Luftgekühlt 6 Was A Star-Studded Celebration Of Air-Cooled Porsches And Their Fans
Photography by Thomas Lavin
The series of Luftgekühlt car shows—Porsche geek-outs that assemble the deepest rosters of of air-cooled eye candy outside the marque’s museum in Stuttgart—marked its sixth Los Angeles edition this past weekend, and in doing so begged the question of what could top the spectacle that was laid out in the pseudo Manhattans and Wild Wests that form the backlot of Universal Studios.
Between nearly 400 cars, well over a magnitude more than that in foot traffic, and the surreal container of genuine Hollywood constantly framing it all, “Luft 6” was an overwhelming display of what happens when daydreams are married to logistics and diligence. Patrick Long, Howie Idelson, Jeff Zwart, and all the others behind the earned success of this brand were surely not the first bunch of car enthusiasts to envision such a moonshot of a show—pulling it off is the really unique bit.
The Porsche-only (and only air-cooled) aspect of these events has never been a limiting factor before thanks to both the manufacturer’s portfolio and Los Angeles’ thirst for it, but the concept of changing venues with each iteration is what separates and makes Luftgekühlt the model for modern ways to appreciate old cars in person. Adaptive, dynamic, and all sorts of other résumé-padding adjectives actually fit in this case. How many times have you seen a hot-rodded 911 in a parking lot at Cars & Coffee before? How many times have you seen a row of them in front of the Back to the Future courthouse with a 917 juxtaposed onto a city sidewalk a head swivel away? This show sold out in fewer than 48 hours for a reason.
Our friends at Chopard invited us to join them in celebrating the short but strong history of Luftgekühlt this year with a limited edition chronograph from the Mille Miglia line—limited to six pieces, the Mille Miglia GTS Speed Black is a strong, neat timepiece with a subtle tachometer theme and design inputs from event co-founder Patrick Long, and something we were happy to borrow and reluctant to return after a few quick shots on Chopard’s refreshingly honest 550 Spyder.
Honesty became a fun measuring stick for the day from that point on. After all, you’ve got a location the sole purpose of which is to mimic other ones—it prompts some questions about what’s real and what isn’t, as do some of the tighter faces in the crowd.
Lacking originality is not necessarily a dig—un-mangling a trashed race car is not erasing its history in the same way giving its unmarred twin a new coat of paint would be—but there will always be somebody willing to take the other side of the argument. Take the 917 PA (“Porsche+Audi”) that was on display next to the Can-Am greats that it paved the way for, the turbocharged 917/10 and 917/30, for example. This chassis was a factory foray into the American Can-Am series early in the 917’s life in 1969 that ended up in the hands of Vasek Polak after Porsche was done with it in the early 1970s, where it subsequently became a host of multiple bodyworks and engines for the remainder (and majority) of its in-period career: so, what is the correct, most genuine spec? The way it left the factory? The first time Vasek Polak repurposed it? The second time? For cars that’ve lived multiple lives, how do you decide which to pick?
Continuing with that theme, the two cars shown above provided some comparison fodder. The owner of the 356 described his car as a survivor, and it has all the right blemishes to corroborate that story; it’s original. The 934 wearing the sun-challenging shade of Jägermeister orange offers a different definition of survivor. The fit and finish of everything bolted and glued to that car is nearly perfect, but considering how few 934s survived in their original guise (many were spec’d up over the years for different series in privateer hands), the fact that it was put back in its birthday suit is a form of survival too—if you buy a car that’s already been through the modification and restoration gamut already, is taking it back to its first form a means of erasing history or reconstituting it?
Speaking of orange Porsches, the aerodynamically-intriguing tractor (a real-life oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one) pictured below was a crowd favorite that consistently stole attention from cars with race history at Le Mans, Spa, and the Nürburgring. The shell is not for any kind of speed attempt, though, but rather was wrapped around the tractor so that it wouldn’t damage the coffee beans during the harvest. Can you imagine the hipster cred this gizmo would receive in the Whole Foods parking lot? “Yeah, it’s vintage, European, and designed to be sympathetic to coffee beans in South America. Nice FJ full of Starbucks trash, poser.”
Pick a random vector to escape the tractor crowd and walk for a few seconds and you might end up sharing a sidewalk with a 936, a testament to both Porsche and this show that these two products are spending the day together. Lack of variety has never been a problem for the marque despite the 911 being the most recognizable sports car on the globe, and whether your prefer them showroom stock, race-prepped, swapped and souped, or wearing skids and treads where the Fuchs typically live, it was represented at Luftgekühlt among just about every other vehicle Porsche has cooled with a big fan or two.
This is an event that’s all but perfectly aligned with the instantly shared and instantly forgotten stream of content that degrades our collective attention span with each swipe of the thumb. It was very close to a literal set call for car Instagrammers. And yet it was obvious that a huge amount of thought and energy and bonafide interest and enthusiasm went into making such a thing possible, because even on a grid of made-up streets populated by empty buildings in the heart of Hollywood, you can’t fake that last bit.