It’s been a week since the biggest annual aircooled Porsche show blitzed into and out of Los Angeles. I’m still trying to make sense of what happened.
Ten years ago, if you asked people what “Luft” was, they’d probably look at you strange. German speakers would translate it directly into “air,” while a few astute souls would ask if you were referring to the popular song “99 Luftballoons.” Five years ago, a group of people met up at Deus on a Sunday morning, with an assortment of aircooled Porsches. The fever was just beginning to sweep the P-car market, but these individuals were loyal fans of the brand.
That morning meet has blossomed into a movement. Four events in, the word “Luftgekuhlt” has gained a life of its own, instantly synonymous with a show in Los Angeles that pays tribute to Porsche cars without radiators. I had never attended one, in spite of a planned attempt last year, when my dates didn’t coincide.
Every year, the coverage grew. Social media would be awash with Porsche content for a week prior and after the event. I’d thoroughly enjoy scrolling through the photos and telling myself that I’d attend at some point.
As it turned out, LA came calling and I found myself in sunny California, as tickets for Luft 5 went on sale. As my wallet shed a tear or two, I wondered what it would be like to attend this event that I’ve been observing for so long on Instagram and Facebook. Cautious optimism became my mantra….till the last week before the event.
As people started flying into town and social media traffic bore the distinct flavor of the Stuttgart crest, the anticipation began to build. Luftgekuhlt was the word on everyone’s lips. As the days ticked by, tickets sold out, only adding to the fervor around aircooled Porsches. Pre-Luft events, parties, dinners and drives were hastily chalked out as people took the opportunity to enjoy it while it lasted. I decided to devote my energy solely to the event and took it easy.
Sunday, April 22nd. 6:47 a.m. I’m in a convoy of Porsche 912s, headed by John Benton. We’re all headed to Luftgekuhlt 5. The excitement is reaching a crescendo.
Around 7, we reached the Ganahl Lumber Yard in Torrance. It’s a blur after that.
Aircooled Porsches all around. From the queue to enter, to the neat aisles formed between outdoor wood storage, they were everywhere. 911s, 912s, 914s, 964s, Carreras and SCs were literally everywhere. The colors would have put a spring bloom to shame. Hues of grey clashed with burgundy, mint green, Guards Red, ochre and Miami Blue.
I took a few moments to walk around and get my bearings before I aimed my camera. That turned out to be a mistake, because all I could see after my walk was a red “Overload” sign flashing in my eyes!
The theme of the event was centered around the “lumber angle”, specifically how the early Gmund coupes were made in a former lumber yard in Austria. If the place had been as big as the Ganahl yard, I’d wager good money that they never left. This place was huge!
A dedicated motorsport section held some prized jewels from the Porsche world. The Singer Mulholland car, multiple RSRs, 935s, a 908 “Short Tail” and a 959 held sway over the crowd’s attention. Vic Elford would later climb into the 908 to give the crowd a few revs, which was instantaneously beamed to every living corner of the planet.
By 11 a.m. I had put my camera away. Trying to navigate between people’s legs was anything but amusing and I kept running into friends.
Speaking of friends, Ryan Gates and Luis Fraguada of 311 RS had flown in from Minneapolis for the event, as had Andrew Florin from Chicago. It was great to spend a couple moments with them after so long.
The rest of the crowd was a combination of Hollywood, Porsche celebrities, aircooled enthusiasts and families who had set the day aside for the event. Dempsey, Elford, Long, Feresten, Zwart, Keen and Idelson were all around the event space, ultimately getting interviewed by the man putting tangents on vectors – J.F. Musial.
All these factors only combined to stir up the tempo of the event. By noon, the word “tired” began to enter people’s conversations. A clear sky and a merciless sun were forcing people into the shade. A slow trickle of cars grew into a steady stream as the aircooled faithful headed for the exits.
By 3 p.m., there was a handful of cars scattered around the space. As we decided to call it a day, we met Patrick Long. He looked slightly sunburned and a bit tired (something he confirmed), but it was the look of quiet accomplishment on his face that spelled it out for the rest of us. Luftgekuhlt 5 had been a roaring success. Packed to capacity, the lumber yard had served its purpose like never before.
As we tucked into a post-Luft meal and rehashed all that we had seen and heard through the day, I could only reflect on a whirlwind of a day that had come and gone with the clatter of a “Luftgekuhlt” flat-six.
Would I change anything for next year? Yes, I’ll leave my camera at home.
If this piece seems haphazard, it’s because it is. I’m still reeling from the show, simply because there was so much to see. I know that my words and the images will not do justice to what I felt that day, so I can only suggest one alternative, attend the show! A hat tip to all the organizers who did a stellar job putting this many cars and people in a lumber yard for a day.