‘Golf or similar’ – that was what the confirmation email from the hire car company said.
When Connor, Matt, Lucy and I decided to take a weeks holiday to include VW
Days show we thought it would be best to at least aim for VAG as we weren’t taking any of our own cars. We were prepared, it being France and all, for the possibility that ‘similar’ may include a Megane – but even that would have been an improvement over the beige, yes beige, Clio estate that we ended up with – not great for our street cred.
However, determined not to let an embarrassing car ruin our fun, we headed out on to the motorway from Charles de Gaulle to find our hotel. After a few hairy moments and slight misjudgements from being on the wrong side of the road I got into the swing of driving – and we took the Metro quite a bit to get into the city centre. I still had a bit of difficulty with car parks and tolls, not used to sitting on the wrong side of the car I never got close enough to reach out the window and poor Lucy had to jump out every time!
Great entertainment was provided on the roads by cars even worse than ours – ropey old Renault 5s and Twingos and scarcely a straight panel to be seen on anything, old or new! Big city driving is definitely scary, though surprisingly we actually only witnessed one accident.
After a day at Disneyland getting an adrenaline fix, a day of sightseeing and sunburn in Paris and a night of debauchery and almost having to sleep on the street we drove out to St Quentin on Friday afternoon for the show. We bumped into a few Dubbers at a motorway service station on the way, including a poor soul who appeared to have fallen victim to the infamous Corrado starting problems!
This is the 15th year of VW Days and the club have incorporated the 15th anniversary into their promotional material and merchandise this year with a simple silver or gold XV logo which I thought was very classy and striking.
The 2 day event is held on a disused air field near St Quentin, on the outskirts of a little village called Seraucourt-le-Grand. The landscape all around the area is dominated by wind farms. Luckily the windmills on the site helped to guide us to the show when the sat-nav brought us to the wrong place! The whoosh of the turbines was the soundtrack to the show and really added to the atmosphere, while the huge structures created a great backdrop.
There is camping available all weekend on the grass between the concrete areas, which looked like brilliant craic and is something we would probably look into doing on a future trip. As is often the case, there were some gems to be found parked on the campsites, not entered into the show. It was worth the trek around the slippery grass to see some more cars, especially some interesting non VAG examples.
There was so much to see that we probably missed a lot even across two days – the show was constantly changing as people drove around and there were little mini auto jumbles all over the place. Lots of people seemed to have just brought the contents of their garage clearouts and set up on the sides of the road to sell, not formally or officially organised in a trade stand area. It was great to have a rummage and find unusual parts you wouldn’t see all the time at home.
One of the best things for me was the huge variety of cars on show, from new to old. You could walk past a Mk1 parked beside a brand new R8, or a rat Vento beside an immaculately restored Mk2 and everything in between. You never knew what you were going to see next.
Outside the main show area everything was informal but there were still awesome cars to look at. I especially liked seeing unusual touches and different wheels that aren’t common in the U. The novelty of seeing a whole different set of cars from the ones you see at UK/Ireland shows or on the forums was great. One thing I noticed in particular was a lot of cars with open air roofs which is quite a rarity here. A little yellow Mk2 with Deutsche Post graphics had US spec seat belts that attach to the door, which I had never seen before. As we stood beside it and Matt and Connor pointed them out to me the German owner came over and was kind enough to open the car and show them to me. Everyone we spoke to was friendly, despite the language barrier!
In the show ground there was a stage set up, similar to Edition 38, where people could drive up throughout the day and talk about their car and there was media playing on a constant loop like the Wagenworks videos. There were a lot of excellent trade stands and of course the stars of the show, the cars themselves.
Of course it would be impossible to describe them all but some standouts included a green MK3 5 door Golf with Scirocco interior and lots of carbon touches, his and hers MK1 and MK1 Caddy, a cream MK2 with a super clean bay, Mk2 Jetta Coupe on Daihatsu wheels and an insane ‘rat’ Vento full of plants, with bumpers and trims covered in bark.
I’m not usually a fan of ‘forced rat’ but the attention to detail on the Vento was incredible, nothing was left standard or untouched – sacking headcloth and under the bonnet, sun visors wrapped in newspaper, the list goes on. It looked like it had been dumped in a forest and ‘gone native’!
Participants had come from all over Europe and the standard of cars, even outside the main showground was very high.
On the way back to Paris on Sunday night we met the brown Karmann Ghia and some Mk1s at the services, and I finally managed to pull up to a toll booth close enough to pull the ticket without having to open the door! Quite an achievement I thought.
Monday was spent shopping on the Champs Elysees and visiting car showrooms in Paris and then we flew home, exhausted and with very tired and blistered feet on Tuesday.
If you’ve never been to VW Days before, I would highly recommend it. My top tip for UK drivers bringing their own cars – make sure you have a passenger, or you’ll be on the wrong side for the toll booths! We had an absolutely brilliant 2 days at the show, walking around, parts shopping and sitting eating ice creams and watching the cars drive around. We are all back home with loads of new ideas and excited to get working on our cars again. This could get expensive…