After what felt like a never-ending winter, warm weather finally brought with it the show season and an excuse to leave the office to spend a few days on the beach in South Georgia. While the official debut of our sweepstakes GTI happened last month at Euro District, ECS Tuning attended The European Experience in Savannah, Georgia to show off the new additions to our VW MK7.5 we built with Racingline, StopTech, LIQUI MOLY, and other fantastic vendors. The GTI traveled in style in an enclosed trailer and our video team flew from Ohio to Georgia, but our writer drove his E30 convertible the entire distance to offer our readers a unique experience.
With the GTI loaded Thursday morning, Stephan and Zach seated on a plane, and a 1300 mile road trip ahead of him, this writer made final preparations to drive his 24v swapped E30 Vert. As with any long drive in a vintage car, being ready for anything is key. A fresh oil change with LIQUI-MOLY Molygen 5w-40, new Bosch spark plugs, and Oxygen sensors were all installed as precautions taken to ensure the now twenty-year-old engine would be perfectly happy running at 3500 RPM for nearly 24 hours. KONI yellow dampers, Lemförder tie rods and control arms, and Turner Motorsport Monoball FCABs were also installed, replacing all the same components which had extended their service life. These replacements wound up becoming some of the best decisions for the trip. The ride on the adjustable dampers was extremely comfortable despite the thirty-year-old car’s best efforts to make the trip more inconvenient. Lastly, a fresh set of comfort tires were swapped out for the Yokohama S-Drives on the car to improve the ride quality for the cross-country drive.
The maintenance was hurriedly completed, the luggage stuffed into the compact BMW, and the top was dropped for the longest road trip this E30 had ever taken. A lonely, boring, and extremely loud drive to Nashville went quickly with almost no incident.
Once in Nashville, the real adventure began. A quick ‘driver’s meeting’ at a convenient highway exit, brief introductions between some new friends, and a fresh resupply of energy drinks and gas all took place before we jumped back on the road. We departed around midnight; our troupe of BMWs (and a token W124 Mercedes) rumbled onto the highway for a full night of pothole dodging, bleary-eyed, driving.
The uneventful trip found us in Savannah just after dawn. Ordinary beachgoers would make the sensible decision to unload at their hotel or Air BNB. Because they are car enthusiasts, our intrepid crew thundered over to Tybee Island for beach naps and the impromptu satellite car meets that would happen throughout the weekend.
Possibly more fun than the actual events themselves, one of the more beautiful phenomena surrounding large-scale enthusiast events is the crazy spike in modified vehicle traffic around small population towns. Nearly every corner sported a Porsche or Audi bagged to the ground and every stoplight featured lines of European vehicles causing the disproportionately small number of ‘normal’ vehicles to feel outnumbered. The anticipation for the next day’s European Experience was magnified by seeing the teasers just driving around Tybee and Savannah.
The next morning brought unexpectedly beautiful weather for the show. The line began piling up just before 8:00 AM with the doors to not officially open for another few hours. Either due to excitement or just the knowledge of all the poor air-cooled VWs idling in line, the event staff decided to open the gates early and let the descending enthusiasts pour into the venue. Thanks to the split environment, a distinct divide in atmosphere gave EUEX a unique feeling. Vendor booths were situated in a pit-stop style setup with the other show participants trafficked between them to the pasture-like field adjacent to the main concourse. A relaxed vibe befitting a grassy field near the beach offered shady sanctuary, while the high-energy half of the show took place around the main stage and vendor booths. Our own MK7.5 could be seen near the entrance, parked with the Black Forest Industries crowd.
The personally owned cars tend to have a different feel than the professionally sponsored cars, though they often exhibit equal or better quality. Between classic cars and contemporary builds, the whole EUEX show offered a wide variety. We enjoyed spotting ECS products nearly every time we turned around and loved all the kind words. Several times in conversation we were given a wonderful surprise by someone pointing out all the parts of their build to which we have contributed with our parts or services. It is always nice to see the cars and owners that we only see once or twice a year, but even better to meet new folks who are so excited to be a part of the community and to see faces from the other side of the internet.
The aspect of immediately knowing each other, despite having never met, is an incredible one among the enthusiast community. With the normality of social media and instant communication, the network of European automotive enthusiasts both grows and shrinks. Events like EUEX give us the chance to party together and enjoy our hobbies.
The first day of EUEX was exceptional. There were a palpable energy and excitement that hovered over the venue while still feeling relaxed. Our group had the opportunity to walk the show and chat with owners and enthusiasts quite informally. The benefit of being by ourselves meant the freeform schedule allowed us to follow what we were interested in and spot our favorite cars rather than be held to a strict requirement for sponsored content.
We did, however, take a few chances to show off some of our products and our vendor’s products featured on several cars who were part of the show.
With the first day closed out, we left the venue for some home-cooked food and a good night’s sleep before the final day of the show Sunday and a long drive North. That evening, downtown Savannah was invaded by all the show cars and EUEX attendees, so the event really just changed locations. Again, more satellite meets, photo sessions, and otherwise unaffiliated gatherings took place throughout the night before the final day in Georgia.
Sunday brought a light drizzle and some cloud cover but was an otherwise pleasant day for more car spotting. The atmosphere of the show completely changed from the previous day. A more sociable, relaxed, and happily disorganized vibe hovered over the show. Since we planned to be back in Tennessee by the end of the day, we arrived at the venue early that morning to load in and enjoy the last part of EUEX.
The chill ambiance was amplified by the lack of structure to the parking free-for-all that became of the infield. Groups parked where they pleased and no one seemed to mind. The final day offered people opportunities to set up photo shoots with their crews, saw the low car limbo contest, and finally the awards ceremony. Since the judging was already complete, the second day saw more tomfoolery.
Our own E30 took part in the limbo contest. Though we did not win, the fun and excitement of piling everyone in arms reach of the car onto the hood, trunk, and anywhere with space for them is always a hysterical misuse of automotive technology.
Finally, the awards ceremony brought the best of the best European builds to the front and center. To be chosen as an EUEX Top 50 car is an honor in itself. To be selected for best of categories is an even more exclusive experience and justifies the hard work that brought you to that podium.