FittedUK first opened its doors to British car enthusiasts in 2014, beginning as a small show at a humble venue on the outskirts of York. Since then it’s grown to become one of Britain’s largest indoor car events, and today attracts guests from all over Europe and further afield. From 2021, it’s been held right in the centre of one of the busiest and most vibrant cities in the UK – Manchester.
This is my fifth year straight attending FittedUK, and it’s an event I had to come back to at full speed in 2022.
You see, last year my friends and I were unfortunately the victims of a keyless entry car theft which saw all my camera equipment, laptop, clothing, house and car keys – literally everything I brought with me to the event – stolen. The thieves would have seen us pack the car up before heading out for dinner, and as we locked the car they’d have captured the key signal and reversed it once we walked away. The boot of our BMW X5, filled with all of our belongings, would have literally opened up for them.
Don’t worry, insurance and a lovely support circle of friends covered a large chunk of stuff, but in the end, after my insurance payout, I was still down around £1,000 from the theft alone. Most annoyingly of all, however, I lost all my media work from the 2021 FittedUK weekend. Karma is a cruel mistress though, so I expect the crooks have most probably been taken care of by now. Heck, they might not even be around anymore for all I know.
Something that is still definitely kicking around and stronger than ever though is my drive to finally share with you what FittedUK is really like. So, grab a snack and buckle up as I take you for a gander around the Manchester Central Convention Complex for FittedUK 2022.
As a media person, I was allowed into the venue during Saturday set up. Traditionally, the Sunday show day is always super busy, meaning it’s a pain to take photos of anything without at least one person – and usually more – getting in the way.
I love photos in busy places, after all, people are the only reason cars are interesting, and we add life where cars lack it. However, as I was there on both days, I thought it would be best to clarify why some photos were taken in an empty hall and others are jam-packed with show-goers.
Organising a big car show is a mammoth task at the best of times, but as FittedUK is an indoor show, the rules and regulations around getting cars in and out of the venue safely require even more work. For example, no cars could be fired up to leave the venue on Sunday after the show finished until the general public had left the premises. How Koski, the show organiser, hasn’t gone grey yet is beyond me.
Despite the men in suits standing by to ensure all the safety boxes were being ticked, excitement built as the cars rolled in after midday Saturday.
Here’s fellow Speedhunter Mario cleaning his 740i. He kept hinting that he wanted me to grab some photos of him, so here Mario, here they are.
Something that became apparent as the afternoon rolled on was how many of my friends were in attendance at this show. Seeing familiar faces is always a nice feeling, especially knowing there’s an evening ahead to get together over a couple of glasses of orange juice. Being located in central Manchester is definitely a perk of FittedUK.
Josh Gresswell demonstrated that the art of standing by your car is not dead just yet. I’ll be brining you a lot more on Josh’s one-of-a-kind GX61 later this year when I shoot a full feature on it.
Right, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of some of the cars on display at the show…
In the mid-1990s and early-2000s, Britain’s car culture went through what we refer to over here as the Max Power phase, named after the magazine that showcased the growing scene. It was an era of fibreglass excess, where many enthusiasts were lured into owning modern hatchbacks of the time through incredibly competitive finance deals. When everyone has the same cars, you have to make them stand out, right? Well, this is how they did it back in the day.
The custom interiors were incredible. Whether you think they’ve aged poorly or properly is totally subjective, but there’s something to be said about the level of detail in these builds. This Renault 5 is a true time capsule of what would have filled this hall if the show took place in 1998.
The first thing you saw on entering the venue were two matching Subarus – a WRX STI and BRZ. Here in the UK it’s a rarity to see just one of these out and about, so seeing two modified into show cars is a sight. Fittingly, the pair have eye-grabbing bucket seats to match their cambered stance and deep-dish wheels.
So the question stands: Are you a love hearts reader? Or more of a zebra stripes reader?
KJ Saneinia’s static Mk2 Golf was next on my photo hit-list. This thing has impressive fitment, plus an exciting engine bay to look at. That’s a 2.0L 16V ABF with twin Weber 45s.
Here’s some BMW nerd material – Ryan Allick’s BMW Individual 528i with a factory-fitted AC Schnitzer kit. Only six 528i Schnitzers were made, with this one being the only Atlantis Blue example. It came with the ACS rear differential, a rare three-piece boot wing and a set of factory E39 Style 5 wheels stepped up from 17 to 19-inch. Being E39 specific, they have the larger centre bore making them a direct bolt-on for this car.
When I arrived at the show on Sunday morning, there were a few cars suspiciously under covers. They were snuck in without camera lenses pointing at them on Saturday, so that they could be revealed to all on show day. It’s fair to say they attracted a crowd, so much so that I missed getting there early enough to see the magic moment of the covers getting pulled back. I mean, look at the crowd… Would you have tried pushing through that if you were me? I thought so.
The good news is, I did eventually make it through to the front. The first of the bunch that caught my eye is again another project that belongs to a good pal of mine. Although, I’m no longer sure how good of a pal he is as he didn’t leak me any photos of the final product ahead of the big reveal.
Jorge Lupton’s 3G Honda Civic mixes a few eye-grabbing pieces together for a cool little racing package. Those include a beautifully fitted B18C6 engine under the bonnet and BBS RS wheels up front and RAYS Volk Racing TE37s at the back. Jorge is one of the gents behind some of the colourful seats you’ll see in this coverage, so naturally his own project features a pair of colour-matched Ghettowxrkz buckets.
Mustn’t forget the boot build. Yep, another BBS RS for good measure.
What’s the sign of a job well done? When your mum comes along to see your pride and joy getting love from the show attendees. Nice to meet you, Mrs. Lupton!
Next door was this Bug rocking a set of trendy 17-inch Work VS-KFs.
And I can’t forget Mica’s Mercedes-Benz 190E. This thing is genuine show car material, and it deservedly won a Top 20 FittedUK award. The build also deserves a full feature, and Mario will be taking care of that.
Speak of the devil…
Aiman Bugis is next up with his BMW Z3 M Coupe, AKA ‘clown shoe’. This is one of those cars you rarely see in the UK, let alone in iconic Estoril Blue, sitting on Air Lift Performance suspension and 19-inch Racing Dynamics wheels. I’d be cleaning the thing with pride too if it was mine!
As you can hopefully tell by now, FittedUK invites every type of car enthusiast along. These are my favourite events, ones where the race cars park up next to the show cars. It’s satisfying to see similar cars next to each other, executing their different styles with matching levels of success. The show organisers are geniuses for parking these R34 Nissan Skylines next to each other.
There is a significant bond between cars and action sports. BMX holds a special place in a lot of car enjoyer’s hearts, so it felt more than natural to see a BMX display at the show. I won’t front, it’s not something I was ever involved with, but I’d argue this made spectating the display even more engaging for me. How these lads do these flips and stuff is beyond me.
Once you took in your dose of action sport, you could then unwind in the auditorium which was showing a collection of ILB Drivers Club films on the big screen.
After being creatively inspired with some arty films, you could then get it out of your system by heading over to the Sam’s Detailing stand, which invited you to doodle on their display car, a lovely, simple W123. Look closely enough, and amongst the sea of Instagram handles you might spot some prehistoric symbols.
6N Polos hold a special place in my heart as they are one of the cars responsible for teaching me how to improve my media work over the years. This is a complete example, having everything from a full caramel tan leather interior to Wolfsburg side repeaters and matching, perfectly straight centre caps. It’s all in the details, ladies and gents.
жигули на пневмоподвеске…
… Next to an Aston Martin on air suspension. FittedUK had it all.
Period correct dealer number plates have become a must-have accessory for classic car owners, and I’m all for it. Here’s one of my favourites from Vauxhall’s marketing team back in the ’90s: “Once Driven, Forever Smitten”.
Matt Roger’s MK7 Ford Fiesta achieves a crazy level of fitment.
The Harry Potter Ford Anglia may have been able to fly, but did it have a literal BBS steering wheel? I don’t think so. Rumour has it, Mario is also doing a story on the BBS wheels from the show. You’ll have to wait and see for that one though.
Our friends at Air Lift Performance were at FittedUK, collaborating with the event to big give away 150 free t-shirts to those who were lucky enough to scoop them up. Side note: this sticker was perfectly round; the jagged edges are simply the backing paper which wasn’t peeled off when I took the photo.
I love seeing fruity European cars that we don’t get here in the UK come over for our shows. A Renault Talisman? News to me. You have to admit that it’s a very stylish-looking motor.
Here we have Harry Pippard’s 40th Anniversary SL 320, again on Air Lift Performance suspension. Mercedes only made 150 of these special anniversary SLs, all rocking a vast spec and most importantly that Designo Ocean Blue pearlescent paint.
The VW Lupo is arguably one of the most significant cars in UK’s stance community. I’d hazard a guess that 25% of people who attended FittedUK either had one of these as their first car, or had a best friend who did. Daniel Grieve has taken his Lupo to the final end goal. Loaded with an endless spec of rare parts, his features 15-inch 4×100 Work VS-KFs, a full ABT kit, factory red Open Air roof, rear and front light covers and a 6N Harlekin-inspired paint scheme inside and out.
Time to move back into the main hall for the final piece of the event. The awards saw the FittedUK crew reveal their 20 favourite cars and present some other special prizes.
There was a big crowd at the main stage, helping to celebrate not just the cars that won the awards, but more importantly the creative and determined minds that put them together: the owners. As I said at the start of this post, the cars are cool, but the people behind them are cooler.
So, who took Best in Show?
The team over at Irvs Restos for their incredible 1954 VW Barndoor Bus in right-hand drive and complete with a 2,276cc engine. The thing started out as… well, scrapyard junk. However, the hard graft of those who knew its worth turned the story into something that took home the biggest slice of cake at FittedUK 2022, and deservingly so.
That wraps up my thoughts on the show, but if you’ve seen my event coverage before, you’ll know that my camera doesn’t stop clicking. So enjoy the extra images below, and let me know what your highlight of FittedUK 2022 is in the comments section.