San Pedro, CA. It’s hard to believe Luftgekühlt, the preeminent celebration of air-cooled Porsches, just concluded its 8th show. I use the word “show” lightly; this isn’t a group of classic German sportscars carefully placed on grass, waiting to be inspected by a team of self-appointed white-gloved “gurus.” Instead, attend Luft, and realize it’s a uniquely woven tapestry combining the history, people, and air-cooled machinery from the global “Classic Porsche” community. The resulting fabric is an “experience” surpassing what we have all grown up to know as a classic car show or Concours.
In their own words, “Luftgekühlt represents a fresh perspective in the fragmented landscape of car culture. As the antidote to the traditional, we upend the golf course Concours with a car party anyone will savor. We are a team that produces extraordinary experiences focused on the cars, the people responsible for the incredible history, and the passionate community of enthusiasts and creators. We value storytelling through creative expression and the inclusion of creatives who forge their own path. We like fresh ideas, and we enjoy collaborating with like-minded people and brands.” In other words, let’s celebrate and grow the culture surrounding these vehicles versus just cars themselves.
To address the white elephant in the room, let’s first examine the name; Luft in German translates to Air, and kühlt means chilled or cooled. Hence Luftgekühlt translates to air-cooled, which “Porschephiles” know to be the very first Porsche 356-001 completed in June of 1948, through the last 993 series 911 manufactured in 1998. For exactly half a century, the Porsche brand was built on superbly engineered flat air-cooled engines that came in variants from 4 to 12-cylinder designs. So, while many attendees of this year’s event may own modern water-cooled Porsches, such vehicles are “verboten” from being displayed.
So, what exactly is so remarkable about Luft? For one, the setting is always someplace unique, creating a novel experience, especially given the nature of its car-based event. Previous Lufts have included a furniture factory, lumber yard, and movie back lot at Universal Studios. For this year, they returned to a collection of converted warehouses at the Port of Los Angeles. It’s not your typical “cars in the park,” and the vibe is unique. It was refreshing to see people of all ages, including families, enjoying vintage Porsches. Additionally, I noticed numerous LA-based creatives using their Leica or Hasselblad film cameras to capture the energy; how hip is that?
Behind the Scenes:
Looking back at how this unique slice of Porsche culture began, it’s best to look at who has their hands on the wheel. Akin to Apple Computer’s original mavericks, Steve Jobs (marketing) and Steve Wozniak (electronics) are Luftgekühlt’s founders; Howie Idleson (Marketing) and Patrick Long (Vehicles). The first gathering in 2014 was understandably small, with a few dozen cars and maybe 100 people. Since then, Howie and Patrick have continued to amaze everyone with their event execution and expansion. Jeff Zwart, a master behind the camera and wheel, continues to pour his creative talents into the event. His success at racing Porsches at Pikes Peak and directing video productions with Porsche combine to make him a “real” brand ambassador versus the latest sensation on Instagram.
Built into the mystique of Luftgekühlt are its location and date. When and where will the ninth one be? Nobody knows. Tickets are usually sold-out before the site is revealed; talk about great marketing! Keep your ears to the ground, and remember, no radiators are allowed!