Category Archives: car shows/events

Third Annual Fahrenhart Fall Cruise: Pagoda Hillclimb, Reading, PA

The time comes again; it’s the end of the show car and racecar season. The wrenches are getting cleaned and ready to start working on next year’s car changes over the next couple months, #sowoprep! It’s like a hibernation mode for the low cars, to be tucked away in garages and under tarps for the fear of the bad east coast winters and the salt they pour onto the roads eating your car alive.

For the crew of Fahrenhart, it means it’s time for the Fall cruise, a yearly event of blasting our cars around together through the fallen leaves that mask the roads and finding magnificent views and great food along the way. In years past, we’ve enjoyed rolling through the New Hope area of Pennsylvania along the winding River Road stopping off in parks and catching attention of passers-by. This year however, we aimed our sights on something different, something that piqued everyone’s interest, the Pagoda Hillclimb, in Reading, PA.

The Pagoda Hillclimb refers to an SCCA event that happens in June every year on a 1.35 mile stretch of road in Reading on a residential road that’s closed off for the daring to take at speeds too fast for the normal car. This sounded like the perfect place for the “drive-hard” crew of Fahrenhart.

A small group of us gathered at FDR Park in Philadelphia to drive out to the King of Prussia mall and meet up with the rest of Fahrenhart. Keith Moore thought it might be great idea to grab some breakfast for the group at Potito’s Bakery. After a short trip to pick up some donuts it was off to King of Prussia and dealing with the crappy traffic on Rt. I-76.

We arrived at the mall all in one piece to find a good amount of the crew already waiting but knew there were a few still not there. Seemed like the perfect time to chat and eat some delicious donuts and talk cars. The weather was already looking beautiful and it was only 9 in the morning so that played well with hanging for a bit and getting amped for this hour drive out to Reading.

Everyone soon started getting antsy, as we knew it was time to being our Sunday drive. We rolled out like a giant conga line of Volkswagens (and Audis) and entered the Turnpike. Christine looked out the back window of our wagon and goes “ its so awesome how we move like synchronize swimmers while switching lanes.” We kept together in a long line of cars whiles Ryan and Joelle snapped some sweet roller shots of the group.


Roller shots courtsey of  Ryan Norris.

Occasionally, a few of us would pick up the pace and speed off from the group but try to stay going the speed limit since a few drivers are a bit too low to the ground to be hitting some speeds. We lost Michael Fetch and Paul Fink for a short bit losing at an exit so we pulled over and waited for them to turn around and come back. It was the perfect time to shoot some more shots of us hanging out and revel in the nice weather. When they finally caught back up with us it was time for the last leg of the journey, the Pagoda. I think we messed up the traffic flow on the roads a bit and might have upset a few locals while trying to get everyone back on the road, but it was worth it to try to keep everyone together and not to lose anyone.

Turning on to the first part of the hill climb we could tell this was a real hill climb. “The cabby would have not made it up this” said Christine turning to me, “it would have just been stuck at the bottom.” The road was elevated and we pushed upwards on the winding road full of incredible turns. We drove quickly up the mountain with all the cars one behind the other enjoying each turn to finally come to the stunning Pagoda, which looked like it had been removed straight out of East Asia. After parking up, we were all awestruck by the view over the town. Everyone made sure to get their selfies with one another against the backdrop.

Catching the wind in our hair and relaxing in the backdrop of magnificent sights, a few began to explore the area as others began to get in their cars and test their cars against the hillclimb. Alex mounted up the GoPro and took his car up and down the hill and others followed and tried to keep up. My wagon couldn’t really handle the roads in its stock form so after taking the trip down and then back up once was good enough for me. I ended up jumping in the car with Keith and enjoying his tuned MK5 GTi as he ripped the corners.

After racing further up the hill we found a watchtower and gathered up the rest of the crew to come check it out. This seemed like the perfect time to collect all the cars that came together and have a photo shoot of everyone from up above. A few people climbed the one hundred and sixty eight steps to the top to grab the shot of the cars below and take in yet another great view. I stayed on the ground and kept snapping photos.

By this time it was about one and everyone is starting to get hungry. Fetch shouts out “Liberty Taproom is close to here,” and that about settled it! Beer and food, were exactly what we were looking for. We headed out to our final destination to recap our day. Liberty taproom organized a group of table in the back for the nineteen of us that came out so we can sit back and bask in the day’s adventure.

Leaving felt like such a chore. We had spent the day together and needed to head home. We stood in the parking lot of the taproom and talked some more. It’s always hard leaving when you are in such good company. In the end, everyone hugged and said their goodbyes and headed homewards. The day was perfect, the ride was smooth and there were no accidents or mishaps.

A lot of car groups de-humanize themselves and make it all about the cars, the shows and the trophies but Fahrenhart is always something more then that, it’s a gathering of friends with a passion for all things Euro. This might be the last outing of the season with our cars but we now look forward to our Friends-giving party and I can’t wait to see everyone again.

 

Dubs on the Boards – A Car Show With a Twist

Dubs on the Boards (DOTB), organized and run by SlickSpeed Productions, is a unique take on the typical Volkswagen and Audi car show. Held around the “unofficial” end of the Summer, the 2014 edition was the 7th time the show took place.  Since 2008, the show has steadily grown in popularity amongst the VW/Audi enthusiast community, with greater and greater turnout each year. 2014 saw 200 Volkswagen and Audi owners meet up in Wildwood, NJ on September 6th.

I see multiple reasons for this, first of which is the location. Wildwood, NJ is one of the many popular shore towns in New Jersey. You could infer from the name where the actual show takes place – on the boardwalk. That’s right – cars are parked right in the middle of North Wildwood’s famous boardwalk. That, in itself, is a very unique aspect that sets it apart. Of the shows here in the NJ/PA/DE/MD area, I can’t think of any (off the top of my head) that do something similar. Parking cars on the boardwalk puts them right front-and-center for everyone to see.

The second reason is the relaxed atmosphere amongst the participants. Unlike most VW/Audi shows that I’ve been to where the greater majority of participants have newer cars (say post-1995), a good amount of “old-school” cars, and their owners, younger and older, come to DOTB. This includes everything from Beetles, Dune Buggies, Ghias to Buses and much more. Of course, there’s no denying that a majority of the field is still made up of “newer” cars that reflect today’s modification trends.

I came out to this year’s show with my ’86 Scirocco 16V, thankfully repaired after destroying the front wheel bearings at an August track day. Along with the rest of the group, we had a clear mission in mind. In 2013, on top of the individual awards, we won an award for Best Club Participation, ahead of the Coolwater VW group. It was clear to us then, and prior to this year, that Coolwater wanted  that award back. As I walked up and down the Boardwalk, it was evident that they  had come out in force. Their cars were across multiple categories and in much greater numbers overall. It would come down to the very last participant in both groups to determine this winner.

Participants started showing up very early on show day. Because of local laws, there were hard time deadlines for when cars could be lined up and then brought onto the North Wildwood boardwalk. I’ll tell you this straight out – driving your car onto a boardwalk is something you have to do to appreciate – I can’t adequately describe it with just words. A majority of visitors were intrigued by the sight and had mostly positive comments (from what I could overhear). The heat and humidity, however, became very stifling as the day progressed. It felt like a sauna, prompting more than a few folks to find air conditioning and fluids, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Voting took place with paper and pen, and, unlike other shows, both participants and spectators could pick what they felt was the best car in each class. One could argue that this isn’t a fair way to pick a winner, but I could easily say the same thing for a “traditionally” judged car show. Again, this is another unique aspect of the show that isn’t used very often elsewhere. In between the consumption of liquids and food, myself, the group and everyone else picked their favorite cars.

Tension built up as the awards ceremony approached. After being cooked in the sun all day, I was looking forward to a nice shower and a cold drink, hopefully celebrating in the process. Marc went through all the classes and announced the winners, with some surprises and unexpected results. However, to be frank, the only trophy that mattered to the group was what we were all interested in getting to.

…drama builds…

By ONE person/car, we had won the Best Club Participation trophy for the second year in a row. Instant happiness.

It’s amazing that we were able to pull this off. It speaks to the enthusiasm that all of us share for our cars and the group as a whole. Overall, despite the heat and humidity, the accomplishments of the group and its members in winning multiple awards made the day and the weekend worth the time. It pains me to think that I’ll now have to wait another year for this show to come around again. This has rapidly become an event that I look forward to participating in, simply because it’s just so different than your typical car show.

Congratulations to the winners from Fahrenhart, listed below (including your author):

NamePlace and Class
Alexander Cabinian1st, Scirocco Modified
CJ Atkinson2nd, Mk4 Modified
Arnold Petras1st, Passat Modified
Michael Fetch1st, Mk5 Modified
Keith Moore2nd, Mk5 Modified
Griffin Ouimet3rd, Mk5 Modified
Tamas Lazin1st, Touareg/Tiguan
Arlynne Lopez2nd, Touareg/Tiguan
Christine Kennedy3rd, Cabio/Cabriolet Modified
Joelle Gavlick1st, Audi A4/S4 B6
FAHRENHART1st, Club Unity! (most participants from a club in the show)

The Track Day

For those of us with high performance cars, being able to use all of it safely is quite difficult on a public road. With other road users, traffic and those drivers who are less attentive, it frankly is a death wish if you put your foot down for long periods of time. However, one avenue that is available can alleviate this need for speed – track days.

The premise of a track day (or weekend) is very simple – take your own car onto road courses that many of today’s professional drivers have driven and go as fast as you possibly can. It is not racing in the traditional sense; in fact, it is STRONGLY discouraged and frowned upon. It is an exercise to push the limits of your car and, more importantly, your own driving skills, in a controlled environment.

One event that has been hosted, now, for the past four years has been Dub Deliverance. Organized by TrackDaze and sponsored by Volkswagen of America (VWoA), APR and New German Performance, it allows Volkswagen and Audi vehicles to participate in a track day event for DIRT CHEAP prices. Normally, most track days/weekends are between $200-400 JUST TO ENTER.

This does not include ancillaries like hotels, fuel, tires, brakes, and, unfortunately, the occasional broken part(s). Because VWoA heavily subsidizes the event to get the brand out to its target audience – enthusiasts, the price for the day is in the double digits. In 2014, the entry fee was $55. THAT’S IT. For that sort of money, who wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity?

In August 2013, I first heard of the event, and decided, without hesitation, to bring my Mk5 GTI. Heavily turbocharged and modified with all sorts of upgrades, it was made for the track. And, frankly, I wanted to wring its neck out. Unfortunately, the car did not make it through the event,  because a fuel injector became stuck open during the 3rd track session. The end result was that NGP Racing had to tow the car back to Maryland, I had to hitch a ride to get back home, and replace all the fuel injectors out-of-pocket. It was not a good day.

This year, I decided to bring my Scirocco to the 2014 event, held on August 16th. Like 2013, we would be driving at Summit Point Motorsports Park. Leading up to this, I had SERIOUS reservations about bringing the Scirocco. First, it was down OVER 200hp compared to my Mk5 GTI. While it was nimble in corners, it basically had no hope keeping up on straightaways. I thought my saving grace was that, a few days before the event, the road course changed from what would have been a fast and flowing one to one more technical.  This gave me hope that the Scirocco would be able to keep up with the faster cars. So, I decided to drive it down to West Virginia.

On arriving at the track Saturday morning, I was surprised at the amount of comments and questions I received about the car. I can say without hesitation that all of them were positive. I sort of expected this, given that a majority of the cars in the event were new (late 90s to this model year) and I was only one of a handful that drove an older car. But, I didn’t expect so much positive reaction to the car. Maybe it’s because it looks different, or is just “cool.” Whatever the reason, seeing this reaction validated my reason for driving it.

We were on the Shenandoah Circuit, 2.2 miles in length. It is one of the most technical road courses I’ve driven, with decent elevation changes, slow to fast corners and a perfect replica of the Karussell corner from the Nurburgring. Most importantly, the straightaways, I felt, were short enough that I would be able to keep up with everyone else for a good portion. WRONG.

During a track day, unless you’re an Advanced/Expert driver, passing is only permitted on specific areas and with a point by, to the left or right.  I spent a good bit of my track time pointing people by because I was, frankly, holding them up.  I guess light and nimble is not enough on a majority of North American road courses – you need power as well. With a car that probably has, at best, 130hp, I felt like I was a rolling chicane on the straightaways, even as “short” as they were. In the corners, I could keep up with most cars, but even I started to wonder, “did I make the right decision?”

Hell yes. For someone like me who appreciates and embraces not only high performance driving but also improving driving skill, the day was worth the frustration and slight embarrassment. It has spurred me on to improve some of my driving habits. For example, this was the first time I’d driven a car of my own that had a manual gearbox. My Mk5 GTI has a DSG/double-clutch automated gearbox, where manual shifting is done by paddles. Transitioning to a true manual with a clutch pedal was an adventure. Granted, I’d driven a manual car in real race conditions (24 Hours of LeMons) but still had bad habits. The one I really hate and want to work on is heel-toe downshifting. This was on display for sure here. My poor clutch must hate me for shifting from 4th to 3rd without rev-matching.

For those of you looking to improve your driving and go fast in a controlled environment, a track day/weekend is the best place to do it. Instructors are available to provide you with driving tips and pointers as well as give you the encouragement to push yourself and your car farther than you thought possible. But, the camaraderie and shared enthusiasm for high performance driving is what keeps drawing me back to these types of events. It’s cool when you can meet people who share your passion, share knowledge and stories and just have fun with like-minded individuals.

Here is a video of one of the sessions from the weekend: