The Best Car Show You’ve Probably Never Been To Trying to describe Patrick Long and Howie Idelson’s third Luftgekühlt show is incredibly difficult. One can’t...
The Best Car Show You’ve Probably Never Been To
Trying to describe Patrick Long and Howie Idelson’s third Luftgekühlt show is incredibly difficult. One can’t really compare it with another car show because it lacks many of the tropes associated with typical automotive gatherings, nor is it on the scale of something like a Rennsport Reunion, due to its lack of factory backing and focus primarily on street cars. In reality, it bears more resemblance to the “happenings” of the 1960s albeit with (probably) a lot less hallucinogens. Previous Luftgekühlts were much smaller in scale, a more intimate in feel. This event was much bigger and drew a very different crowd and yet the sense of excitement and conviviality that made the previous shows so special remained. Overall, it was a great way to spend a Sunday morning in Southern California.
Luftgekühlt, for those uninitiated in German car nerdery, roughly translates to “air cooled” and that is, at least in part, what it celebrates. Air-cooled Porsches have become seriously hot shit in the last few years, leading to skyrocketing sale prices for even the most pedestrian examples and to a massive influx of newer younger enthusiasts. No one company has really cornered the market on these neophytes, but Porsche works driver Patrick Long and his designer friend Howie Idelson are certainly trying and to a large degree succeeding.
With an attendance of easily 1200-1500 people and several hundred cars, Luft 3 bears more resemblance to an early days Coachella than to the first incarnation in Deus Ex Machina’s parking lot two years ago though thankfully unlike the music festival, we didn’t run into anyone appropriating Native American culture and only saw one baby in leather pants. One of the things that has been a through-line for all of the Luftgekühlt shows has been a supremely laid back attitude. There are no barriers put up around the cars, nobody shouting at people to not get too close even though there were many cars there that if sold would easily crest the million-dollar mark. The organizers understand that for this to be successful and continue to differentiate itself that it needs to be fun for everyone, not just the die-hards. This has encouraged people to bring their families with them which helps keep everything relaxed.
As with the other Luftgekühlt shows, Luft 3 brought all of Southern California’s Porsche luminaries out of the woodwork. Some of those on hand included the be-dreadlocked and nearly omnipresent Magnus Walker, former professional racecar driver and still professional actor Patrick Dempsey, noted marque enthusiast and weird guy Jerry Seinfeld, former Letterman writer Spike Feresten, Academy Award nominee James Woods and of course Chad McQueen. The event was held at a non-traditional venue, this time the factory of noted mid-century modern furniture makers Modernica in the tiny industrial city of Vernon, situated just south of Downtown LA. It was a pretty excellent choice as the facility afforded tons of room for people and cars and was littered with Eames shell chairs (Modernica is the only company that produces them in fiberglass, as originally envisioned by Charles and Ray) and Case Study day bed parts. The basement of the house-like structure on the property where Deus Ex Machina and Period Correct hosted their pop-ups was allegedly once the epicenter of the Los Angeles porn production scene. Modernica staff were even on hand to produce special limited edition Deus and Period Correct shell chairs. Seeing the chair go from big rolls of glass fiber to a pile of goo to a gorgeous chair was pretty amazing.
One thing that sets Luftgekühlt apart is the fact that it is a curated show. This means that people who want their cars displayed in the show must apply and be accepted by the organizers lest they be cast down into the lesser parking areas with the plebeians. This keeps the overall level of quality at the show incredibly high with nearly everything on display being worthy of a “Holy shit!” type of response. This isn’t to say that they only have the most esoteric or perfectly restored cars on display though. This year there were cars on display ranging from a 1-of-20 Carrera Abarth to Rolly Resos’ exquisitely beat-up looking ‘68 hot rod. You could see a genuine Europe-only 964RS in the gloriously hideous Rubystone Red or a perfectly mechanically restored 912 with exterior patina that could only have been caused by prolonged exposure to a Martian sandstorm. It’s all there.
One of the best parts of Luftgekühlt is the merchandise on hand for purchase and having Deus Ex Machina as a sponsor means that there will be plenty of incredible artwork by Deus co-founder and Porsche fanatic Carby Tuckwell on hand. Costa Mesa’s Period Correct were also on hand with some of their unique vintage racing and streetwear inspired pieces. There was also a selection of gorgeous luggage from Rennwerkstatt and Porsche-inspired sculpture by artist Stéphane Dufour of 8-Bolt Clothing. Pelican Parts had their own room near the clothing pop-up with a selection of parts that were used on the “Luftauto” build.
The Luftauto car is based on a 3.2 Carrera and was inspired by the classic Rothmans rally 911s from the 1980s. The car was constructed by former BBi Autosport lead tech Joey Seely at his new shop, E-Motion Engineering in conjunction with Rod Emory and Pelican Parts. KW contributed custom coilovers that give the Luftauto a full 9 inches of travel. The build was completed over the course of a couple months and got its shakedown drive at Tejon Ranch by none other than famed Porsche photographer and Pikes Peak champion Jeff Zwart. The car was built to be auctioned at the event with proceeds from the sale going to the Autumn Leaves charity which seeks to eradicate pancreatic cancer. The auction took place towards the end of the show and the car brought in a staggering $275,000 dollars, a full $175k over its expected sale price.
For the first time since Luftgekühlt began, there was a cover to get in, though it was only $10 it represents a big shift in the mindset behind the show. What was once a gathering of enthusiasts is now in the process of becoming a global brand with the attendant costs of doing business. This isn’t meant as a slight, as it probably means that folks on the East coast and in Europe will get Luftgekühlts of their own in the future, and that’s awesome. We continue to hope that this becomes a template for more car events. It’s such a low key event where people are friendly with each other and nobody is standing around trying to spray wax their car all day. We didn’t see a single person with a vape and just the one leather pants clad baby. It will be interesting to see how the event changes if they take it out of its Southern California setting, if that magic changes with the scenery.
Photos Courtesy of V3LLUM