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Luftgekühlt 6: The Cult of The Air-Cooled Porsches

For 2019’s Luftgekühlt 6, organizers were able to secure the venue to end all venues – the Universal Studios Backlot.

Brian Makse By: Brian Makse May 18, 2019
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Southern California has long been the epicenter of car culture and everything and anything is available there, from the finest collections to the best engine builders. A company like Singer Vehicle Design  that specializes in transforming tired, thirty-year-old Porsches into modern masterpieces with their Seventies’ aesthetic could not exist anywhere in the world except California.

A few years ago, it was only natural for the west coast to spawn the concept of the modern, casual car show, with the legendary Irvine Cars & Coffee attracting a wide range of cars from all corners of automotive enthusiasm and cool people along with them.

At the same time, interest in air-cooled Porsches was on the upswing. Porsche gave up on the air-cooled 911 in 1998, but it took less than fifteen years for these cars to become thoroughly fetishized by fans of the marque.

Inspired by these car shows with their cool vibe and freedom from car show clichés, like Beach Boys music and ’57 Chevys, Patrick Long and his partner, Howie Idelson, had the idea of holding a simple car show for their air-cooled Porsche-loving friends. Their show, Luftgekühlt, was born. For you non-German speakers, luftgekühlt translates to air-cooled, of course.

Porsche enthusiasts hold the air-cooled era in the highest regard and perhaps for good reason. The history of Porsche and air-cooled engines are fully intertwined and although the company began producing water-cooled models in the seventies, certain enthusiasts have always looked down upon those front-engined cars, and even refer to the later, water-cooled 911s as kettles.

The attraction to these vintage Porsches is only natural and the appeal is universal. The cars are mechanically interesting, fun to drive, and engineered to last. And any sports car fan has long aspired to own an air-cooled Porsche of some kind. If they say otherwise, they’re lying, because there’s an air-cooled Porsche to suit everyone’s tastes.

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Plus, the marque is steeped in motorsport history. Porsches won countless motor races, championships, and pinnacle events like Le Mans, Sebring, and Daytona, and these victories made heroes out of the drivers. Among other celebrities and professional drivers, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Hurley Haywood, Brian Redman, and Vic Elford all claimed historic wins in air-cooled Porsche racecars.

As a Porsche factory racing driver and California resident, Patrick Long has the passion and connections to make a show like Luftgekühlt a smashing success. While your typical Saturday morning car show is a show-what-you-brung affair, there are hundreds of – or likely more – interesting Porsches that could appear at a marque-specific event like Luft.

To ensure the show is as much spectacle as it is casual, Porsche owners were invited to submit their cars through an application process and, according to insiders, roughly a third of the cars submitted were accepted.

Previous Luftgekühlt events were held at the Los Angeles port and a lumberyard, creating interesting scenes for today’s all-important social media. For 2019’s Luftgekühlt 6, organizers were able to secure the venue to end all venues – the Universal Backlot.

If you look carefully through these photographs, you’ll recognize some of the locations from productions like Back To The Future, Westworld, and The Good Place, but placing some of the most iconic air-cooled Porsches here is surreal. Why wouldn’t you put a gorgeous 911 on the lawn in the middle of Marty McFly’s Hill Valley town square?

Unlike the commerce-free SoCal car shows, to produce a show like Luftgekühlt takes a bit of a budget, so tickets cost $45 and the show brought in commercial partners like Pirelli, Porsche Classic, and Chopard.

Luftgekühlt

Luftgekühlt

Guests enjoyed a DJ spinning contemporary tracks (thankfully, there was a lack of Beach Boys songs) as well as the comforts of pop up coffee shops, food trucks, and beer tents. Naturally, Luftgekühlt merchandise was available at a number of spots throughout the Backlot so that guests could show their membership in the air-cooled cult.

After being bussed in – yes, bussed – from the Universal Studios parking garage, guests arrived at the venue to see an iconic Gulf-liveried Porsche 917 and a Daytona-winning Porsche 935. To the left were three 911s restored by Singer, which are notable for their attention to detail and their near seven-figure price tags.

As much as Luftgekühlt is about seeing amazing cars, the show was also graced by the SoCal Porsche illuminati and Porsche-crazy celebrities, making people watching almost enjoyable as the car spotting.

Among them were Jeff Zwart, Bruce Canepa, Rod Emory, Adam Carolla (who brought his aforementioned 935), Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Matt Farah , who showed his dusty, Keen Project 911 Safari, and CJ Wilson who brought his very special 964 RS and 993 GT2 road cars down from Fresno). Of the California Porsche cult, only Magnus Walker, known for his dreadlocks and air-cooled 911 lifestyle, was notably absent from this year’s show.

For Porsche fans, the wide range of cars was sensory overload and, for some, it may not have been possible to absorb all of the special Porsches on display. Luft 6 brought focus to the now cool 914 with a special section, but around ever corner, there was something truly unique.

There were 959s, 911 Rs, slant nose Turbos, RUFs, 911 and 356 hot rods, pedigreed race cars of all kinds, and perhaps one of the most interesting cars was racing driver Rodrigo Sales’ 550 Spyder, which is said to be the only unrestored 550 remaining. In contrast, the show admitted one 964 that has suffered the indignity of being hacked into a RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF tuner car.

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Luftgekühlt drew attendees from around the world and even Canada was represented. Compass Racing team owner Karl Thomson showed one of his latest creations, a black, 1978 Porsche 911 SC finished in the SoCal 911 hot rod style and powered a 3.6 litre flat six from the last air-cooled 993 generation 911.

Mark Wilkins, racing driver and alleged Porsche air-cooled enthusiast, was on hand to help with the crew and, since the Luftgekühlt was responsible to park most of the display cars, perhaps there is no one better to entrust your Porsche with than a polite, Canadian Rolex 24 at Daytona winner.

Year after year, Luftgekühlt reaches new highs and this year’s event at Universal might be the zenith. If the organizers are going to top this one, they’re going to have to work harder than they ever have before.

Luftgekühlt makes for a great excuse to take a quick trip to Los Angeles and if you want a chance to attend Luft 7, get on the list early.

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