**if you only want the short version, here it is "Awesome". Keep reading for the whole, long story.**
The Road Devils of Europe have been putting on the WAR show for 6 years all together and decided that this would be the final one of it's kind in favor of doing a rolling show, much like the Power Tour that happens over here in the states beginning next year. Because this was the Final WAR, I thought it was time to meet my brothers from across the Atlantic and see what the show and the chapter is all about!
With a few quick posts on our Road Devils forum and a couple of exchanged email addresses, my plans seemed a bit shaky to an average traveler, but I felt that if these guys where anything like my boys back home, I'd be well taken care of, and I was.
Originally I was supposed to be picked up from the airport by brother Jimmy and stay at his place, but as all things that happen last minute when you are hosting a big show, things changed. Luckily as it where, Deniz and his buddy whom he shares garage space with picked me up in his 1953 Lincoln.
Quickly I was given the run down on how difficult it is to own an american custom/hot rod overseas. The Swiss government has high environmental standards and simply does not want modified, gas guzzling vehicles on the road. Most of the Road Devils cars in Europe are completely outlawed because they are modified and will not pass the strict laws to make them legal. Every time these guys take their cars out on the road, they run the risk of having them impounded or even destroyed by the government. Most of Europe shares similar laws and punishments so the trek across the boarder to Germany only a few miles down the road was also a risky one.
Needless to say that being a Road Devil in Europe is not a passive membership. Getting parts from America is a difficult and expensive hobby. Basically most folks are looking at doubling the cost of their purchase on nearly anything shipped from the states from anything like a fuel pump to a set of gaskets or a steering box. The shipping is atrocious. Every time an american shows up at the fuel station we cringe at the cost of fuel and often regret owning a V8 in our vehicles. Our European brothers are paying around € 1.38 per liter. There are nearly 4 liters per gallon so quick math shows them paying nearly $8 per gallon and probably averaging the same M.P.G. that we get in our old cars. Ugh! But when you want something bad enough, I suppose that cost is not an option.
Back on track now, Deniz took me over to the garage space they share tucked down a tight alley in Basel, Switzerland. Many of these guys share shop space and tuck away their hot rods and customs out of sight so there aren't any problems with the law. The shop was awesome; a huge glass roof made for a great amount of natural light to work in and made me envious of their space. Several projects from a Model A roadster to early Chevy trucks, hand painted toilet seats and motorcycles all where strewn about the place. From here we picked up a '70's conversion van and headed to the show sight to begin the long task of setting up for WAR.
Quickly we were on the road again and off to Germany. I am still quite shocked at the lack of border patrol there was between Switzerland and Germany (and France for that matter). This made for a safe passage for the illegal '53 Lincoln. Just a quick jaunt past a few round-abouts and we were at the show site which is the Carhartt/Edwin company/warehouse.
Final WAR, like previous date events is sponsored in part by the Carhartt clothing company and Edwin denim. When we think of the label Carhartt we think quality workwear of heavy coveralls and thick winter coats. In Europe, Carhartt is more of a fashion, though they still sell the quality workwear that we are accustom to. The two labels are popular with counter culture, skateboarders, etc. There was a time that Dickies was so in the states, but perhaps a lot less now than before. Kevin, an event rep. from Carhartt made sure all angles were covered and they provided the location and staffed the bar, audio gear for the stages and gave us room for vendors to set up. Sometimes it really helps out to put on a quality show by having some corporate sponsorship!
Thursday evening we spent setting up all the tables outside and inside. The Road Devils had their own bar located closer to the gate. When the work was done, we ate and drank. Some early folks came into the show and joined in the festivities. This is where I met most of my extended family of Road Devils. Most folks spoke some english so that helped me out immensely. Drinking went well on into the night.
Friday we woke and enjoyed a breakfast at Jimmy's flat. Thank god, because I hadn't slept much on my flight over so it was welcome to get some honest sleep! Friday was pretty mellow durning the day as most folks weren't joining until after the work day was over. I got my table set up later in the day bringing some Car-N-Art products to foreign lands for the first time.
I got a chance to meet 'Lil' Daddy Roth aka Dennis Roth and his girlfriend. It was nice to speak English with americans at times. And speaking of the English, Stuart (aka Sunshine) from the UK, the sole Road Devil from England had me smiling the whole time. His accent reminded me of Brad Pitt in Snatch. Sunshine and his wife Natalia who's originally from Russia and myself spent some time at the Edwin outlet store and even crossed over into France for a beer.
Friday started off hot in the higher 80's and then a storm ripped in and rained hard for a bit and dropped the temperature but nearly 20º F. Tarps quickly appeared out of nowhere and roadsters and other open cars were blanketed to protect from the storms. Again, all came into the bar for more drinks. A little rain wasn't going to stop this party from happening! Friday evening was the Road Devils Europe annual meeting. I stood down from it partially because it wasn't my business to be in but also because it was entirely in German and outside of a word here and there, I had no clue what they were talking about. My buzz at this point was strong enough to not even recall what time we got back to the flat and called it a night.
Saturday the main show began much cooler than the day before. It was still raining a bit in the morning, but nothing was going to keep true, hardcore custom culture fans away or the hot rodders from coming out to the show. I spent the better portion of the morning minding my booth space but I would randomly take a break for food and to talk with the Devils.
At a certain point it dawned on me how odd this experience was. Despite the fact that all the cars for the most part are american automobiles, the music blaring in the bar space is good ol' american rockabilly, the t-shirts that folks are wearing are printed in english and many of them are sporting american logos or american designs, but I was not in the USA, I was in Germany. Most folks who came up to my booth immediately wouldn't speak english to me, and for that matter had no clue I was american until I opened my mouth. I suppose my design work just blended right in. Despite the fact that my design work sports the name Detroit, where I studied and lived while in college, many folks had Detroit shirts on that were never even made in the USA or designed there. So I suppose the originality of what I brought to WAR perhaps flew under the radar or just blended in.
It wasn't until I bumped into American pin-up model Leia Lockheart that I started to feel less alone. 4 years ago or so I got a call from my friend Bob who was looking for a car to photograph Leia with and I was able to help out. Leia was traveling Europe doing some shows and photography sessions with folks and came to the show. I was nice to catch up and not have to find the right words to speak.
I only got a short chance at taking some photos during the day. I managed to capture a few images of the cars at the show. Later in the evening I busted my camera out to shoot the fashion show/burlesque ladies. After the stage show, it was time to just chat with all the good folks who were there and enjoy a few more drinks before calling it a night.
The good news is there were no altercations at WAR this year. Apparently there were a few issues the pervious year with different car clubs, so everyone was happy for a final, peaceful gathering.
Sunday we returned to the show site to witness the aftermath of the show. The bar was trashed, the bathrooms (toilets, they are called over seas) were overflowing. There was a lone Road Devils supporter past out on the picnic tables outside, baking in the early morning sun amongst the empty beer bottles strewn about. We took some time to break down the tables and clean up the Road Devils bar and carry the remaining kegs back to the show site before I got a lift to the airport. It was sad to leave my new found family. Goodbyes were exchanged from everyone who was scattering back to their points of origin.
I wanted to take a moment to thank all the Road Devils Europe for a great time and even better hospitality!
Christian: Thanks for the great time and chats along the way. You and your girlfriend were fun flatmates to hang out with! Sorry I missed the chance to see your Opel at the show but I did enjoy reading the article on the flight to London about it in Smokin' Shutdown!
Alexej: Thanks for showing me a great time at WAR. I wish I knew some more German or even Russian so I had more to speak about. I was told you can fix nearly anything on an engine, so you are a huge asset to have in the Europe chapter. I'm looking forward to seeing you again!
Deniz: Thanks again for picking me up from the Airport and showing me a good time! Next time I'll let me hair grow out to get a proper styling from you while I'm there! I enjoyed the ride in the 53 lincoln and thanks for letting me feel like family!
Jimmy: Thank you so much for putting me up at your flat the whole weekend and driving us around/back to the airport! Your hospitality is unmatched and you'll always have a place to stay when you are in the Detroit area!
Marcel: Thanks so much for the Swiss gifts and for making me feel welcome! Now you got to see Hotrod the movie. I still think you look a bit like Andy Sanberg! Someday I may take you up on that offer of skiing, I just have to learn to ski...
Matze: It was great meeting you and your wife! You guys are awesome! I love your 1939 Chevy Bomb too. You guys made me feel very welcome and part of the Road Devils Europe family!
Olli: It was great talking to you in the vendor area. Thanks for the hook up on the Smokin' Shutdown magazine. I enjoyed reading them on my remaining flights back home. Your "Tupperware" '32 has seen a lot of history and I hear it may be the most driven hotrod in all of Europe! You rock man!
Silvano: Thanks for entertaining me with everything. You and your girl are good people to call family. The Thunderbird is awesome! Looking forward to having you guys State side something down the road.
Simon: Your Model A modified would fit right in here in the states. It's a bad ass hotrod for sure. I hope you didn't run into any issues getting it home from the show. Thanks for the gifts as well! You are a good man.
'Sunshine' Stuart: It was great speaking 'English' with you and your wife! Thanks for entertaining me on Friday and the trip into France and helping me out at the Edwin store! I look forward to hearing from you guys again soon! Also, thanks for the advice on the Underground in London. It mostly worked out for me there, but got in trouble with fucking up on the differences of zones. All's well that ends well!
Thom: You made me wish that I learned German when I had the chance in school rather than Spanish. Your magazine is really top notch and I enjoyed reading the couple issues I got at the show on my remaining flights. Let me know if I can ever help out down the road on the 'zine. You remind me of the true punk rock spirit that is still alive in the club. It was great meeting you and Koshi at the show and look forward to seeing you guys again. I swear I'll try and learn more German next time around. You guys are aces!
Tino: It was awesome talking Cadillacs with you! I have a soft place in my heart for American Luxury cars and their bad ass engines! Thanks for the chocolate milk as well. It was awesome! As always, you guys are welcome to come state side and visit here in Detroit!