- Luftgekühlt (“Luft”) is the king of the air-cooled gathering, putting together some of the most memorable Porsche events of the past decade.
- Water-cooled engines have supplanted air-cooled motors since the introduction of the 996-generation 911 in 1997, yet this modern demographic has been largely ignored in the event space.
- With Luft 9 in the books a day prior, the organizers curated a mixed show aptly called Air | Water to bridge the generational divide between Porsche ownership.
- This first-ever Air | Water event remixed the Mare Island Naval base grounds to showcase the full range of Porsche’s lineage.
A conundrum lingered for Luftgekühlt: is it better to celebrate the modern Porsche lineup with a standalone gathering or should the focus be meshing the two worlds? It was only a matter of time before that question arose. After all, Porsche’s last air-cooled car rolled off the production line in 1998 and there is certainly no sign of going back.
Luftgekühlt’s Air | Water event was the eventual result of that debate and I think it was the right call. Although the affinity for the aviation-inspired engine (and sound) will likely remain constant for many years, for many of us who grew up in the 90s and onward, our bedroom poster cars weren’t 356s and G-bodies, they were teetering on the borderline between air-cooled and water-cooled Porsches — the 964s, 993s, and eventually, GT1s, GT3s, Carrera GTs, and the like.
A FAMILIAR BACKDROP
The photos may give you a bit of deja vu but for good reason. Air | Water, like its exclusively air-cooled counterpart, called Mare Island — a repurposed Naval base — home for the event which took place the day after Luftgekühlt 9. Having attended Luft, I was definitely curious to see how heavily the space would be remixed.
Well, the layout wasn’t revolutionary from the day before, but it honestly didn’t need to change much for Air | Water to make an impactful impression. Most of the already impressive structures were peppered with all-new automotive artwork; where there were air-cooled cars twelve hours prior sat water-cooled examples in present time. Some familiar faces from Luft were sitting in new places with fresh companions. Platforms were stamped with Air | Water branding and modern machinery to match. It was interesting to see the same setting take on a new light so quickly.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
I’ll have to admit, Air | Water felt like more of a “complete” show since it captured the whole of Porsche’s proud lineage. The marque has a ridiculous hit-to-miss ratio and virtually every model from its history was represented, save for maybe a 918 Spyder. Even a few Panamera owners came out to play.
The vibe was definitely different from Luft no doubt, but the “car bubble” crowd was still happily absent. They were probably too busy pounding keys on the forums about their single-digit mileage. As a result, there were no stanchions blocking any opportunity to ogle even the most valuable cars. It was cool to see veterans of the brand finding things to admire about the new cars, younger fans finding something in cars that were something twice their age, and parents and children sharing the experience together. Even the dogs I saw were stoked. This is what it was all about.
STYLE IS ETERNAL
The more persistent dialogue has been around the generational ownership differences and the debate between air and water-cooled powerplants, but I’m here to tell you that the through line — one that the Luftgekühlt brand is so adept at navigating — is style. And the best of every style was represented here, whether new or old, modified or stock, or wide or narrow.
There were cars created to make a splash — like lifted Cayennes or the Hoonipigasus — who made as much of a statement as old 356 Speedsters or RS Americas who couldn’t be bothered to get a wash before the event. There’s no right way to do it. But this balanced curation of style is a surefire way to ensure the bridge gets built and maintained.
A TEST PASSED
Air | Water’s existence is an acknowledgment of a unique transitional time in automotive culture. Like the cars themselves, the enthusiasts that grew up in the 90s navigate between analog and digital worlds. We remember when the Internet didn’t exist or having to use landlines to call our friends, but we know how convenient it is to have an iPhone, smart home devices, and even email now. As a result, some of us want the latest and greatest cars with the latest and greatest tech, others want the old-school, analog experience with the benefits of Bluetooth, and the rest crave the unfiltered, uninterrupted driving experience full stop.
The beauty of Air | Water is that it had it all. While Luft had me wishing and wanting for entry into an elusive club, I felt represented by Air | Water. The concept of meshing Porsche’s two worlds virtually guarantees that the Luftgekühlt brand will transcend its name’s original intent in order to widen its appeal to younger audiences. If this year’s Air | Water event was purely a test, I can honestly say it passed with flying colors.
NOW OR NEVER
Every 90s kid would probably recognize the title as a little nod to Captain Planet. As the superhero would say at the end of each episode, “The Power is Yours” and in the context of cars, it is a poignant point to make today more than ever.
There is a bigger transition looming, one with bigger implications for our world as automotive enthusiasts: the end of fuel as we know it. It may come as no surprise, but Porsche is at the forefront of a solution that doesn’t involve relegating the cars we love to becoming museum pieces. Air | Water, and the enthusiast fervor it maintains and creates amongst young fans, is crucial to propelling alternative solutions like this forward. Simply put, the more people that care about experiencing and enjoying petrol-powered cars — even outside of the Porsche brand — will save them.
We have Luftgekühlt to thank for pushing this effort. It would’ve been easy enough to accept Luft as a knock-out success and leave it there. But instead, we have Air | Water and the new excitement, passion, and countless opportunities that come with it. The power is ours to make it more than just an event for our generation and those to follow.