There’s nothing quite as exciting as attending niche enthusiast events as a first-timer – you have no idea what to expect no matter what sort of stage social media sets up for you, except for the environment you build in your own head about what it should be based on others’ experiences. Luftgekühlt is one of these grand spectacles that’s every bit as amazing in person as you dream about, and, admittedly, as somewhat of a novice to the Porsche enthusiast community, there is no better place to immerse yourself in a world completely unique to itself than this one. And you don’t need to be a Porsche owner to appreciate it.
If you are new to the term Luftgekühlt yourself, it’s German for “air-cooled,” which pretty much sums up the very types of Porsche vehicles you’re likely to see in attendance. Founded by winning Le Mans racer Patrick Long and Howie Idelson, the Southern California-based event celebrates Porsche’s air-cooled heritage all the way up through the 993 when the manufacturer ended production and switched to water-cooled technology in 1998. It allows owners with shared interest of these cherished vehicles to come together and enjoy a morning of camaraderie, much like any enthusiast event tends to do. It just so happens Luftgekühlt tends to bring in a slightly older demographic with a very hipster and cool vibe to it, which seems about right, although you don’t need to be any of those things to join in on the fun (look at me; I’m neither hip or all that cool, and I somehow managed to get by alright).
Now in its fourth showing, Luftgekühlt has made great strides in terms of how production value and fan growth are concerned. The 2014 debut event was held in Venice at Deus Emporium at Post-Modern Activities, the second at Bandito Brothers Show Space in Culver City, last year’s at Modernica (which really caught big attention outside of the Porsche world), and taking on its biggest venue yet in San Pedro at the Port of Los Angeles for 2017.
At Luft 4, there was plenty of space for the casual enthusiast to participate by being able to park and display in a more general lot right outside the venue (where I got stuck easily for a good 45 minutes before going inside), the actual “drive in and display” vehicles scattered throughout the venue grounds, and then the specially-curated show pieces located inside the main buildings that clearly demonstrate why Porsche remains a cult favorite to car enthusiasts around the world.
There was a slight down-pouring from a rain shower earlier in the morning, however, it had little effect on the amount of people who’d come out to see what Luft is all about (usually rain makes us SoCal locals go nuts and tends to make us stay indoors). The rain wound up ending pretty fast, which resulted in the most perfect overcast lighting and photo perfect backdrops we could ask for.
Porsches are a new world to me, as I’m sure it could’ve been for a lot of people who were at Luft4. Other than the storied race and street vehicles parked inside as the more iconic of the bunch, being able to clearly identify the reasons why one model is more preferred over the next was a fun challenge, something I hope to learn more about in the near future. But variety is clearly evident at Luft—you can have an award-winning RWB-prepped 911 parked in the outer general parking lot that could be viewed as not being “true” to the older purist and a beat version with rusted/mismatched body panels (and many miles on the odometer) that is somehow every Porsche collector’s dream. That’s what makes these cars so unique and interesting at the same time.
Inside the venue were a myriad of refined examples from the Stuttgart marque sandwiched between many neoclassic automotive-inspired pieces of art from Pirelli. The quality of each restoration was only outdone by the next, they were displayed amongst the art because they could be observed as so. Some cars were soaked with a rich past in motorsport, while others lived their life seeking at the sunlight from the relative darkness of an owner’s garage.
The iconic slipstream silhouette of the Porsche 917 with its traditional Gulf livery emblazoned across its panels was hard to miss perched in the corner of the venue. In its heyday, it represented an aggressive push into the elite classes of the motorsport world and really blazed the trail for serious Porsche contenders of the future, but while occupying space at Luft4 it merely served as drool-worthy eye candy and probably the most extreme outlier for the wide variety of machinery on display at the event.
Not one, but multiple 911s from the Singer Vehicle Design headquarters were also on display inside. These “reimagined” P-cars are no more pure than the Rauh-Welt that inhabited the general parking lot; they still manage to strike a soft spot among Porsche enthusiasts due to their preservation of the legendary swooping curves which have made the chassis so famous, although we’ve heard the diehard 911 lovers discredit their worth.
It’s barely been two weeks since Luft4 ended but people are already looking forward to what Long and Idelson will have in store in 2018 for SoCal Porsche fanatics. If there’s one thing I can recommend, it’s to go early—soak in the entire experience, find some merch in sizes that fit you and have your Instagram armed and ready. Bring a newbie along for the ride, if you can, since your Porsche expert friends will already be there waiting to explore every inch of the event with you.