It was merely intended as an intimate morning get-together. Just a few Los Angeles-area friends who shared a love of old air-cooled Porsches—a gathering that would not require a blazer-and-straw-hat dress code. That was Le Mans winner Patrick Long and indie artist Howie Idelson’s idea when they hosted their first event.
What transpired was Luftgekühlt—German for “air-cooled”—born in 2014 and first hosted at Deus Ex Machina in Venice, Calif. The turnout for the inaugural event—numbering in the hundreds—immediately overran Deus’s capacity. Long and Idelson had clearly underestimated the immediate impact their event would have on the car world.
Enthusiasts across the United States, hearing tales of this unique event out west, were quickly pestering the two men, wondering when the next Luftgekühlt would occur.
“At the time, we weren’t even certain there were that many air-cooled Porsche owners who’d be willing to get together on any given morning,” recalled Long in the days leading up to Luftgekühlt IV, held yesterday in San Pedro, Calif., the gritty harbor district at Los Angeles’s southernmost tip.
Attendees began arriving as the sun rose and early morning showers battled to a draw, resulting in a rainbow over the hills of Palos Verdes to the west—a rainbow that ended in a pot of air-cooled gold and tangerine, Signal Red and Bahama Yellow, and racing liveries aplenty. Porsches by the hundreds came rumbling over the Vincent Thomas Bridge from Long Beach to the east and down the 110 freeway from Downtown LA to the north, all converging among the last warehouses remaining from the pre-container days of LA Harbor.
By the time the event was in full swing, thousands of enthusiasts mingled inside the Crafted warehouse, wandering among a Gulf-livered, John Wyer Porsche 917, a Penske 917/30 Can Am car, a 904 GTS, and a pair of Rothsport Racing 911s campaigned only days prior by director Jeff Zwart in the Mexican 1000 race—to name but a few of the notable bits of eyecandy. Parked in the space outside, and in every parking lot for blocks around, were more air-cooled Porsches of every shape, size, generation, and condition.
Even Long and Idelson, whose friendship dates to their youthful days racing on local Southern California karting circuits, seem genuinely surprised by their event’s success. Long now jokes that, whatever his nominal role as co-founder, he is mostly just along for the ride now, taking orders from a movement that has developed a life its own.
“Luft is kind of doing its own thing now,” he says. “We’re just trying to keep up with it”
Despite “just keeping up” with Luftgekühlt, Long and Idelson have carved out a spot on the annual Porsche calendar that might soon rival Rennsport in its importance—if it doesn’t already. The event is accessible (attracting all manner of homebuilt creations), aspirational (did you see what Bruce Canepa, Bruce Meyer, and the folks from Singer Vehicle Design brought?), and influential, with builder Rod Emory debuting his first all-wheel-drive 356 build at this year’s event.
Despite Long’s modesty, none of this is an accident. Trying to put Luftgekühlt’s appeal into words, Long keeps coming back to two core goals: first, to educate and include attendees who might not fit the “nerd notion of air-cooled,” and second, to bring die-hard Porsche fanatics to a space and location that allows them to see their beloved air-cooled machines in a new context.
The result: An event that began as a morning coffee stop has evolved into a date noted on calendars. It’s an affair around which attendees plan an entire weekend, especially if they’re driving their Porsches across the country (as folks now do), or flying in from Asia or Europe (as folks now do, too).
Long and Idelson claimed not to have any grand long-term vision for Luftgekühlt when they held the first event. What, then, keeps them returning year after year, even as the event demands more and more from them each year?
“If the legends of the sport—the people who’ve been in this for forty-plus years—are asking when and where the next Luftgekühlt is going to be, and if our significant others and friends who aren’t otherwise huge Porsche fans want to know,” says Long, “then the decision is easy.”
Long and Idelson better get busy planning Luftgekühlt V.