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Kneeling Before the Altar of Porsche


A Look into Luftgekühlt

Porsche, a tiny company that started building bathtub-shaped cars in a disused sawmill in Austria, has always been an oppositional force to the relentless march of the status quo.

The 550 Spyder and its successor the 718 RSK spat in the face of their clumsy, heavy, V8-powered competition and then danced their way to dozens of race victories. The 911, long derided by armchair racers and dyed-in-the-wool Luddites as having its engine “in the wrong place” has been in continuous production for over 50 years and has cast an impossibly long shadow over motorsport as a whole thanks to countless wins in nearly every racing category conceived of by man. Porsche’s bull-headed determination to be not only different but better has bred its own cult of rabid, single-minded enthusiasts, for whom “There Is No Substitute.”

The Coolness of Air-Cooled Porsches

Of all the many sects to be found in the cult of Porsche, none is more devout than the one dedicated to the air-cooled cars. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what it is about these air-cooled flat-four and flat-six engines that endear themselves so deeply to people, perhaps it’s their relative simplicity or maybe it’s their sound, clattery and mechanical, unmuffled by water passages and heavy castings. Maybe it’s simply the fact that it represents a different way of thinking.

Whatever the reason for it, it’s this mysterious pull that brought hundreds of people to Culver City, California, early on a Sunday morning in March to celebrate all things air-cooled at Luftgekühlt, an event put on by Porsche works driver Patrick Long and his friend Howie Idelson.

A Porsche Happening

Luftgekühlt is an interesting event because it consciously avoids many of the trappings of a formal Porsche event. There are no awards handed out, there is no charge to get in, kids and dogs are welcome, and the age range of attendees is vast. Attendees span the gap from toddlers in Porsche shirts to Le Mans winning race car drivers and movie stars, everyone speaking to one another in the common language of Porsche.

Most cars, those that are road-legal anyway, are driven there, some from great distances. People spend their time talking to other enthusiasts rather than dusting their cars or shining their tires. The range of cars is also fairly staggering, with everything from daily driver 911 SCs and heavily patinated 912s to Bruce Meyer’s Le Mans-winning 935 race car, all presented in the spirit of enthusiasm for the brand and with a minimum of ego.

Bandito Bros. provided their office space — a staggeringly beautiful, perfectly executed and sumptuously furnished former warehouse — for the event. The offices were replete with gorgeous mid-century modern furniture and stunning surrealist Polish movie posters. The bookshelves are filled with books organized by color and littered about the place are succulent-filled planters.

Chic almost to the point of vulgarity, this was the ideal backdrop for the truly exceptional cars displayed within. Among those were an Interscope-liveried early 935, Spike Feresten’s gorgeous 911L factory lightweight race car, a 964 C4 Leichtbau (one of maybe two in the U.S.), pre-eminent Porsche photographer Jeff Zwart’s 906, and a pristine 904 Carrera GTS that once be-longed to famed Southern California Porsche dealer Vasek Polak. Also in the building, Australian surf/motorcycle/art/clothing/coffee/culture luminaries Deus Ex Machina were screen printing event posters and selling beautiful event shirts and sweaters with artwork by their co-founder and chief designer (as well as fellow Porsche enthusiast) Carby Tuckwell.

The Next Generation

Luftgekühlt is the embodiment of everything that an automotive enthusiast gathering should be. It is fun, accessible, friendly, beautiful, well organized and well executed by people who truly care about the Porsche brand. It’s a high water mark for a community that has, in the past, had something of an image problem and one that is now in the midst a generational crisis, a changing of the guard if you will. Luftgekühlt serves as a handshake, and maybe a détente of sorts, between the older Porsche enthusiasts who enjoyed these cars when they were new and a younger generation who stared at them on their bedroom walls and thought to themselves, “One day.”

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