8 Builds From The 2019 Essen Motor Show That Blew Away Expectations

Photography and vehicle information by Jeroen Willemsen

It’s that time of the year again. No, not the holidays. I’m talking about after America’s mammoth SEMA Show when Europe’s gigantic automotive extravaganza called the Essen Motor Show takes place. It’s one of Europe’s biggest automotive events, and its appeal grows with each passing year.

Squeezing more than 360,000 visitors and over 500 exhibitors into the Messe Essen in Essen, Germany is no small feat. The Motor Show does so with a distinct style not found in other events of this scale. Perhaps its European flavor brings something unique to the table, or maybe its the combination of new products, automotive celebrity autograph signings, eSports racing simulators, and incredibly intricate builds on display. Whatever the reason, we can’t get enough. If you couldn’t make it to the event, we have you covered with our eight highlights from the 2019 Essen Motor Show that blew away our expectations.

JP Performance Super Golf

Where to even start on this thing. First of all, if you’re not familiar with Jean Pierre Kraemer, you will be after this article. His creations have surfaced onto multiple slots of this list. At the helm of JP Performance, he and his team build some of the wildest vehicles in the world, including this very MK7 Volkswagen GTI dubbed the Super Golf. Equipped with a rather unusual design covering its Pandem/Rocket Bunny kit, the exterior lines evolved to accommodate a more comprehensive and performance-driven centerlock wheel and tire package. Inside, the cagework is in-depth and impressive. It not only ties together various points on the car to increase the safety and the rigidity tenfold but serves as a foundation for the aggressive cantilever inboard suspension setup. If that’s not enough for you, wait until we get to the power plant. (Note the batteries in the trunk.)

A keen eye will notice the engine’s layout is altered from its stock configuration and contains numerous add-ons. An even keener eye will identify that the 3.2-liter R32 GTI engine is not only turbocharged for some extra juice but also has a 48V electric supercharger affixed to its side! What’s more, that power gets transferred to all of its wheels by way of a custom AWD drivetrain setup. This build is truly unique and left us wondering what else was in store.

Purple Volkswagen Corrado

If you’re a dedicated reader, then you’ll remember the MIVW coverage that we published earlier this year. For those who don’t remember, we fell in love with the perfectly clean execution of European Volkswagen builds. They ooze a particular style that has yet to transfer into other car cultures. The smooth paint and bodywork help to correctly accentuate the OEM body lines without calling too much attention. While the refurbished vintage motorsport wheels give the cars the stance and presence that they warrant. This example is no different. This deep purple Corrado, with G.A.S. Airride suspension and forever desirable three-piece BBS E87 Motorsport wheels in 17-inch “zero lip” specs, promptly commanded my attention. Upon closer inspection, our star photographer Jeroen found out that its power comes from a 1.8-liter 16-valve engine with Schrick camshafts, a Hybrid turbo, and a Wagner Evo manifold. It has the looks, the motorsport wheels, and the performance to back it up. This car is the complete package, and it was quickly one of our favorites from the event.

Levella Mercedes-Benz W201 190E

Built by the owner of Levella Wheels, this 190E induces chills in stark black paint. Beneath the Evo II-spec outstretched OEM fender arches lie mixed pairs of the company’s new wheels. The driver’s side displayed the forged RZ4 series, while the passenger side promoted the forged RZ5. Sized in diameter much higher than is usually found on older vehicles, the increased size still looks at home. Perhaps it’s how the H&R suspension lowers the car down to erase any gap to the fenders. Or it’s proof that you can do no wrong with a 190E in Evo II trim—thanks to nostalgic visions of them hopping racing circuit’s curbs at full tilt. What we do know is that this car stood out as an excellent example of what the Essen Motor Show has to offer.

Edelweiss Customs Mercedes-Benz 190SL

Oh, goodness gracious. The smaller, more-affordable little brother (or sister) to the illustrious 300SL has yet to make an impact in the automotive aftermarket culture—until now. Edelweiss Customs built one heck of a 190SL example to change that tradition, too. Now, it may be yet another vehicle finished in terrifically sumptuous black paint. However, its reflective chrome flawlessly accents the base in this instance. Sparkling inside the fenders are a set of one-off three-piece custom wheels by Gekrenzert, which utilize the original Mercedes hubcaps for a supremely elegant touch. The AccuAir suspension setup helps the convertible’s interior stand out by gracefully lowering the ride height to the ground and settling the scarlet material within sight of all who approached the build. Edelweiss exemplified how the proper execution of a few details can drastically alter the perception of a car, and we loved it. Hopefully, we start to see more of these gems pop up at future events.

JP Performance Momentum

Remember earlier we mentioned you’d know who Jean Pierre and JP Performance were after this article, well, the shop found its way onto another slot of this list with their recent project: Momentum. Based on a KTM X-Bow frame, this is an extensively modified version complete with carbon fiber monocoque and utilizes numerous parts from Audi vehicles. First, the engine is a 2.7-liter lump out of an S4. The addition of two externally-mounted turbochargers helps said engine to generate approximately 700 to 1000 horsepower. The creative experts at Prior Design built the craft’s front end, which successfully evokes feelings of a futuristic world in the present day. (But that could be the influence of the vehicle’s Tron-like release film talking.) KW Suspension and Rotiform wheels negotiate movement from the car’s aggressive slick tires, while an Audi A7 taillight renders the only real breach of black color on the entire chassis. In all, it’s another well-executed display at the Motor Show and showcased what JP Performance is capable of building.

F81 BMW M3 CS Touring

Hailing from the Netherlands, Fullcartuning b.v. has its hand in a bit of everything involving Japanese cars throughout Europe. What better place to exhibit the company’s new European direction than at the Essen Motor Show? Situated in the remarkable booth of the carbon fiber intake authority Eventuri, was Fullcartuning’s newest project. In the past, we’ve enjoyed seeing enthusiasts make their M3 Touring tributes from 3 Series wagons. However, the owner of Fullcartuning, Sander Koelemij, took it one step further to create the world’s first M3 CS Touring. By using all OEM pieces from the exclusive edition, including the original F80 M3 CS engine, drivetrain, suspension, brakes, lighting, interior and so on, this wagon looks to be what BMW could have released from the factory. Thanks to the exquisite Fashion Grey paint and black emblems, the exterior emits understated excellence that we admire. Also, hidden underneath that muted hue are bulbous fender extensions taken directly from an F80-chassis M3. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you could pass it by, but for those visitors in-the-know, it’s a glorious rendition of what should have been.

SONAX/TABAC Mercedes-Benz W202

Moving us onto my personal favorite of the event, the SONAX/TABAC Mercedes-Benz W202 C180. I’ve been borderline obsessed with touring cars for a bit now, and the early-to-mid ’90s was a fantastic time for them. These cars may appear similar to their road-going compatriots, but in reality, they’re not. Built from the ground up by elite race teams, these cars only resemble the road-legal iteration. Tubular frames and carbon fiber make up their DNA. They are the lower, lighter, wider, and faster version of the typical sedan. This particular example dons the nameplate for Roland Asch, who competed for the DTM title in 1994 with Mercedes—though a 1995-spec aero package extends this chassis’ reaches. The centerlock BBS wheels are one of my highlights on the car, and conjure up aspirations of owning a set myself someday.

Kean Suspensions De Tomaso Pantera

Modifying modern car suspension by day, and customizing high-class vintage automobiles by night is the work of Kenny and Andy Neirinck from Belgium. The two brothers own Kean Suspensions and are responsible for the beautiful car before you, this De Tomaso Pantera. Dressed in an accurate vintage Motul livery, this particular Pantera pays homage to the Group 4 race cars of yesteryear. The mismatched hood and flares are all part of the equation and match the historic guise of the vehicle. It is such an era-correct reimagination of the chassis that we felt it had to finish off our list.

And if the name Kean Suspensions sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the company’s picture-perfect execution of a Ferrari 308 GTB, which was also present at the show.

In all, the Essen Motor Show is a window for the world to see what happens in automotive culture in Europe. Although, spotting the newest trends, the hottest products, and the craziest builds is only a fraction of the excitement. There was plenty more to see at this massive celebration of the European automotive aftermarket. For more on the show, click the links below, or take a look through the gallery and enjoy!