Luftgekühlt 5: A Celebration of Air-Cooled Engineering

Text and photos by Dave Tormey

Luftgekühlt, which is German for ‘air-cooled’, is an annual Los Angeles-based event, which showcases a curated list of historically significant or interesting air-cooled Porsches, from both race and street. Now in its fifth year, Luftgekühlt is the brainchild of Porsche factory racing driver and two-time Le Mans class winner, Patrick Long, and creative director Howie Idelson. With each passing year, the event has grown in size as they have moved it to new and more exciting venues.

While a lumberyard in Torrance, California, may strike many of you as an unlikely venue for an automotive event, it was a perfect fit for a Porsche event, as the company can trace its earliest days to the grounds of a former sawmill in Gmünd, Austria. In fact, the owners of this year’s venue, Ganahl Lumber, also trace their family roots back to Austria. It was in those early days in Gmünd that 53 aluminum-bodied 356s were built in the old sawmill, and as you entered this year’s event you were greeted by this 1949 hand hammered Gmünd-built 356/2 coupe, owned by Jerry Seinfeld. It is thought to be the oldest unrestored Porsche in the world.

Unlike many events with such prestigious cars in attendance, there were no judges, no cars roped off, or placards obstructing attendee’s views. In fact, it was as if each car was carefully placed with special consideration given to lighting, colors, and surrounding vehicles. With every turn around a corner or down an aisle of lumber, it felt more like a curated museum exhibit than a car show, yet everything felt approachable, casual, and right at home.

Sold out completely, both for entrants and spectators, Luftgekühlt 5 filled the Ganahl Lumber facility with all types of air-cooled Porsches and the people who love them. Each section of the lumberyard provided a different feel thanks to its unique backdrops and careful segmentation of era and purpose.

At times the air-cooled community is divided by those who appreciate original or restored vehicles, labeled ‘purists’, and those who chose to modify these sought-after cars. Luftgekühlt seamlessly blended the two segments together and celebrated customization just as much as pedigree. For every restored 911 in attendance, there was one with a full patina and another modified example. There was quite literally, something for everyone to enjoy.

Porsche celebrities like Jeff Zwart, Alois Ruf, Patrick Long, and Rod Emory could be seen walking around all day chatting with friends and fans.

Emory himself played a role in bringing several stand-out cars to Luft, and he arrived in his 356 Outlaw with a Mini Speedster in tow.

Emory also brought the Gmünd SL 063 Le Mans Class Winner, which he debuted at Luftgekühlt last year after a thorough restoration.

The Porsche 908K proudly on display and center stage at Luft5 is a Kurzheck, or short-tail, version of the first Porsche to win a World Championship. Chassis 908 010 was raced by Vic Elford and Jochen Neerpasch at the 1000kms of Spa-Francorchamps, in Elford’s legendary 1968 season. “Quick” Vic Elford was among the many Porsche celebrities in attendance, and a large group formed around the 908K when he stepped into the very same car that he campaigned in Belgium some 50 years ago and gave it a few revs! It was a truly awesome moment to witness.

At the exits to the main building were a few other cars showcased on lumber stages like the 908K. This Porsche Formula 1 car and Grand Prix winner is the Porsche 804 chassis 03, which was driven by Southern Californian Dan Gurney to victory. Dan unfortunately passed away last year, but his car taking center stage with his family in attendance was a lovely tribute to his legacy.

Throughout the main hall there was a pop of color provided by these Pirelli Art Displays.

One of my personal favorites throughout the day was this 993 ‘Cupsport’ which was built by Ryan Gates of 311RS. It was, in my eyes, the perfect balance of period correct styling, with a handful of modern updates such as JRZ 3-way RS Pro dampers and BBi center lock hubs. Luft 5 served as the debut of this vehicle and the launch of the 993 311RS CupSport program. I, for one, am excited to see this new venture for 311RS take shape!

With the success of Singer’s reimagined 964s, Rod Emory’s Outlaw 356s, and other outfits like gProgramm catering to the restoration of G Body 911s. It’s only fitting that Bruce Canepa of Canepa Motorsport showed off his 959SC, a reimagining of perhaps the most advanced air-cooled Porsche ever. Originally a 450-hp, all-wheel-drive monster intended to race in Group B, the 959 was the poster car for an entire generation. Restored to Concours-quality with every nut and bolt gone over, the 959SC is tuned up to 800 hp, and this example sported an eye-catching custom red leather interior. Despite the price tag of over $2.5 million, three are already pre-sold, including this one.

Directly across from the Canepa 959SC was this stunning RUF CTR2 from Rstrada.

One of the crowd favorites of the day also happened to be the only non air-cooled car in attendance. This 1-of-6 Schuppan 962CR, was a car built from 1992 to 1994 by Australian racecar driver Vern Schuppan. It was built as a tribute to Schuppan’s 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and 1983 prototype title. This particular example has just 1 mile on the odometer and is owned by Matthew Ivanhoe.

Luftgekühlt 5 celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 964 Porsche 911, and the 25th anniversary of the 964 Carrera 3.8 RSR Le Mans victory, and boy was there a collection of 964s on display!

This Turmalin Green 964RS is one of only 2 Porsches in the world that wear this color. The other is the Panamericana Concept car which resides in Stuttgart, Germany and belongs to the Porsche family.

The 1993 Le Mans class-winning Larbre Competition 964 Carrera 3.8 RSR was part of the celebration of 30 years of the 964, and 25 years of the 964 RSR. It also graced the official Luft 5 event poster.

It was in good company with two of the most iconic 934’s parked in the same row, the Interscope and Burton Kremer RSR.

In addition to witnessing Vic Elford rev up the 3.0-liter flat-eight engine of the 908K, we had the pleasure of hearing this twin-turbocharged 917/10 being fired up as well!

Unlike some events where the rare or most valuable cars can all be found congregated in one area. There were rare finds like this RUF BTR2 and 904-6 scattered throughout the venue.

As the day came to an end and the crowd thinned out, the sun shifted and the rows of cars that were previously in the shadows of the racks of lumber, were now perfectly lit.

In just 5 short years, Luftgekühlt has become a household name within the Porsche community. Co-founders Patrick Long and Howie Idelson, and their staff have pulled off the difficult feat of not only surprising attendees with new and exciting venues each year, but at the same time they have continued to increase the quantity of cars without sacrificing the quality. It’s hard to imagine how this year’s event could be topped, but I for one look forward to the next year’s untold stories and cars.