Volkswagen Magazine

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Vivid. Wacky. Wörthersee.

Every year, fans get together in Austria to celebrate their shared passion for extraordinary cars. This year we were there to witness the scene.

Text Sabrina Künz 
Photos Sammy Hart  

Reifnitz has just under 700 inhabitants. It’s a charming, picturesque town on the southern bank of the Wörthersee in Carinthia. A spot that appeals to families who just want to relax. Except in May that is, when it’s so crowded that traffic comes to a standstill. With broad swaths of the town blocked off, it is given over to the car tuning fans. With its traditional catchphrase, “The lake is calling!”, the event took place for the 33rd time. Some 150,000 faithful fans turned up at the largest meeting on the GTI scene. Enthusiastic Volkswagen buffs come to show off their prized possessions and talk shop with other aficionados. Wörthersee has grown from a hot insiders’ tip to a huge event – the highlight of the year for many. In the most positive sense, worlds collide here in a picture-perfect setting. The event is a combination of family outing, folk festival and party mile. A young amateur mechanic with his highly tuned Golf is having an animated conversation about retrofitting with the classic car fan. Bass sounds thump from gigantic sound systems while parents hold the hands of children gazing lovingly at “Herbie”. The nights are for partying, but proud car owners show up early in the morning to secure the best spots on the meadow. After all, the stars of the event are the new and classic collectors’ cars, whose owners have put so much heart and soul into their care and maintenance. A short distance away from the main promenade, we meet with Volkswagen fans who tell us about themselves and their cars.

Red and gold dominate the Golf III Cabriolet’s colour scheme. A look under the bonnet is well worth the effort: the engine is as clean as a whistle.

» Gran Turismo? I don’t have time to play, I’m working on the car!  ­«

Ivan from Switzerland.

Ivan’s Golf III Cabriolet is definitely a case of “more, and more again”. The car is completely covered in red leather – even the dashboard, boot and fuel tank cap! The modifications on the exterior are comparatively subtle: Golf IV door handles, widened wings, 17-inch rims, an elongated engine bonnet for the “evil eye”. The chassis is painted red, with gold-coloured accessories underneath. Ivan has owned his Golf for two years. The Swiss has done much of the retrofitting himself, with a little help from his friends at the Schraubwerk VW club. This is his 13th trip to the Wörthersee event. His dream project: an air-cooled Type 3.

Anton and his brother worked hard to get the badly damaged T2 to shine again, and turn it into the perfect holiday vehicle.

» 400 hours of labour have been invested in this campervan. I’m never giving it up! «

Anton from Tirol 

A crowd clusters around the T2. Everyone is smiling and taking pictures. More than one says they would love to take the camper home with them. They’re out of luck. This dream van, decked out in orange, belongs to Anton, and he has no intention of parting with it, given the blood, sweat and tears he has invested in it – not to mention the money and time. Yet things looked quite different when they first met. The young man from Tyrol had driven to Frankfurt especially to look at the camper. What he found was a wreck. But the enthusiastic part time mechanic and professional painter saw the vehicle’s potential. More than 400 hours of work and around £9,600 in material costs later, both the camper and Anton seem to be trying to see who can beam the brightest. Hats off to them!

Not for the faint-hearted. The matt green Golf VI has been jokingly christened “Hulk”.

Norwegian Odd-Einar and his eight friends drove 1,180 miles from Trondheim to the Wörthersee. They brought four cars, the most conspicuous being Odd-Einar’s Golf VI. Besides the matt green paint job, the car has combined GTI elements with others from the R series in front, embellished by 18-inch and 19.9-inch rims. All of the windows and the rear lights are dark in colour. What’s more, the car has a high-end sound system in the boot. The crew drove for 20 hours and spent another 20 hours on the ferry to Kiel. Their road trip took a week. It is Odd-Einar’s third visit to the lake, but the first time he has travelled the distance by car.

» It’s great how everyone reacts to my Golf – especially to the colour. «

Odd-Einar from Norway 

» I pick up lots of useful tinkering tips from YouTube.«

Andrea from Austria

The light blue Golf I is Andrea’s 48th car. When was her passion ignited? Her family says that instead of “Mummy” or “Daddy”, the first word she ever spoke was “car”.

Andrea looks forward to the Wörthersee event every year, and has been a regular visitor for 15 years. She taught herself to tinker with cars, often with the help of YouTube videos and instructions on the Internet. Why Volkswagen? “Hard to put into words. I’ve had other cars, but when I get into the car and see the VW logo on the steering wheel, it just feels right. I think it’s in my blood.”