Luftgekühlt 5: Air-Cooled Porsche Heaven
If you ever go to Luftgekühlt (German for “air-cooled”), be prepared to apologize. A lot.
Created by the only current North American Porsche works racer (and winner of Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, and Petit Le Mans, to name a few), Patrick Long, and Southern California art director/designer Howie Idleson, Luftgekühlt has gone from a great annual Southern California event to an international destination for luft lovers over the last five years. This year was the festival’s biggest yet and was sold out almost a week before the event even began.
Due to this popularity, Luft 5 was packed. And with so many phones and DSLR cameras poking and prodding from the hands of thousands of foaming Porsche enthusiasts, it’s hard not to unintentionally photobomb someone’s next computer wallpaper, resulting in echoes of “I’m sorry” and “excuse me” throughout the venue.
Hundreds of Porsches from Pre-A 356s to 993s – the last of the air-cooled Porsches – were on overwhelming display and in almost every color combination imaginable.
The location changes every year, and this year’s host happened to be Ganahl Lumber Company in Torrance, CA – a Willy Wonka of sawmills that provided a constant (yet pleasant) woody fragrance to the day’s festivities. So, what does Porsche and a lumber yard have in common? Well actually, quite a bit.
Based out of Zuffenhausen in North Stuttgart, Germany, Porsche’s headquarters were under threat from Allied bombing raids during WWII in the early 1940s. As a result, Porsche needed to relocate to a more peaceful part of the continent where they could begin to churn out their work on military and civilian projects. The chosen destination was an old sawmill in Gmünd – a small town in Austria. Porsche continued to use the sawmill post-WWII and employed over 200 workers there by the end of 1946. In ’48, the first of 53 aluminum-bodied 356 coupes were constructed in the mill, heralding the birth of Porsche as a manufacturer of sports cars. It wasn’t until 1949 that Porsche moved back to Stuttgart.
So, as you can see, it was a rather thoughtful effort from the pair of Long and Idleson, and created a truly unique setting for the stars of the show.
One of these stars was a 1949 Porsche 356/2 that actually came from the aforementioned sawmill in Gmünd. The slight creases of the handcrafted aluminum body were evident and absolutely gorgeous to see in person.
It shared its company with an ultra-rare 1968 Porsche 908k once raced by legendary Porsche driver “Quick” Vic Elford in the Spa-Francorchamps 1000km 50 years ago. One of the event’s highlights came when Elford himself got back behind the wheel of the 908k for some gentle engine revving – creating an instant swarm of people eager to immortalize the moment on their phone or camera (this writer included).
Another notable Porsche was the Porsche 804 Formula 1 car, chassis 03 which was driven to victory by the late great Dan Gurney at the Solitude Grand Prix in 1962 in front of a record crowd of 320,000 people.
There were also celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the 964, and the 25th anniversary of Porsche’s official return to GT racing with the 964 Carrera 3.8RS. So there was a collection of ex-964 RSRs were on hand, including the 1993 Le Mans class-winner campaigned by Larbre Competition and driven by Jurgen Barth, Joel Gouhier, and Dominique Dupuy.
All in all, it was a beautiful event held under cloudless sunny Southern California skies and certainly a Luft to remember.
So, don’t let the long German name put you off (heck, even Quick Vic didn’t attempt to say it that day). This is an event that is mandatory for any Porsche lover to attend – just practice your apologies.
For more info about Luftgekühlt, CLICK HERE.