When it has been over two years since your last major car show, it’s natural to be eager.
While that last show was in a slightly warmer climate for me, I had no issue getting an early start and heading north towards the Eikon Exhibition Centre, just outside of Belfast for Dubshed 2022. It was what we would describe as ‘fresh’ out, along with a couple of downpours to remind me I was still in Ireland.
For as long as I’ve contributed to Speedhunters, Dubshed has been show that’s catered towards the sharp end of modified car culture on the island. But what was once an exclusive VW Group event, has slowly become more inclusive of other brands, and some people are not happy about this. I can sort of see their point, but I think the organisers are going in the correct direction. Let me explain…
When I first attended Dubshed in 2011, the idea of anything non-VW Group being allowed to exhibit would have been laughed at. Even the eventual inclusion of BMW and other German marques raised an eyebrow or two. The show was held at a different venue back then, which allowed you to explore several enclosed halls and outside areas. It was glorious from both a spectator and photographer’s perspective. It was intimate, varied and rewarded your curiosity and sense of adventure.
Times change, and the show moved south to its current home at the Eikon a few years ago. While the new venue is much more modern, it doesn’t have the same charm as the old King’s Hall. It does have a seemingly infinite amount of space in comparison, however.
This is both a blessing and a curse at the same time. While the venue has grown so much, the organisers now have the ability to really expand Dubshed. But I don’t feel that Irish car culture, and in particular the VW scene, has grown enough to keep up with it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of cars here worthy of your attention, but they’re not all necessarily related to the Volkswagen family.
While some would have found the inclusion of other German makes palatable, the prominent inclusion of Japanese cars from around 2016 ruffled more than a few feathers. The thing is, if you were to remove the non-VW or even the non-German stuff from the show, I’m not sure there would be much left.
In case you’re wondering, that is indeed the Spirit Rei S13 Silvia that Dino spotlighted in Japan nearly seven years ago. It’s still wonderful.
To be quite honest, some of my personal highlights of Dubshed 2022 were very much not German. Sean Reilly‘s olive green Renault Clio RS 200 on Air Lift Performance suspension was a real standout.
While there was a lot of very impressive non-VW stuff on display, you could perhaps make an argument that at the very least, there was some VW scene influence present in most if not every car being exhibited.
Wheel fitment and stance are not exclusive to the VW world of course, but the VW world is (or least should be) about much, much more than just ride height, camber angle and wheel fitment.
It’s a holistic approach to modifying a vehicle. Wheels, exterior, paint, interior, engine, suspension and personal flourishes should all be considered. Sometimes the modifications are so subtle that only the owner is likely aware of them.
For me personally, it should be so much more than a new car on finance with air suspension and wheels. They’re only two pieces of a much larger puzzle.
It’s only logical that, in an attempt to stand out from the crowd, previous Volkswagen owners will take what they’ve learned and apply it to a non-VW-badged car.
It’s also understandable that there are still those who want to push the envelope of a particular make or model. Christian Gale‘s and Jack Fanning‘s MkV Golfs are about as impressive versions of either car that you will ever see. I would be stunned if there was still a standard bolt on either car.
I’m not sure if any amount of photographs will ever do these cars justice, although I will try and arrange something in the future to disprove this theory.
While I’m aware that out and out show cars aren’t to everyone’s taste, then perhaps something like this 500+hp Edition 30 MkV GTI might be? That’s the beauty of the VW scene; in theory, there should be something for everyone.
That people are then embracing these various approaches and applying them to whatever takes their fancy should only be welcomed. Cross pollination between the varying automotive sub-cultures is a thing of wonder, and results in builds like John Peden‘s Zetec-powered and custom air suspension-equipped Mk2 Ford Escort.
It goes both ways, with Japanese influence on German vehicles, too.
You’ll likely have guessed by now that I personally think this is the way forward, and that ‘one-make’ shows are for the most part, going to become irrelevant. As with everything, there’s always an exception or two, but when you have the same people building the same cars, going to the same car shows where their friends have all built the same cars, it doesn’t lend itself to innovation.
While there has been, and will continue to be, some hesitation about the continued increase in non-VW and non-German cars at the likes of Dubshed, I hope more people approach these events with an open mind.
If anything, the situation might lend itself to some healthy rivalry between sub-cultures, and who knows what sort of progress and new ideas could evolve from this.
Like it or not, it’s not getting any easier to be a car enthusiast or to attract younger people into our world. Cars are more expensive than ever, fuel is as expensive as most of us have ever seen, and that’s before we even have a conversation about burning dinosaur juice in order to drive around in circles and make brum-brum noises.
We must look like lunatics to the rest of the world, but both you and I know that we love what we love, and we really can’t help ourselves. We should help ourselves though, and I really think that bringing sub-cultures together under one roof is key to that.
We know it works because you only have to look at the likes of the Players shows in the UK to see how they have gone from strength to strength.
I know a lot of people who profess to be car enthusiasts, but they’re not really. It would be more accurate to say that they’re Ford enthusiasts or late-’90s JDM enthusiasts, or August 1964 to June 1965 Chevrolet Corvette enthusiasts (but only cars built on a Thursday).
I’m being hyperbolic of course, but it would be no harm for people who have gone on a deep-dive of a very specific and niche automotive sect, to come up for air and see what everyone else is up to.
If you’re looking at this coverage and thinking ‘where are the race cars and track cars’, maybe you should consider bringing your race car or track car to a local show. You might enjoy it, you might not. You might learn something, you might not. Most importantly though, you might inspire someone else, someone young, to get started into the automotive life. Some things are bigger than us.
It would be impossible to create a show or event that pleases everyone. We will never all agree on what is best and that’s absolutely fine. What we could all benefit from is knowing our own tastes, being able to take something away from most situations and knowing that just because we personally don’t like something, doesn’t make it bad.
It’s also not an organiser’s responsibility to build the cars that make their shows. They just need to create the occasion, and the rest is essentially them shining a spotlight on the current state of car culture. If you don’t like what you see, then take some responsibility and try to do something better rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
Dubshed is no longer and will likely never be a VW-only show again, and that’s okay. But it’s just a name, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.