Bangkok, Thailand - The Siam VW Festival has just celebrated a decade as the annual extravaganza for all things Volkswagen with its usually vibrant and well attended gathering of enthusiasts and owners, this time the high-profile event taking place on the western outskirts of Bangkok.
VW enjoys one of the most passionate and dedicated followings of any brand in Thailand but it’s mainly centred around two of its most iconic historic models, namely the Beetle and the Type 2 “Bus”, with the Type 3, that all said, being not too far behind in people’s affections.
The air-cooled classics have really grabbed the attention of Thai car enthusiasts of all ages and walks of life. There are specialist garages dedicated to these early classics scattered across Bangkok and indeed the whole of the country along with networks of clubs and groups that are constantly active and share knowledge and parts.
They come together at the beginning of each year for VW Siam Festival and this time it was the “10th Anniversary” edition which took place on Borommaratchachonnani Road just over 10km west of Bangkok’s city center. A milestone has been reached. More so than most other brand gatherings this event attracts a wider audience that come to see the cars and enjoy the atmosphere of the Festival.
VW ownership is a very individual and unique experience and emphasising that point, no two cars at the Festival were the same.
And that’s not just because the phalanxes of Beetles spanned from the earliest flip up front split window models to the contemporary model that revived the name with the “New” prefix slung in front while the Type 2 “Bus” ranks came in Kombi, van and flatbed format in just about every combination of model and colour scheme.
But it’s primarily because most have been customised to the owner’s tastes, from the now fashionable ‘patina’ look – although in truth this retro appearance has always been in ‘de rigeur’ with VW owners – to the most immaculate of examples, their alloy engines polished and tuned up. One Beetle even sported a clear Perspex engine cover so following cars can admire its oh so shiny engine. Of course, it goes without saying as we are in Thailand that there were plenty of Beetles and buses that had been stanced and slammed, while the many modifications ranged from coordinated trailers to ski racks.
There was also standout customised ‘Mooneyes’ style Beetle, slammed to the ground with quad branch exhaust exits from its front mounted engine bursting out on either side while inside it featured a completely stripped-out cockpit with a unique clear plastic ‘single seater style’ steering wheel perched on the end of an extra long steering column that helped to shift the passenger weight rearwards.
Another car to display the Mooneyes touches was a Manx Beach Buggy complete with the American-Japanese custom house’s shiny aluminium dish shaped wheel covers and signature yellow ball on the antenna.
Away from all the ‘Bugs’ and Type 2 participants there were a healthy number of Type 181s, the utilitarian convertible ‘Jeep’ style four-wheel-drive vehicle originally built for the West German Army from the late 60s through to the early 80s as a successor to the legendary WWII Kübelwagen, but which was soon also sold for ‘civilian’ use. The Type 181 was on show in multiple colours, including grey, red, white and green.
Plenty of Karmann Ghias arrived at the show ground too, including one in striking ‘Martini Racing’ stripes.
Racing wasn’t to be missed out of the equation either with two powerful drag focused Beetles turning up at the Festival along with a circuit racing sister that’s a familiar face as the Waxy-livered car is campaigned in the popular grassroots Toyo Racing Car Thailand Championship.
While contemporary VW models were certainly shaded by their air-cooled ancestors what was lost in quantity amongst the more modern cars was certainly made up for with quality.
There were two rows of the New Beetle, the late 90s successor to the original legend, while there were notable examples of the second and third generation Scirocco. Several Golfs through its long timeline were obligatory while examples of the sporty Corrado 2+2 and the more frugal and functional Jetta sedan were also to be found lurking at the Festival.
Aside from the cars, which became ever more tightly packed in as the night progressed, there were rows of trade booths and when it comes to classic VWs, ownership is certainly a hands-on experience so the long rows of second-hand parts booths were all doing a roaring trade with people lugging away doors, bonnets, wheels and even roof sections.
There was also an expansive foot court tucked away in one corner while Folktales Café & Bistro, a well-known mecca for VW enthusiasts and which is in fact located just a few kilometres south of Borommaratchachonnani Road, turned up with a pop-up café.
Meanwhile a compact gymkhana circuit provided plenty of entertainment and squealing tyres before being swallowed up as the parking ran out, while, finally, a large main stage kept the crowds entertained with music and activities all night.
The 10th Anniversary edition of the Siam VW Festival was bigger and better than ever – cars in fact came a long distance from the capital and even as far as Malaysia to take part – and the event signed off a decade of passion for these mass production German cars in some style.