The Cultural War Over ‘America’s Most Ticketed Car Show’

It wasn’t always like this, Don Santora told me. And it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The massive crowds, the traffic stops, the tickets, the towing. The bad reputation. H2O International, what was once just a big Volkswagen and Audi show, has become “the world’s most ticketed car show.”

“You only had one or two guys doing a burnout to show off, but today is much different,” he said. Indeed, a quick YouTube search will result in video after video of burnouts on public roads during H2Oi.

“You got people telling people, ‘we’re going down to party,’” Santora continued. “And that’s what people think you do: just go down to Ocean City and there are no rules. That’s what it’s turned into.”

Officially, H2Oi not happening this year. But according to multiple people Jalopnik spoke with, it won’t keep people from coming down to Ocean City to hang out with their fellow car enthusiasts.

What that event will look like this year, without H2Oi officially happening, remains to be seen.


For two decades now, as September faded into October and the last of the beachgoers retreated from Ocean City, MD, a different kind of crowd settled in. One that reveled in cars with cambered tires and underglow. Big wings and loud exhausts. Three-piece wheels.

When you saw these cars start rolling up and down Coastal Highway, then you knew: H2Oi was underway.

Image credit: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik

The atmosphere at this massive car show is open and inviting. It’s comprised of groups of different kinds of car enthusiasts coming together for about a week to hang out and soak up the automotive atmosphere. Make new friends. See old ones. Smoke some pot. Swap parts and ideas. Subarus share space with Audis that share space with BMWs that share space with Volkswagens that share space with…

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