It's something of an understatement to say that that the last 12 months or so have been a little hard on the car scene in particular, and everyone else in general. And that's why, as soon as we possibly could, we'd thought we'd open our doors right at the start of summer, and lay on a bit of a meet where everyone's invited. As it turned out, too, that's exactly who turned up on this bank holiday weekend - just about everyone!
You see, we had planned on a small-ish, short-notice gathering with a few of our project cars at the Detailing Academy, putting a quick post on Instagram to say we'd be open. But, that's the thing about social media, isn't it? Word quickly spread and our "small' gathering soon filled our not insubstantial carpark, and then the carpark from the unit next door… and then the other 13 next to that. And all before we "opened' at 10am! Anyone would think that we'd all been locked up for ages or something, eh?
But, the sun was shining, the burger vans were laying on the gourmet subsistence, and the music was pumping from our huge sound system. This meant that the vibe was just right for making a full day of it. And why not? It goes without saying that our flagship store was packed to the gills with our entire range, but there were also a few sneak previews and the chance to buy four or five brand-new products that aren't even out yet!
First up, the AF project cars which were, as you can imagine, out in force. What with the sweltering weather offering the perfect, almost Californian, climate, our Chevy pickup took pride of place right where it belongs - in front of our bagged Airstream trailer. Yes, that's right, we had one store on the outside and another on the inside for our open house… and both were absolutely rammed all day long.
Other projects on display included our Transit Connect M Sport - the ultimate mobile detailing van, along with our freshly wrapped Yaris GR and both of our Twingo Challenge Cars, which had just come back from conquering Snetterton Race Circuit.
If that wasn't enough, we also had an appearance from the AF-sponsored CDK Drifting BMW, fresh from taking on the apexes in the very first round of the British Drift Championship.
Inside there were yet more projects which make up most of the other half of what is, without a doubt, the coolest fleet in the business.
Just because our classic Porsche-powered Caddy now lives in the store, stacked to the brim with essential accessories, doesn't mean that it's not as heavily buffed as ever. A lot of love continues (and will always continue) to go in to keeping our most famous project a picture of VW perfection.
From one of our oldest, to one of the latest - our R32 GTR which was laid bare for all to see under the hood in one of our detailing bays. And, let's not forget its partner in crime - our old skool E28 BMW M535i. Both these cars prove that it takes a lot of work to create the simplest, classic look. As always these retro motors drew the crowds of true classic car and detailing connoisseurs, only interrupted by a spot of shopping and the live product demos with our head detailer in the bay next door.
As for the most important cars, and by that we mean all of yours, one thing that was immediately apparent was the sheer variety of attendees. What rolled through the gates was an exceptional mix of showcars, streeters and track weapons covering every single facet of the car culture community. From the perfectly polished German metal that has become synonymous with or brand over the years, to a whole load of other examples from across the globe, including the freshest cars from Japan, Europe and the USA. We mean, where else could you see a Lancia Delta Integrale, a Mk1 MX-5, Sierra RS500, Suzuki Swift Sport, BMW 2002, 7.2-litre Dodge Super B, Mk1 Transit Pickup, a carbon-clad Evo 8 MR and a whole load of Mk4 Golf Turbos all parked in the same place?
Of course, with well over two hundred awesome modified cars rocking up for our impromptu open day, we couldn't possibly tell you everything about them all - but here's just a few notable mentions showing the variety from across the length and breadth of the UK car scene…
Being (relatively speaking) just around the corner, we saw our fair share of Dagenham's finest on the day, with more than a couple of Cosworths parking up to show that true rally car royalty only gets more desirable as time goes on.
Unless you happen to be Shane here though, it's not every day you get to see an old skool Sierra estate packing true blue Cossie power. This lovingly restored (and rather hairy chested) wagon has no less than 430bhp from the legendary YB lump, which is more than enough to put a ridiculous grin on anyone's face - it certainly did ours!
Speaking of big power cars from the Blue Oval camp, how about Jake's caged Mk7 Fiesta here? On the outside there may be quite element of stealth (if you ignore those chunky race tyres of course) but, make no mistake, this one is a true M3 eater. With a 2-litre forged and turbocharged Zetec sending 490bhp to the wheels, and not much inside but a pair of bucket seats and a digital dash, it's pretty obvious that this can leave many a high performance car red faced on the track, not to mention on the street
From the maddest track stars to the coolest BMW cruisers, two of our favourite examples were Taylor's 635 CSi and Richard's ridiculously clean 2002. Subtle mods are the order of the day with this retro pair, but its worth remembering that these subtle changes - like BBS wheels and retrimmed Recaros, for example - add up to a whole load of impact.
It just wouldn't be a true AF meet without a selection of the UK's finest VAGs, it almost goes without saying. With top examples from every marque - including Academy regulars Yerv's Mk4 Golf and Brittany's bagged TT - it's not exactly easy to pick just one to showcase here. That said, there's no denying that Darryls 20v-powered Mk2 Golf was one of the stars of the day! Sitting pretty on Schmidt TH Lines, this was its first outing after an extensive 6-year build. Suffice to say that we were proud to have this one front and centre.
As you can probably tell from our R32 GT-R and Yaris GR projects, were rather big on Japanese weaponry these days. The cool thing is though, this love for all things orimental, seemed to transcend straight to the carpark, which was positively brimming with amazing rides from all aspects of the Japanese car scene. From drift cars, to street racers, to cool retro weapons, we had them all. In fact we saw both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, but we particularly loved Ben's jaw-dropping R33 GT-R, Scotts Carbon'd up Evo (just check out that delicious numberplate), and Jacob's mental little EP3 Type-R trackday hero. The force is properly strong with this lot!
So, if there's a finer way you could spend your bank holiday weekend, we'd certainly like to see it. But, if you missed out on all the action, don't worry, we'll see you at the next Open House. Keep an eye out on our social media channels for updates, and make sure you're ready!