20 Years Later At Edition38…

It’s 6:30am on Sunday morning. I hadn’t planned on waking up this early, but someone in the tent next to me was knocked out so cold from the previous night’s revelry that not even a solid 15 minutes’ worth of iPhone alarm could raise them to turn it off. I couldn’t go on listening to it for any longer; I had to roll out of my tent.

Edition38 is a UK event famous for inviting you to party in a field in Moulton, Northampton with your friends from Friday afternoon, before displaying your high-quality VAG project on Sunday morning. Not only is it a test of one’s ability to build an interesting car, but also the ability to stomach unearthly amounts of devil’s potion for one or two nights leading up to the actual show.

I rose from my short night’s sleep to find other unfortunate victims of the obnoxious alarm ringing also up and about.

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I sat up in a damp camping chair overlooking the obliteration that had been our campfire for the previous two nights. My stupid friends decided it would be hilarious to throw everything and anything into the pit over the weekend, no matter what disgraceful material it was made from. Wood, metal, plastic, glass – it was all in there.

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That, mixed with a weekend’s worth of cars continually driving through the dry and dusty field meant the air quality around the venue felt comparable to something between Chernobyl and Jupiter. Edition38, yet again, successful shaved a few months from my life expectancy.

I didn’t stay sitting for long; the iPhone alarm was still ringing and I’d had enough. I stood up and felt my car keys in my pocket; this was great because it meant I didn’t lose them in the rave tent the night before. Even better, it meant I could now start my car and flatten the tent where the alarm was coming from.

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Sadly though, my plans of sweet vengeance were put to rest as I realised my car was blocked in by Nathan Chapple attempting to wash the dust off his car. He too was woken up by the alarm, and decided to spend his early morning doing something useful: readying his car for the show.

Inspired by Nathan’s ability to actually do something productive at this hour, I decided to grab my camera and go for a stroll around the campsite.

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Despite being a VAG event, the campsite is open to everyone. Some would argue this area is more exciting than the show itself, as during Friday and Saturday the field gets turned into a gymkhana circuit of donuts and burnouts. That is of course until one of the security guards rocks up in their little John Deere buggy and politely tells everyone to stop behaving like Neanderthals.

The relationship between the campers and security is always interesting, but this year they were pretty funny to interact with and there was a level of mutual respect.

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Some individuals had sophisticated camping gear, while others were not so fortunate.

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It was surprisingly fun walking around the field in the morning, taking in the last bits of the sunrise and appreciating the volume of people in attendance. Also, not to use a buzzword here, but ‘variety’ was at its peak in the makeshift campground. Also, believe it or not, that Ford Escort RS Turbo is actually white.

With my morning side quest complete, I wandered over to the actual show area. At this point it was around 8:30am and plenty of show-goers were rocking up. I envied how fresh and happy they all looked, having spent the weekend in the comfort of their own beds whilst I’d had the pleasure of a tent in no man’s land.

I freshened up with a tea and breakfast bun and waited for the field to fill up with VAG motors.

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Edition38 is pivotal to the UK’s (and Europe’s) VW scene. Originally, Edition38 was an internet forum where Volkswagen fans far and wide gathered to talk about all things VW. The name Edition38 spawned from VW’s naming convention of calling special runs of models Editions, and the year when the Volkswagen factory was founded, 1938.

The nature of forums is that they host conversations, and Edition38’s forums were no different, filled with information, knowledge, photos, people’s thoughts and emotions. Basically, a whole host of things worth archiving and passing on to future generations of VW enthusiasts. The forum grew quickly and had the reputation of being a goldmine of Volkswagen info.

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The importance of internet forums like Edition38’s cannot be underestimated. During the mid-2000s and early-2010s, forums were the only place to have sophisticated online discussions around specific topics. At this point in time, Facebook was still just for poking your friends.

My forum of choice was StanceWorks, where I had an account to comment on people’s conversations before I even had a drivers licence. Of course, no one knew they were interacting with a 15-year-old, but that was just the nature of things. Everyone was engaged though, with certain topics racking up thousands of comments, and certain posters updating their build threads on a daily basis for an eager audience, which I was part of.

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The build thread on my first BMW racked up over 90,000 views and 25 pages’ worth of comments from strangers. That was a big deal to 19-year-old me, and really put into perspective the power of story and words. I personally made over 1,000 posts and met some good friends through it, such as Lewis who I spoke to over the forum before we ever met.

That’s Lewis looking into the red Lupo GTI in the photo above.

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Our very own Ryan Stewart used the Edition38 forums as his main online stomping ground back in the day. He puts my pathetic statistics to shame, with over 25,000 posts about VWs on there. His Mk4 Golf build had 300,000 views and 100 pages of comments.

Remember, this is pre-internet-in-your-pocket days; this is a time where in order to consume any online car content you would need to actually sit down at a PC and use a mouse and keyboard. Communication was a bit more demanding than an app pushing your 15-second video into a steroid-fuelled algorithm.

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In parallel to running the busiest car modifying forum in Europe, the team at Edition38 ran annual, self-titled car shows. Edition38 wasn’t just a digital space for conversation about VWs, it was a real-world VW gathering too.

The first show took place in 2000. The first time Speedhunters attended Edition38 was in 2008 (unfortunately the post was lost during a site upgrade). I attended my first Edition38 in 2016.

Speak to any true modified car enthusiast in the UK from the last 20 years and they will tell you stories about their time at the Edition38 weekender. And no matter where they fall on the timeline, their stories are likely to be the same, because the main recipe of the event has gone unchanged since the very beginning.

The event was such a big deal that people would often build cars specifically to take along to this event. For many, Edition38 was the deadline to meet. You knew you could build your car and then have the opportunity to take it up on stage in front of the audience on Sunday and tell them all about it.

Due to obvious reasons, in 2020 and 2021 the show wasn’t able to go ahead, which made this year’s event the 20th. So, two decades later, where are we at?

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The VAG themes that have been around since the start are still at large. European wheels, immaculate engine bays and paint takes centre stage in the show field. The builds that kept this in mind enjoyed the most interest throughout the day.

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Rare colours, specs and limited editions were present as ever. I particularly like the supercharged G60 Corrado and this Edition One G60 Mk2 import. I tried finding the owner of the Golf to shed some light on what makes the Edition One G60s special, but I had no luck. Perhaps someone can help me out in the comments?

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It’s not just all classic VWs though; modern stuff also gets attention at Edition38. My favourite of the bunch had to be this laid-out Jetta. Fitment and well specced wheels will never get old.

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Despite this show being over 20 years old now, and the organisers gracefully ageing with their brand, there were a lot of young people in attendance. Interest in cars has no age bracket, and for some of my friends that I was camping with, this year was their first Edition38.

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There were many VWs at Edition38 this year pushing proper power units. 4WD MK1 Golfs, VR6 and R32 lumps everywhere, with even humble vans getting involved. I’m 100% certain a lot of the knowledge transfer that allowed these creations to come to light came from internet forums like Edition38.

Or did it?

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In 2019, the Edition38 forum disappeared. Without warning, the website was shut down and every post, conversation and bit of knowledge vanished. While naturally the pace of the forums had slowed down to a standstill (this is the same with most forums now), the quality of discussion has failed to replicate in Facebook or Instagram comment sections.

When you lose conversation you lose community.

It was hard to avoid the fact that despite a super-fun weekend of camping, the Sunday show didn’t seem as busy as it has been in the previous years I’ve attended Edition38. Whether this can be linked to the shutting of the forum or the event’s two-year hiatus is all guess work.

Fortunately, community has always been at the forefront of Edition38, so I’m sure the team is not losing track of that. The challenge they face now is figuring out how to continue growing the show it in a post-forum era. Thanks to TikTok, most younger kids seem to only really care about Japanese import cars and things that go sideways. We need to remember that these are the future show-goers, ticket-buyers and voices of the community.

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While VWs aren’t famous for going sideways, to me they are famous for the class and nostalgia that comes with models like the MK1 and MK2 Golf. The GTI badge specifically is in a class of its own, and it’s up to events like Edition38 to work out how to play that to their strengths and continue growing the show and the VW community in the UK for the next 20 years. And the 20 years after that…

Michał Fidowicz
Instagram: candyshowroom

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