After signing up to sponsor the UK cruise to Ninove this year, we decided it would be a nice idea to tag along and enjoy the event first hand too…
So at 3.45 Saturday morning, aboard our 1956 Single Cab, Andy and photographer Lee hit the road… First stop Horsham, to meet with Sean from our Returns Dept. and James from our Digital Team in his 1958 Beetle Cabriolet.
Excited, amazed (that we were up in time) and a little apprehensive that our duo of old timers would go the distance we drove down to Dover to catch the 7.06 crossing to Calais. I should mention it was the first time on the tunnel and driving abroad for me, and the first time out the country for Lee (his phobia of flying has kept him at home until now).
Delays and stuff…
Through sheer luck, we negotiated tailbacks of trucks on the motorway and got checked in in good time. The train which should have left earlier had in fact broken down so whilst our passage was uneventful we arrived in France knowing 30 or 40 cars were stranded back in Blighty.
The first of the road trippers had already settled at the ‘Bonjour’ services just outside the tunnel exit when we rocked up. We topped up the fuel tank (lack of gauge leaves us estimating that 250 miles are a good run per fill) and we did our best to take shelter from the bitter gale-force wind that was whistling through the petrol pumps whilst still capturing the photos you see below.
90 mins wait
Cruise organisers Gez and Ollie kept drivers in the loop on the progress of our cruising colleagues stranded in Dover: it was 90 minutes before wheels started turning again.
Next stop Jabekke…
With most cars finally present on the continent the convoy departed Calais and we got our first sense of the magnitude of the event we were heading to – and this was just the UK contingent!
Our 30hp power train kept the top speed around 60mph and we slipped away from the convoy leaders, who were understandably keen to get us back on schedule somehow. As we approached the next stop an air-cooled mirage appeared and we rejoined the masses at the motorway services.
I’m not a drinker myself, but the appeal of the Slaghmuylder Brewery stretches far beyond the beers. The building and the grounds date back to 1860 and the site can accommodate around 100 vehicles.
Some of these are local vehicles, others had got ahead of the convoy to get parked in prime position. For the Heritage truck, we arrived a little too late, but ample free street parking around the corner allowed us to still get involved.
The 19th century industrial backdrop offers the chance for some beautiful compositions; this is so much more than a field in front of a country house or another tarmac car park. With his creative juices flowing Lee starts chatting to owners and lines up a couple of cars for some perfect photo opportunities.
Drink and party or hotel and bed!
Despite peer pressure from a number of friends we politely decline the opportunity to ‘hit up Ninove’ and head to a nightspot for more beers and a boogie. Instead, we drive 20 minutes down the road to Aalst, where our hotel with secure underground car park offers us the chance to get some rest.
A quick freshen up and we’re back out the door searching for the fastest (and cheapest) of foods for dinner before we call it a night.
The local McDonalds answers our call…
As part of our support for this event, we gave away a couple of trophies for our favourite cars on the cruise. We could have picked many – but the winners were a slammed Late Bay ‘Jurgens’ rolling on banded steel wheels. The driver deserved a medal for fighting the winds while driving that on the way over!
Our second award went to a gorgeous grey Karmann Ghia dropped on Cosmics. A DIY restoration topped off by an Evil Ben’s respray which really pulled on our heartstrings.
We should also mention James’ Cabriolet which won ‘Hayburner Choice’ at the brewery. To quote Ned “That’s the one I’d like to be driving home in.”
The morning after the night before.
Walking down to breakfast we pass a fellow cruiser in the lobby. He’s looking broken and didn’t get back until 2 am. Clearly, he took the ‘drink and party’ option – I allow myself a small amount of smugness, before dishing up a buffet brekkie to fuel the day ahead.
Out and about
As first timers, we didn’t know exactly where to go, but we head back to Ninove town and after a quick lap of a residential area we find ourselves lining up to drive into the show as cars 137 and 138. The entrance fee is €15, and the first 500 to arrive get a free t-shirt.
The show is an instant sensory overload for Ninove virgins like ourselves. We had made it, we were parked in the high street as part of it, and now we had until 4 pm to check it out and soak it up!
We unload some merchandise and take the opportunity to decorate a local statue with some Heritage branded goodies before the mingling begins. It takes me an hour to leave the main strip – I stop for 5 minutes, which turns into 20, but that’s what this place is about – catching up, sharing stories, making friends, having fun!
The streets are lined with gold
Not only are we exploring a new town and learning where each street leads, but with every corner, we discover more and more air-cooled VWs all competing for our attention. If you followed us on Instagram over the show weekend you will have got a flavour for first hand – but we hope Lee’s images here have captured the essence of this show for you.
On top of all the cars, there is a smattering of trade stands offering a mixture of merchandise, NOS parts, classic mopeds, toy cars and everything else in between. If you fancy something more traditionally Belgian however – check out the choice of chocolatiers with shops in the town centre, your family will be most grateful for it!
A change is as good as a rest
Visiting a show you’ve never been to before is invigorating. Ninove kickstarted my love for VW shows in 2019 as no other season opener has. It brought back memories of my trip to Worthersee – another European town taken over by cars for just a short period of time, albeit they are typically water cooled.
A big thanks to Lee, James and Sean for sharing this experience with me. Thanks to Gez and Ollie for organising the UK cruise and to everyone we spoke to who was just so friendly (cruisers and show goers alike). Stay tuned for additional photos on our social media (We’ve got loads) and if we shot your car, please get in touch and we’d be happy to send you the hi-res image.
Roll on Ninove 2020 when we can do it all over again!