Article and Photography by Nick Kouris.
With more than 2,000 registered cars expected to be at this year's Big SoCal Euro Gathering, it was evident that this event was going to be no less than extraordinary. There’s no doubt that such an event requires a distinct venue with sufficient space to accommodate thousands of cars and spectators. The obvious choice was Qualcomm Stadium, which is home to the San Diego Chargers and can hold more than 70,000 raucous fans. The stadium has the second-largest parking lot in the United States, allowing it to host the great number of European cars that arrived.
The idea to create one of the largest car shows for European automakers was devised back in 2001 by Lon Mok and Paul Chan from the enthusiast powerhouses SoCaliVW.com and SoCaliAudi.com. San Luis Obispo was the city of choice to host their first major event, branding it as NorCal vs. SoCal Audi/VW. In 2004, another exceptional NorCal vs. SoCal event occurred, this time set in scenic Santa Barbara. After holding their first two major events, SoCal Euro grew exponentially, and as a result, added "Big” to their moniker.
With the first two weeks of September having been the hottest of the summer for Southern California, it was a pleasant surprise to not see triple digits as gates opened by 2:00 p.m. Those registered gained early access to park their cars and choose the best spot. The line quickly grew long, as entrants nearly spilled out of the stadium and onto surface streets.
Expecting to see primarily Audis, BMWs, and Volkswagens, there were still a handful of other Euro exotics, such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis; also present were Aston Martins, Mercedes-Benzes, and Porsches.
This gorgeous 1M was parked all by itself, away from the chaos.
This supercharged / carbon-fiber Lotus looks like it would be some serious fun on the track.
These vintage Beetles deserved a double take and were overlooked by many passersby.
We hypothesize, the first of its kind, an all-electric classic Beetle.
LB Performance / Liberty Walk came out with some serious firepower, as usual. Just about every single BMW generation was accounted for including the new E92 line-up that we've all heard and seen so much about the past few months.
The LB Perfomance Murcielago is rather intimidating in person.
Seen late in the day, this lovely example of a DBS defines Euro exotic.
After walking around the parking lot and continually finding row upon row of cars not previously seen, it was apparent that Audi had the largest number of cars there, with BMW being second. Many generations of Audis were represented, ranging from B5 S4s and an assortment of A4 wagons to current model S4s and RS5s.
Two perfect RS5s wearing HREs, so which would you choose: white or black?
Representing the colors of the German flag are three S5s.
Bilstein Shock Absorbers, Eibach Springs, and HRE Wheels are just a few of the big brands that came out to SoCal Euro. Companies like these, as well as vendor booths, tuner shops, and a medley of food trucks, are becoming staples at car gatherings. Bilstein and Eibach both competitively displayed their latest products right across from each other. HRE also had a couple of stands filled with wheels along with several cars fitted with an assortment of rims. Local San Diego tuning shops, such as ACG Automotive, HG Motorsports, and TAG Motorsports, brought some of their heavy-hitting personalized cars to showcase.
What sets SoCal Euro apart from the rest is that they were able to hold drag races on Qualcomm’s 1/8th mile drag strip. Sponsored by RaceLegal.com, anyone who passed tech inspection and the few safety rules was able to compete. Not long after the first burnout occurred, the sounds echoing off the embankment and spreading over the parking lot had spectators flocking to the K-rails to watch the action unfold.
The most notable points of the drag racing action were a lifted turbodiesel truck with more than a few impressive runs, a Tesla dominating a Lamborghini, and a Camaro that was louder than any NASCAR stock car. Whatever the matchup may be, anyone who loves cars will watch drag races. The abnormality of the matchup makes it that much more intriguing to watch.
No Euro car event would be complete without their two-wheel counterparts, some Ducatis.
This McLaren 12C Spider pulled up, passed tech, but unfortunately ran only once and then parked the remainder of the day.
Events like Big SoCal Euro are breaking the mold when it comes to ordinary car shows. In fact, it is something much greater. It should no longer be classified as just another car show when the event is so much more. Actually, it should be considered a true "automotive event.”
SoCal Euro now has its own stadium (we had to) having successfully hosted what could—no, should—be considered Southern California’s best show of the summer. The atmosphere and the exhilaration cannot be captured with just one picture or even dozens of them; nor can it be described with a single word or hundreds of them. It is something only understood after witnessing in person everything Big SoCal Euro has to offer.