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Luftgekühlt 4 — Das Huge!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Article by Ezekiel Wheeler
Photos by Lisa Linke

Seeing a kid experience the immensity of their favorite theme park for the first time is exactly what Luftgekühlt four felt like for grown-ups this year. Normally, its difficult to recreate that experience but Patrick Long and Howie Idelson have perfected the art of curating a transcendent Porsche enthusiast event.

Above: Luftgekühlt co-founder Patrick Long at the fourth event, in 2017. The car in the background on the left was the first Porsche to win at Le Mans. It was recently restored by Emory Motorsports.

Since hosting the first Luftgekühlt at Deus Ex Machina in Venice, California, the two have responded to the overwhelming attendance and support in kind, offering a new venue, a new backdrop, and amping up the unicorn factor at every opportunity. How?

"...It's the magic of what we do," Howie Idelson tells us, "we have a network that we've been able to build on since Luft 1. Our network is what makes (the show) work. It's carefully planned out, and every detail, down to where the cars are parked is taken into consideration. Pat and I even spent the night in our cars before the show to make sure nothing was left to chance."

While official numbers haven't been released, nor do we expect them to, it's estimated that several thousands of attendees ventured to Luft 4 this year. I arrived at 6:30 AM to get a lay of the land, and already the designated air-cooled parking lot was filled with several hundred cars, with even more on the way. The show didn't officially start until 7 AM but that didn't stop the early birds from lining up waiting for the front entrance to open up.

Once it did, the show was packed shoulder to shoulder with Porsche fans young, old, and even famous. The coffee line was several hundred feet long and the official merch tables were stacked with patient attendees looking to grab some memorabilia. 

When asked about the diverse collection of goods and collectibles, including their newly released Luftgekühlt book, Idelson had this to say: "...its been amazing and overwhelming to develop (the merch each year). People want to own a piece of the experience as their first interaction with the show, put it in their car, come back to enjoy the rest of the day. That's incredibly rewarding and special to us to see this."

Two halls were curated like a pop-up Porsche museum. The backdrop was even carefully planned, as each car displayed was framed by various oversized vintage Pirelli tire posters from the company's history. Believe it or not, Porsche only supplied the event with a handful of vehicles from their collection, while private owners from across the country brought in the remaining field of Porsche iconography. To think that this caliber of vehicles are sleeping somewhere at this very moment in someone's private garage is unfathomable. Imagine the daunting logistics surrounding the movement and care of these cars as they prepared, arrived, and departed this event, a feat that rivals some of the best concours events around the globe. 

That's what Luftgekühlt 4 felt like, a concours, or as put by one attendee, "it's like seeing your favorite punk band in a football stadium."  While Pat and Howie long for the days of a few diehard aficionados hanging out in a parking lot, they might actually make a come back. However, not in LA ... for now. "We have plans for the future. Potentially smaller shows outside of LA. We've already started identifying potential sites and candidates for next year."

Trying to pick a select few cars to feature here on, was a daunting task, but we decided that we'd take a strategic approach to the process. One unicorn car, one "I can't believe I'm seeing this" car, and a car that raised the bar. 

Above, from foreground to background: Porsche 904 Carrera GTS; Porsche 550 Spyder; Porsche Gmünd 356 SL.

The unicorn: 1949 Porsche Gmünd 356/2 SL – Perhaps the most significant Porsche 356 to ever exist, especially for Luft fans. This started the Porsche racing dynasty and would influence the company's strategy behind vehicle development programs for the decades that followed. The car has been campaigned in vintage car series throughout the world, but when it was discovered that the car had more historical significance it was then left in the hands of Emory Motorsports to restore its original Le Mans racing coupe form. The car was last seen at PCA’s Tech Tactics west in November 2016 and the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, winning second in its class (the only time it lost to a Maserati). Today, it lives in a private collection, and it was fitting to see it on a pedestal under a chandelier as if it were the Great Gatsby himself ready to greet his guests.

Above: Porsche 911R.

The "I can't believe I'm seeing this" car: 1967 Porsche 911R. Fueled by obsession, the original 911R was the brainchild of Ferdinand Pëich and Rolf Wütherich. Two men who took it upon themselves to eliminate excess they knew limited the performance of the 911 S at the time. Only 19 production cars were built and only four prototypes. This was nothing short of awe inspiring. Before Singer, before outlaws, and even before the RS 2.7, the R was, and still remains, the pinnacle of infatuation amongst Porsche purists. To this day, the car is the lightest 911 ever created by the company. While the new 911R is creating new fans of the nameplate, the aura surrounding this car is insatiable.

Above: One of two Rothsport Racing Porsche 964 Safaris that recently raced in the NORRA Mexican 1000.

The car(s) that raised the bar: Rothsport Porsche 964 Safari NORRA Mexican 1000 Off-Road race cars. We've seen safari builds and YouTube viewers are loving the fact that they can see Porsches' tearing up the dirt as well as they do on the tarmac. But for Jeff Zwart and his band of merry "why not" men, the Safari built Porsches offered a new challenge. Take a 964 across 1,200 grueling, unforgiving territory and finish. They accepted that goal and relentlessly pushed the cars beyond measure. The best purpose-built trophy truck and buggy chassis don't often reach the finish line, but for a unibody, rear engine "vintage" Porsche, they did. Jeff and the Rothsport crew managed to keep the cars in the race despite a few close calls and unfavorable ground clearance moments, finishing 3rd and 4th in their class (Vintage Production).

Be sure to click the lead image to start a slideshow of additional images (or scroll down on mobile).

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