Over the winter, European automotive enthusiasts all over the country wrench away in their driveways, garages, and shops in preparation for the start of show season. We spend countless dollars, hours, and sleepless nights watching our dreams become reality, so it’s reasonable to see why everybody is always so hyped for the first show of the season.
We aren’t fortunate enough to have the holy grail that is Germany within driving distance, but that’s not to say that we don’t have some of the finest examples of European automotive engineering on this side of the pond. With the unfortunate dissolution of Helen, GA’s Southern Worthersee in 2015, one show has forged a path as the premiere European gathering on the East Coast – Euro Tripper.
For the past five years, enthusiasts from all over the country have converged on Fort Myers to share their love of cars, and this year was by far the most impressive. Paul Barney, along with a fantastic team of volunteers, have given us something we desperately need in the car scene – camaraderie and good vibes. This is a quick look at Euro Tripper 5 through the eyes of the Dub Empire crew.
For us and many others, the show really starts the day before. We jumped out of bed early, stoked on what the weekend would have in store for us. As we loaded up the cars with tents, chairs, merchandise, and of course beer, good friends started to appear in preparation for the cruise from Orlando down to the show grounds. Once we had everything packed and ready, it was time to hit the road. For us, there aren’t many things more relaxing than a cruise on the open road with great friends, bad-ass cars, and amazing Florida weather.
We opted to take the back roads for a more scenic drive, following US 17 from Orlando straight down to Fort Myers. We finally made it after a pit stop or two, and went straight to the hotel to get settled in. By that time, the sun had set for the day but we decided to head to the show grounds to get set up for the morning. You really don’t get a feel for the magnitude of this show until you see the size of the venue with your own eyes. Greatly expanded from last year, this year’s show grounds told us that this was going to be a big one.
The main stage made a comeback this year; which is unique for shows here in the states, but really gave us an authentic experience. Last year, the rain made the stage surface too slippery for any cars to drive up on it, but this year was perfect. Surrounding the stage, some of the heaviest hitting companies in the car scene came out to show their support. Volkswagen of America, Airlift Performance, UroTuning, Simply Clean, Lowered Lifestyle, and of course Dub Empire were just a few of the names in attendance.
As everybody put the final touches on their booths, cars from the Mutts Nutts section began to roll in. Mutts Nutts is different from your typical “show area” parking; not only does Paul hand pick the cars himself, his criteria are a little unusual as well. Instead of choosing cars based only on how they look and are built, Paul looks for quality in the owners as well. So not only did we have a showcase of the raddest cars around, but the raddest people around as well. We aren’t here for the scene points, we’re here to share our passion with those around us. It doesn’t get much better than that.
EuroTripper 5 marked the second stop on the EuroTripper Tour Series; a project that Paul started in 2016 with EuroTripper 4 that was meant to bring the authentic feel of European shows here to us in the states. This year was themed after the famous Men In VW, or MIVW, out of Holland. Everything from how cars were arranged in the show field, to the placement and design of the stage brought the look and feel of MIVW to us here in South Florida. Paul’s effort and attention cannot be understated, as this man actually travels to Europe himself to gather inspiration for his shows. Such passion is what sets EuroTripper apart from the rest.
From concourse-quality vintage Porsches and Lotuses, to some of the most exquisitely built show cars in the country, the Mutts Nutts once again did not fail to please.
That isn’t to say though that any of the other cars in attendance weren’t quality though. The vendor booths and general show parking were chock full of quality builds to suit any taste. From the rusted, flared, MK3 VR6 GTi driven by our good friend George Malioras, to bagged SUVs, to European supercars, there was something for everyone at Euro Tripper.
As we made our way through the show field, we couldn’t help but notice a particular, very special VR6 powered Harlequin sitting dead center in the front row. This beauty belonged to none other than Jeff Bynum, a legend in the Volkswagen community, taken from us all too soon. Jeff built a reputation for putting out some of the most thorough and unique builds anywhere, and his passion for the community was second to none. His tribute was both touching, and a badass way to remember one of our community’s finest. Stop over at his shop’s page @bynumbuilds on Instagram to have a look at some of the masterpieces he’s created.
As the sun began to set on the warm, Florida winter day, top cars in a variety of categories began to line up to take their place on the stage. From best vinyl wrap, to best air ride setup, to crowd favorite; these cars were the best of the best of the best, and did not disappoint.
After trophies were awarded to the owners and their cars, that bittersweet feeling of the end of a show began to set in. We began to take down our booth as some of the cars left the show grounds to head home, but we weren’t ready for such a fantastic day to end.
Impromptu photo shoots, conversations with friends from out of town, and general BSing allowed us to stave off the inevitable for a short while, but as the sun set behind the tree line, we knew it was time. We left the show grounds tired, hungry, and sun burned, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Paul, we want to personally thank you for putting on such an incredible show year after year, and we absolutely cannot wait to see what you have in store for us next year. To the owners of each and every car in attendance, and to everybody who stopped by our booth to say what’s up, we value you more than you know. From the Dub Empire family, thank you so much, and enjoy the photo coverage. See you at the next show!
Full photo coverage: Click Here
Photos by George Malioras,Tyler Nelson, Christian Williams, Alexander Martinez
Words by Kevin Brown