharpness of the Type 34.
Of course, whilst the pro-built machines are inspirational, the V-Dub modifying movement, in all its guises, is driven first and foremost by individuals, and one of VolksWorld’s greatest strengths is its support for both clubs and single machines. The grounds outside the exhibition halls are teeming with passionate owners and their rides, from the space allocated to recognized car clubs to the show and shine competition open to everyone, there were all manner of machines bearing the VW badge.
Unfortunately for me, my schedule this past weekend didn’t afford me the time to really soak up the atmosphere of proceedings across the full two days, but it is some indicator of the popularity and reverence of this show that as I left on Saturday, Busses and Bugs were still streaming into the show. Despite the rain and cold on this first day of spring, the love for VWs was alive and well.