What's the deal with air-cooled Porsches? Luftgekuehlt explains in the best possible way
Two-time Le Mans winner and American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long leaned against the wall of an old warehouse in the Port of LA and directed traffic via radio as hundreds of Porsches filed into the fourth annual Luftgekeuhlt, the magnificent gathering of air-cooled Porsches held every year in LA.
We asked him what the show was all about. He answered, kuehl as cucumber:
“It’s about diversity and telling a story,” he said. “We want to cover all models and genres and styles and personalities. We’re big on personalities, on inclusion, on just trying to get a grasp of the whole storyline of what air-cooled means.”
The radio squawked back to life as three more 356s rolled across one of the parking lots. He directed them to their proper place and returned to the question.
“We’re telling different stories,” he said. “If someone walked in and said, ‘What’s this craze of air-cooled Porsches?’ We want to be able to tell them that story. We want to say, ‘These are original, short-wheelbase 912s and 911s; over here, you’ve got G-body 964 hot rods; ‘Well what’s a hot rod?’ Well, it’s slightly modified, inspired by race cars, etc., etc. Who’s the R Gruppe? What do they do? What are they like?”
Mostly, he said, he lets the Porsches tell the story at Luftgekuehlt.
“It’s light curation, but just trying to gather and capture the whole story.”
Rod Emory brought the #46 Gmund Porsche, the first Porsche to score a win at Le Mans.
You couldn’t ask for better curation. Long, designer Howie Idelson and a host of others, including Jeff Zwart and a hundred Los Angeles Porsche owners and collectors host Luftgekuehlt. It is, in a delightful dichotomy, the best-known underground Porsche happening in Porsche-happy Southern California.
No one knew about the first one. A few people knew about the second one. Then, last year, everyone knew about it.
“Last year, it just caught us completely off guard with how many cars showed up. We’re more prepared this year, but the weather (some rain early in the day) threw us a little bit of a curveball, but just like in motorsport, you gotta figure it out.”
This year, they pre-registered 600 cars, a process that took just 36 hours, all accomplished with no help from social media. In addition to the 600 registered, there was an overflow lot brimming with Porsches, another show unto itself. Inside the fence: everything from the original Gmund Porsche that won the marque’s first victory at Le Mans in 1955 — and was recently restored to racing perfection by Rod Emory — to two mighty and powerful 917s brought by Bruce Canepa.
“Luftgekuehlt, for me, is really the ultimate event for Porsche nuts,” said Emory. “It’s no BS. It’s all about the cars and the culture and the people. It’s raining a little bit here today, but it’s not gonna stop the people that come to this event — because this is not just about showing cars, this is about the whole culture behind it. It’s gonna be awesome.”
At the end of the rainbow, there’s a Porsche
“It always surprises me,” said Zwart, who brought with him the two off-road 911s that had just competed in the NORRA race down the Baja peninsula and one of which Zwart co-drove. “Every time we finish an event, we figure how could you do better. Every time, we keep coming around and building a better event. That’s the fun part. Obviously, the people and cars make it. It’s fun to see the relationships of people like Patrick and Howie and myself, all of this kind of happening and coming together like this. It’s definitely rewarding to see everybody roll out for it.”