Luftgekühlt: What does the future hold for this air-cooled Porsche event?
Monday, May 22, 2017
Luftgekühlt. While you may be thinking gesundheit if you've never heard that word before, this term is used to reference all of the air-cooled cars in Porsche's history. This rich element of Porsche history ended in 1998 and extends from the Pre-A 356 through the 993 models.
Luftgekühlt's brand as a celebration of all things air-cooled gained fame with Le Mans winner Patrick Long and Howie Idelson, a creative director in California. The events originally came unstructured to allow for plenty of creative expression — Bruce Meyer drove the Kremer-Porsche into Luftgekühlt two years ago.
However, as the event has grown, it's gained a little more predictability. Drivers aren't as likely to zoom into the event inside Le Mans-winning 953 K3's anymore.
At its heart, Luftgekühlt is centered around Porsches. Visitors are car enthusiasts who have passion for historically significant models in both racing and street driving. There is a strong atmosphere of collaboration, fun people and creative expression around a unique venue that is usually more industrial than artsy.
The 2017 event took place in early May in the Port of Los Angeles. The weather — rain, early morning sun and even a rainbow — prepped the creative spirit for the day.
All types of classics were on site: 356 coupe, Speedsters, 911 Cabrios. There was even a 356 Gmund Coupe sold by the factory, made into a roadster and rebuilt through extensive restoration to last for many more years. Perhaps even a more notable highlight was the row of all the RS cars finished in white with the backdrop of historic artwork.
While the warehouse cars are great, Luftgekühlt is also about cars that are driven. There are so many subtle differences and customizations among all of the cars.
911s with stories were lined up everywhere. In 1988, all models became water-cooled, but did you know there are more water-cooled 911s than air-cooled now?
Also noteworthy was the presence of Porsche's 356 SL that won the first class victory at Le Mans. The car has since been beautifully restored similarly to how Porsche would have made it during its time.
The No. 46 Porsche 356 SL Gmund Coupe that won the 1100cc class at Le Mans in 1951 was on display at Luftgekühlt (Image: Facebook).
As with any Porsche event, the people behind the cars are just as unique as the car themselves. Many languages could be heard around the event.
If this is your first time hearing about Luftgekühlt, then it's past time to get caught up with this internationally recognized event (especially for those of you excited about early Porsche models). For every car restored, there's a car with dings and scrapes — even a rusty one driven daily sitting among the bushes.
This isn't the same atmosphere you'll find at the Porsche Parade during the Concours d'Elegance. Long and Idelson had a vision for a friendly get-together without the suit and tie. Hundreds of people showed up for the first event back in 2014, and it's grown quickly since.
"At the time, we weren't even certain there were that many air-cooled Porsche owners who'd be willing to get together on any given morning," Long told Hagerty as he remembered the early days before the fourth Luftgekühlt event.
They've been pleasantly shocked by the turnout since! Long and Idelson have been friends since their young times racing karts, and they never imagined Luftgekühlt would grow into something this big.
"Luft is kind of doing its own thing now," Long said. "We're just trying to keep up with it."
However, in the midst of the shuffle, Long has two clear goals for Luftgekühlt. First, he wants to educate and include those who might not be as revved up about air-cooled cars as the rest of the crowd. Second, Long wants to bring Porsche enthusiasts together to see their favorite cars in a different light.
Long and Idelson don't have any plans set in stone for the future of Luftgekühlt, but this is already a nationally recognized event. It's accessible, inclusive and influential in the Porsche world. People fly in from Europe and Asia and drive across the country to get to this event.
In the face of increasing demand for the event year after year, how are the founders going to respond?
"If the legends of the sport — the people who've been in this for 40-plus years — are asking when and where the next Luftgekühlt is going to be, and if our significant others and friends who aren’t otherwise huge Porsche fans want to know, then the decision is easy," Long said.
There is also chatter about moving Luftgekühlt overseas. This would certainly appeal to the international audience and continue growing the Luftgekühlt family.
"I'd love to hold the event soon in Germany and Japan. First in Munich or Stuttgart, then in Tokyo," Long told Porsche.
Wherever the future of Luftgekühlt lies, this is certainly an event to plan on attending in the next year.
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