Story and photos by John LeBlanc
REIFNITZ, Austria — Inaugurated by a few Volkswagen GTI fans 33 years ago getting together over Germany’s traditionally long Father’s Day weekend at the end of May, GTI Treffen am Wörthersee has turned into one of the largest show ‘n shine car shows in the world.
GTI Treffen am Wörthersee — or roughly “GTI Get Together at Lake Wörthersee” in English —was first held here on the shores of this Austrian Alpine lake in 1982. And since 2006, Germany’s Volkswagen Group has participated by debuting new production and concept Volkswagen GTIs, other VW models, as well as new cars and concepts from its Audi, Skoda and Seat brands. Check out our gallery from this year’s event:
Like recent “virtual” concepts we’ve seen from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, the Volkswagen GTI Roadster, Vision Gran Turismo has been created for the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo 6 videogame. And for this year’s Wörthersee event, VW rolled out a full-scale model amidst blaring music and smoke bombs.
The wild-looking Volkswagen GTI Roadster, Vision Gran Turismo is “virtually” powered by a 503 horsepower twin-turbocharged, VR6 engine. VW claims a 0 to 96 kilometres per hour time of around 3.5 seconds. Of course, you’ll have to fire up your PlayStation to confirm that when the GTI Roadster, Vision Gran Turismo becomes available in the middle of next month as a download for Gran Turismo 6.
A few years ago at Wörthersee, VW indulged the cult of GTI with its mid-engine, twin-turbocharged, twelve-cylinder GTI W12 650 Concept — as in 650 horsepower. VW continues to stretch the concept of a hot hatchback with this year’s Golf R 400 Concept.
More viable as a future production model than the Volkswagen GTI Roadster, Vision Gran Turismo, the Volkswagen Golf R 400 Concept uses the same four-cylinder gas engine as in today’s GTI, but cranked up to offer 395 horsepower. Needless to say, a few GTI Wörthersee cultists had deposits in hand, but no one at VW was saying if this very hot hatch would ever get built.
Back in the present world, a dozen apprentices from VW’s Wolfsburg, Germany offices created the Volkswagen Golf GTI Wolfsburg Edition for this year’s Wörthersee event. VW says the four women and eight men aged between 18 and 23, developed the two-door GTI — highlighted by its Absolute red exterior with decor strips in Negro Magico black — in line with “their own ideas”, which they put into practice largely by handcrafting.
Here’s another reason why we think the Volkswagen Amarok pickup truck should be sold in Canada. Called the Amarok Power Concept, the two-door version of the normally four-door truck was designed to be a mobile party sound system with the DJ as the driver, packing a 5,000-watt, removable sound system in its bed.
Beyond its ability to blast the tunes, the Volkswagen Amarok Power can also blast down the Autobahn. VW says the concept truck is powered by a turbocharged, 3.0-litre diesel engine, making 268 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, channeled via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The result is a party truck that can allegedly go from rest to 100 kilometres per hour in under eight seconds.
One of the three other Volkswagen Group brands that partook in this year’s GTI Treffen am Wörthersee was Audi. And if not as radical looking as the Volkswagen GTI Roadster, Vision Gran Turismo, at least the new Audi A3 Clubsport Quattro Concept super sedan looks like it might actually go on-sale in the real world.
Built off the new Audi A3 compact sedan, the Clubsport Quattro Concept packs a 525 horsepower, 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder gas engine — as per the Audi TT Quattro Sport Concept first seen at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Audi says expect the new A3 super sedan to accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 3.6 seconds and top out at 310 km/h.
The Volkswagen Group’s Seat brand has never been sold in Canada. But the idea of a sexy-looking small car riding on stolid VW mechanicals is still very appealing. And the new Seat Ibiza Cupster Concept — built just for this year’s Wörthersee event — is yet another forbidden fruit from the VW Group’s Spanish brand.
Since 1984, the Ibiza has been Seat’s subcompact offering, the current generation has been on-sale since 2008, sharing a platform with the VW Polo and Audi A1. The Ibiza Cupster Concept is a roofless, open-air one-off, riffing off the traditional “speedster” styling theme with a wrap-around windshield and fairings flowing back from the two-seater’s headrests.
The Volkswagen Group’s Skoda brand from the Czech Republic had a big presence at this year’s event with a pair of new concepts. The first was the Skoda Yeti Extreme, an off-road version of the brand’s compact crossover, with wider wheel arches, fatter off-road rubber and lime green highlights that feature prominently on the concept’s roof, alloy wheels and tow hooks.
Skoda’s second world debut at Wörthersee was the CitiJet Concept. 16 apprentices from the Skoda Auto Vocational School of Mechanical Engineering took six months to create the show car using the Skoda Citgo city car (Skoda’s version of the Volkswagen Up!) as a base. Like the Seat Cupster Concept, the CitiJet Concept is strictly and open-top car.
Beyond the amateur tuners that show up very year at the annual Wörthersee party, there are also plenty of professional aftermarket shops that display there. A good example is Germany’s ABT Sportline, which specializes in the aftermarket tuning of Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen products. Pictured here is the ABT Golf VII Dark, a 300 horsepower version of the latest VW hatch that can go from 0 -100 kilometres per hour in 5.8 seconds and reach a top seed of 258 kms/hr.
GTI Treffen am Wörthersee can be a real eye-opener for anyone not aware of the massive cultural impact the Volkswagen GTI has had since it first arrived on Germany’s Autobahn in 1976. With vendors hawking everything from aftermarket GTI go-faster parts, wheels, taillights, body kits, t-shirts, jackets, hats and thong underwear to your very own GTI tattoo, the cult of GTI is definitely on full display.
While there are plenty of pristine, high-powered VW tuner cars scattered throughout the town of Reifnitz during the Wörthersee event, there’s also a sub-niche of Volkswagen rat rodders. Instead of shiny paint and go-faster parts, these VW fans (like this Golf Mk III) make their cars look “older”, with applied “rust” and tacked-on found objects.
With more than 150,000 visitors expected to visit the tourist region surrounding Lake Wörthersee, the annual GTI festival has become a huge revenue generator. And as part of its ongoing support of the event, in 1987 the Volkswagen Group presented the town of Reifnitz with a 1 to 1 scale sculpture of a Golf GTI. Carved from a 25-ton stone imported from Sweden, the Golf GTI sculpture has become landmark of the town.
One of the best aspects of GTI Treffen am Wörthersee is the mingling of cars and people. While the town is shutdown to public traffic, event-goers can purchase a ticket and “cruise” the town streets amicably alongside pedestrians. Mini drag races erupt, and drivers are keen to stop if you happen to have your camera out.
While the Wörthersee event’s focus is on Volkswagen’s GTI sports compact, the event has grown to include all things VW, including the vehicle that is arguably even more iconic than the GTI: the Volkswagen Beetle. Pictured above are two good examples of the current Beetle, on the left, and an original Type 1 Bug, on the right.
Since 1982, the GTI Treffen am Wörthersee event has evolved from a strictly casual gathering of GTI fans to a larger party of Volkswagen brand enthusiasts to what has become a two-week festival of sports compacts fanatics from around the world. But you don’t have to walk too far before you stumble across a few of the cars that started this event: the iconic VW Golf GTI Mk I.