7 Serious VW Builds From the Return of the Essen Motor Show

Photography: Jeroen Willemsen

  • The Essen Motor Show is a tuner-focused show described as Germany’s equivalent to America’s SEMA Show.
  • Unlike SEMA, Essen is open to the public with day tickets costing 18 euros. The event also spans 10 days.
  • After a break in 2020, 2021’s show returned with a “Limited Edition” moniker that featured approximately 400 exhibitors and saw 100,000 car fans.
  • The Volkswagen scene continues to be the strongest in Germany, with seven standout builds highlighted here.

The Essen Motor Show is widely considered the German counterpart of the SEMA Show. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the show a couple times in my career (though more than ten years ago) and can truly testify just how awesome it is. Essen spans two weeks (typically starts the weekend after Thanksgiving), and it’s open to the public (unlike SEMA, which is industry-only). Instead of being overwhelmed by enormous exhibitor spaces from the likes of GM and Ford with more than enough Mustang and Camaros than you care for (no offense to our domestic reader base), aftermarket brands such as TechArt, H&R, and Brabus have OEM-size displays that leave you with a greater appreciation for European tuning.

The 2019 event was absolutely massive; however, much like the rest of the world, event organizers were forced to cancel in 2020. The show returned the following year with what they called “Essen Motor Show Limited Edition”. Think of the new name as if it had a big asterisk, with its purpose of advising people not to expect the same show they’ve been to be accustomed to for decades. Safety concerns, travel restrictions, and mask mandates all played a part in the reasoning of calling it “Limited Edition”, but according to our photographer Jeroen Willemsen, it was still a solid event. “I still enjoyed the show, and it definitely had the Essen vibe, although there were a lot of empty spaces and less cars,” he explained. “BBS had a major stand this year that they shared with KW and their new owners. It was good to see them in full force, and they brought out the big guns in regard to wheels. In terms of cars, due to travel restrictions, most of them came from Germany. That is not a bad thing, but it hinders variety.” Jeroen helped us capture the following builds as the top Volkswagens of Essen. Judging by the photos, each could easily hold its own and draw a massive crowd at any show in North America. Enjoy and stay tuned for part two of our Essen Motor Show coverage in the coming days.

Mario Kößner | 1989 VW Corrado G60
Extremely rare to see a clean Corrado these days, especially one with a Rieger GTO widebody kit. The owner, Mario, also went to great lengths rebuilding his supercharged G60 to 240hp while Air Lift suspension, Imperial Blue paint (from the Ford Focus RS), and BBS RS wheels (rebuilt to 18×9-inch front, 18×10.5-inch rear) complete the stunning package.

Casper Manz | 1977 VW Golf
This Berlin-based Mk1 Golf is a complete nut-and-bolt restomod with nearly every piece of hardware chromed, engine bay and body shaved (more than 200 holes filled), wiring tucked, and 1.8T engine swap pushing over 500hp. The madness continues with chromed H&R coilovers, custom floor jacks, centerlock BBS E55 magnesium wheels, one sick rollcage, carbon fiber seats, and more. These are the types of builds that would put U.S.-based Volkswagen builders to shame. No joke.

RadSatz | 1983 VW Jetta
Another impeccable Mk1 restoration with a bulletproof 1.9-liter G60 supercharged engine, uber-rare Ronal Racing Rennsport wheels (17x.6.5-inch front, 17×7-inch rear), Brembo brakes, and another 100 modifications we don’t have room to list.

RS Hardcore | VW Caddy
Not sure what’s more interesting… The very wicked Caddy or the low-profile trailer with the wheel centers mounted backward!

Sidney Hoffman | 1988 VW Transporter Type 2 T3
Something we definitely didn’t expect to see was this old-school Transport that’s powered by a 6.2-liter LS3 V8.

Prior Design | VW Mk2 Golf
From concept to reality, this widebody conversion is the handiwork of the famous digital designer Khyzyl Saleem aka “The Kyza”. The Golf belongs to the owner of Prior Design, and the car still breaks the internet two years later.

Prior Design | VW Beetle
We don’t normally take photos of New Beetles, but this one shows us how dope they can actually be. Just look at how the exhaust exits those front fenders!