When Speedhunters started back in 2008, my mission was to cover as much European car culture as possible. One of the first events I covered that year was the Essen Motor Show, held at the Messe Essen exhibition center in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. I’ve attended the show every year since (except 2020, of course) and while a lot has changed in almost a decade and a half, the passion around Essen has remained constant.

But what is the Essen Motor Show? I think the best way to describe it is that it’s a mix between a trade show and a car show. There is something for everyone, from youngtimers to the latest hypercars. You can even buy that special tool for your car or a scale model. I managed to bag two Liberty Walk Hot Wheels for my collection.

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But in the end it’s all about the cars. The TuningXperience hall is full of handpicked cars that showcase the latest trends. Most of these builds are privately owned, and built by the owners themselves. Then there are the halls dedicated to tuning brands, that showcase demo cars fitted with the newest parts. Over the course of this post and a second instalment, I’ll be sharing with you some of the standouts. Let’s get started…

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An Essen highlight every year – and something that seems to be getting bigger and bigger – is the JP Performance stand. ‘JP’ stands for Jean Pierre (Kraemer), JP Performance’s owner and Germany’s biggest automotive YouTuber. One of the cars I was really excited to see was this pink 911 nicknamed Flamingo, built from the ground up by AP Car Design in Göttingen. A key objective for the build was light weight, and with the 964 tipping the scales at just 983kg (2,167lb), I think they more than succeeded.

Some cars are made from unobtamium, so the next best thing is a replica. CN Racing from Germany built this Porsche 917 homage up from the original drawings, but have incorporated a whole lot of new tech to vastly improve it. It will be easier to drive than the original thanks to a 3.6-liter engine from a Porsche 993 Turbo, but is certain to still be a handful thanks to its power-to-weight ratio of 600ps-to-820kg (1,807lb).

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Essen had no shortage of BBBs (Big Body Benzes) this year, and you can always count on Levella adding to the mix. One of Levella’s cars was this 560 SEC fitted with their own Retroline wheels, the R2 model in this case.

Another Revella Mercedes-Benz receiving a lot of attention was this W124 E-Class, fitted with R4 Retroline wheels. Under the hood is a 6.0-liter V8 from an E60 AMG.

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Fitting big engines into small cars never gets old, and here’s the owner of this stunning VW Golf explaining to some enthusiasts how he put the Mk1 together. You may have noticed the big V6 lump in the engine bay; this one came from an Audi, along with the entire drivetrain including 6-speed DSG gearbox. The wheels started life as 15-inch BBS RAs, but have been converted to 3-piece with 17-inch barrels.

I kept coming back to this E36 BMW time and time again. Perfect paintwork and a perfectly-fitted set of BBS wheels really set it apart.

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This Ferrari Testarossa from Top Secret Tuning has had the full Liberty Walk treatment and sits on its skirts thanks to Prazis air suspension with Air Lift Performance 3P management.

Of all the VW Golfs, the Mk4 is my favorite, and this one is a beauty. Under the hood is a fully-built 3.2-liter R32 engine with ‘stage 3′ supercharging good for 400ps, and it sits on 2-piece BBS Le Mans wheels in an 18-inch fitment.

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Given the value of R34 Nissan Skyline GT-Rs these days, it’s always refreshing to come across a modified version that sees regular road use. I’m sure this one – sitting pretty on 19-inch Work Meister S1 3P wheels – is a lot of fun to drive too – 600ps (thanks in part to a Tomei 2.8L stroker kit) on 16psi boost pressure ensures that.

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This BMW E9 has been doing the rounds for several years, but the guys at Qualitatief are always changing it up to keep the car relevant. In the past  we’ve see the coupé completely blacked out, but I’m glad to see they’ve returned to a more traditional look with all the chrome parts.

When I first laid eyes on the new BMW M2, I was on fence with regard to its square design. But seeing the car in person changed my mind; it looks way better when it’s sitting right in front of you.

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It’s hard to beat a classic Euro look, and this Mk4 Golf proves it with a clean exterior, massive drop and a set of 19-inch BBS GT004 wheels. Some say it’s easy, but to get the perfect fitment takes dedication and plenty of trial and error.

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You don’t see many Opel Oscanas around these days, as most have rotted away. Of all the survivors, this Ascona B must surely be one of the best. The car has received a full nut and bolt restoration with a 2.0L engine on Weber carburetors at its heart, Koni shocks and Mantzel springs, and classic Schmidt wheels in 16-inch sizing.

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This Typ 89 Audi Coupe looks wild wearing a wide-body kit from Prior Design, of which only 40 have been released to the market. The Audi is powered by a 2.6L V6 engine and rides on KW V3 coilover suspension with a front lift system.

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I got a nice surprise when I saw this Midnight Purple III R34 Skyline GT-R on the Chrome Cars stand. It’s something extra special too, having been previously rebuilt at Nissan’s famed Omori Factory to full Clubman Race Spec.

What’s better than a Porsche 992 GT3? A Porsche 992 GT3 MR with all the latest Manthey Racing upgrades and 4-way adjustable KW coilovers. Absolutely gorgeous.

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This is definitely not your average Peugeot 206. It all starts with a full WRC-inspired wide-body kit and 18-inch Excalibur wheels, but when the hood is open it’s hard to look past the 3.0L V6 engine complete with Garrett GTX3582R turbo.

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This Audi RS4 belongs to German YouTuber Philipp Kaess, and features full carbon fiber bodywork amongst many other upgrades.

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A 1982 VW Golf GTI 16 S Oettinger provides the base for this ultra-clean build. It’s powered by a 1.8-litre Oettinger engine with plenty of extra enhancements, Gepfeffert KW V3 suspension and genuine BBS E19 magnesium wheels.

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We’ll finish up this post with another Golf and another build from the JP Performance stable. JP’s Mk7 ‘Super Golf’ has gone from silver with orange accents to this white and rainbow version, but under the skin is still absolutely nuts.

Stay tuned for more from the 2022 Essen Motor Show!

Jeroen Willemsen
Instagram: jaccojeroen