JK Show Report: European Bug-In 2024

JK Show Report: European Bug-In 2024

JK's Marketing & PR Director
Published 2 July 2024
Josh Reynolds

This weekend a few of the JK Team headed over to Chimay, Belgium for European Bug-In 2024, and parked their classic VWs up on the EMPI stand right next to the racetrack!

It was an amazing weekend, full of drag racing, amazing air-cooled Volkswagens, great friends, and extreme weather.

Here’s Josh to give us an update on how a handful of the Just Kampers team got on at EBI #10!

The JK Team heads to European Bug-In

We set off pretty early on Thursday morning, with eight of us driving out of JK HQ in Odiham, Hampshire to catch the Channel Tunnel crossing to France.

Mark Reynolds, who set up Just Kampers back in 1989, was leading the pack in the modified 1971 T2 Bay we’d finished just in time for its first big trip from Just Kampers to Belgium.

You can click here to see more information about the JK and EMPI T2 Bay.

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Shaun, Chet, and Heidi from our Sales Team were just behind him in our VW T6.1 Kombi, which we planned to use to shuttle all of us around once we got to Chimay since most of our classic VWs would be parked up on the EMPI stand.

Lewis and Nick, who work with us in Marketing, set off in Lewis’ 1970 Beetle just behind me – until they had to move towards the front of the pack due to the Beetle developing a mysterious fuelling issue, but more on that later!

I drove there and back again in ‘Jack the Giant Slayer, the 1956 Oval Beetle that took part in the Mille Miglia back in 2017.

I was the navigator during the race seven years ago, despite having no real navigational experience, but managed to help get us from 429th place to 224th by the time we crossed the finish line!

Since then, I’ve been driving ‘Jack’ as much as I can, including the 700+ miles to Chimay and back, with a slight detour to pick up Steve, who acting as navigator this time, and did a great job since none of us got lost or missed a turning.

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Lewis’ Beetle Goes a Bit Wrong…

Everything was going pretty smoothly on the drive over to EBI until Lewis’ Beetle developed a mysterious fault which we tracked down to the fuelling system. We’re not 100% sure what it is yet, because we didn’t have the time or tools to do a proper investigation, but whatever the issue is, it meant that Beetle couldn’t get up to full speed and was becoming increasingly sluggish as we drove through Northern France on the other side of the Channel.

Eventually, the poor thing got so bad that we had to pull over and after another look at the Beetle, we ended up having to offer Lewis the choice between heading back to the UK (slowly) and calling for a recovery service when he arrived at the other side, or leaving the Beetle where we’d stopped, jumping in the Kombi, and pushing on to European Bug-In with the rest of us.

Lewis picked the latter, and we loaded up the Bay and the Kombi and pressed on to Chimay!

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

We’ll take a proper look at the Beetle tomorrow when he brings the Beetle back to JK HQ – Lewis was wise enough to book today off, while the rest of us didn’t, and are looking exhausted and sun-baked…

In the end, we got to Chimay in pretty decent time once we’d left the ailing Beetle behind. Sadly, we arrived in Chimay too late to get Jack and the T2 Bay set up on the EMPI stand, but we were up early the next day to get everything ready!

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

This Is European Bug-In

It’s quite difficult to explain what European Bug-In (or EBI) is like to someone who hasn’t been before – and we tried!

This was the first time that Nick, Lewis, and Heidi had made it over to EBI, and I’m not sure they were quite prepared for it. It’s definitely a show that you have to experience to fully understand and appreciate, although Nick did an incredible job of capturing the action with some amazing photos and videos.

Nick has put together an amazing video for us with some of the footage he shot over the weekend, which you can watch here:

We left the Kombi behind after we’d picked up our passes, and drove Jack and the Bay up through the show itself to get to the EMPI stand. You might expect there’d be a side road to keep our moving vehicles separate from the crowds of attendees, or marshals on hand to help control things, but there weren’t, and it wasn’t a problem at all. We just drove slowly, and people moved out of our way.

It was like that all weekend, and I didn’t see the mix of cars and pedestrians on the roads leading through the show cause any problems at all.

Our destination was basically as far away from the entrance as it was possible to get, since we’d been invited to display our Mille Miglia Oval and newly-modified T2 Bay on the EMPI stand, which overlooks the drag racing strip.

I’m still proud of the fact that I managed to drive Jack up the metal ramps and into the EMPI marquee in one go, but I didn’t have time to bask in my accomplishment – it was time to get our VWs cleaned, our signs laid out, and hear a briefing from the EMPI team!

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Just Kampers and EMPI

We’ve been working with EMPI for a long, long time now and have built up a great relationship with their team over the last 20+ years of supplying EMPI parts in the UK.

There are loads of cool EMPI parts and accessories lining the shelves here at JK HQ, and we’re offering 15% off everything we’ve got in stock from EMPI, which is available until 23:59 on Thursday 4 July 2024.

It was great to be able to have a couple of our VWs displayed on the EMPI stand, alongside a load of their new products, a VW SP2, the EMPI beach buggy built by Dave Fisher at Kingfighter Customs, and some great new parts and accessories from Jopex.

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Drag Racing!

One of the main draws of European Bug-In is the drag racing, which takes place on a track which is usually a public highway!

There was a massive variety of different drag racers, from Oklahoma Willy (the insane T2 Split Single Cab, powered by a Rolls Royce jet engine) through to Petit Pimousse – a Fiat 126 with a VW Beetle engine and gearbox!

A lot of the racers were Beetles, but there were T2 Bays, T2 Splits, Karmann Ghias, Beach Buggies, and some completely coach-built racers powered by air-cooled Volkswagen engines (admittedly heavily modified!)

Nick was able to get trackside with his photography kit, and got some amazing shots of the racing and the racers.

Actually, Nick got loads of amazing photos and video during the weekend, including an incredible shot of Oklahoma Willie taking off down the track (which nearly cost Nick his eyebrows…).

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Swap Meet!

While we weren’t chatting to people on the EMPI stand or watching the drag racing, we took the opportunity to check out the masses of swap meet stalls.

We each had a shopping list of NOS (New Old Stock) parts or accessories that we were looking for, and we all did pretty well! There were dozens of different traders, with everything from masses of original parts, to period accessories, clothing, and more.

I love a good swap meet, even if I’m not looking for anything in particular, just for the opportunity to spot some cool accessories I haven’t seen before, or something truly bizarre like a pink fibreglass donkey.

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Off-Roading

There’s a lot to see and do at EBI, and I couldn’t get around to everything. One of the things I missed out on was seeing the Off Road track in action, which I’m gutted about.

I’ve been pretty vocal about my love of Baja Beetles, which was sparked off by getting a Tamia Sandscorcher as a kid, but although I saw all the off-road VWs lined up at the course, I didn’t get a chance to see them actually tackling the track or ask for a ride in one!

Luckily, Nick came to the rescue again and got some great photos of the air-cooled off-roaders on the course (and maybe I can build my own before the next EBI!)

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Cal Look Carnival

One of the things I did get to see was the massive display of Cal Look VWs!

Jason from the JK Team is probably better placed to talk about the Cal Look than me, since he owns a really cool 1969 Cal-Look Beetle, but here’s a quick overview if you’re not in the know.

The Cal Look started off in California back in the 1960s, and is a really distinctive style of modification or customisation which us usually done to VW Beetles, although there were some Cal Look Karmann Ghias on display at European Bug-In last weekend, too.

Here’s a few steps toward achieving the Cal Look:

Lower the front end more than the rear
Replace the bumpers with T Bars
Remove a lot, or all, of the chrome trim
Upgrade your engine, or replace it entirely
Fit an aftermarket exhaust system
Find yourself some really cool alloys, like BRMs or EMPI 5-spokes

It was really cool to see so many Cal Look VWs all parked up alongside each other, and to see the subtle ways that the Cal Look has evolved and changed over the years.

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team

Bugging Out of Bug In

All good things come to an end, and sadly our time at EBI was cut short. With rain forecast, a long journey home and a broken down Beetle to recover, we eventually decided to get on the road early on Sunday morning, rather than court disaster by sticking to our original schedule and aim to arrive at the Channel Tunnel for a 19:35 crossing on Sunday evening.

With Lewis’ Beetle left behind in Northern France with a mysterious issue and mounting concerns that it may not still be there, as well as the weather forecast meaning that the racing would likely be called off on the Sunday, it was a difficult decision to make, but probably the right one.

As it happens, Lewis’ Beetle was still there when we arrived back to it on the way to the Channel Tunnel, but it hadn’t repaired itself. Luckily the rest of the journey was pretty uneventful. We towed the Beetle back to the Channel Tunnel, where its lack of power didn’t matter because it didn’t need to go above 10 miles per hour, and we all made it home before the time our original crossing was meant to be!

European Bug-In has always been one of my personal favourite VW shows, and I’m already looking forward to the next one, which will likely be in 2026.

You can click here for more of our photos from European Bug-In, or click here to watch our YouTube video from the event.

Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
Image by Nick Proctor from the JK Team
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