Watch: Inside America's most hated annual car show
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It's been labelled 'America's most ticketed car show', but you get the feeling that that dim view is something attendees and organisers of 'H20i' wear as a badge of honour more than anything else.
Occuring almost each year (save for a recent one-year rest), H20i operates in the last week of September in Ocean City, Maryland. For seven days, the relatively out of the way, picturesque seaside town becomes flooded with some of America's most extreme tuner-culture creations; from flame-spitting Hondas to heavily cambered static Subarus, with a rich bounty of US V8s, pick-ups, and bagged wonders in between.
From within, it's seen as a long tuner Nirvana party, where the city is effectively put on lockdown and turned into a live 24-hour smoke show of which everyone's invited. Residents and local police, on the other hand, see it as a nuisance. Each show is punctuated by an enormous amount of vehicle seizures — not necessarily for speeding, but more so for safety defects and increasingly brazen burnouts.
Both sides of the coin will agree that, at its core, H20i is a game of cat and mouse between car owners and cops.
On one hand, it's easy to say that today's H20i patrons are just today's equivalent of American Graffiti. Mechanical greasemonkeys having fun with cars they've created — only in this case the car is more likely to be a '94 Nissan Silvia than a '32 Ford Coupe. But on the other hand, there's one enormous difference between the debauchery of yesteryear and events like H20i; social media.
Plenty of media is drummed up at H20i, from incredible live updates splashed across Instagram to jaw-dropping full-length movies. Car culture YouTube channel Krispy Media is one of the go-tos for the best long-form films in the US. And its cinematic recreation of last year's H20i event, recently uploaded in full 4k movie-length glory, is a fabulously shot insight into the madness and the cars. You can watch it in full above.
It's an event with its critics, but one of my favourite elements of the car culture H20i embodies is how it rescues so many 'run it into the ground before it dies' platforms by giving them a second lease on life. It's true for a lot of the Honda Civics and BMW 3 Series' scattered throughout the video. There's even a slammed Chevrolet Cruze (a Holden Cruze to you and I) that makes an appearance. But the most common of these platforms in the clip is the humble Volkswagen Jetta. Two of them (of two generations) get extended features in the attached film, with many, many more making cameos across the rest of the video.
Whether you like them or not, events like H20i are growing in stature. And against a narrative that suggests young people are losing interest in cars, they're existing as an interesting counterpoint.
“You can't come down here and do this, and not expect it to happen,” says one attendee, standing next to his apparent slammed-to-the-floot Jeep Patriot. “I came down here ready for this. This is year seven ... I know. It don't stop us. Hasn't stopped us. The event just gets bigger every year.”