Air|Water Returns for a Highly Anticipated Sequel at OC Fairground

Photography: Christian Villagran

  • The organizers of Luftgekühlt came up with Air | Water to bridge the generational divide between Porsche ownership.
  • While Luft has decided to focus on international activations in 2024, Air | Water represents the company’s standalone effort to showcase the marque in the United States.
  • This second-ever gathering moved to the sprawling OC Fairgrounds to accommodate more Porsches and eager enthusiasts.

Every great generational milestone addresses a problem. Facebook was created as a platform to connect people around the university when texting cost us 10 cents a pop. The first Coachella was born from Pearl Jam’s famous boycott against Ticketmaster-influenced venues in 1993. Luftgekühlt (or “Luft”) was no different for creating an event for Porsche owners and dreamers. The brand is the brainchild of two guys who’ve immersed themselves in the marque: two-time Le Mans class winner Patrick Long and creative director Howie Idelson. The result of that mind-melding was an experiential car culture event—perhaps one of the first to break a traditional car show format—that celebrated interesting Porsches, creative people, and breathtaking venues. This exercise blended lots of the things that impassioned Long and Idelson equally. After the first Luft, they found out that there were thousands more that agreed with them.

After nine iterations, the pair introduced another problem-solving show called Air | Water. The new show broke through the barrier that the “Luft” brand created for itself and vowed to celebrate the full breadth of Porsche’s lineage. The problem wasn’t that interest in air-cooled Porsches was waning. It was an astute recognition that for many of us who grew up in the 90s and onward, our bedroom poster cars weren’t 356s and G-bodies. They were 964s, 993s, and eventually, GT1s, GT3s, Carrera GTs from the brand’s water-cooled era. In that way, it wasn’t so much of a generational shift as it was an accommodation.


The first go was an immense success. The gorgeous Mare Island event space was repurposed the day after Luft 9 and offered spectators and media the opportunity to marvel at Luft’s incredible ability to attract the country’s best air and water-cooled examples.

The follow-up event in 2024 had immense shoes to fill. It was also the first time Air | Water had to stand on its own two feet; unlike last year, it wouldn’t have Luft’s draw to bolster its attendance. To ensure Air | Water’s sequel wasn’t limited by space, Long and Idelson booked the OC Fairgrounds, a sprawling, open-air event venue in Costa Mesa, California. The setting—one likely to host Air | Water again—afforded ample breathing room and staging opportunities. It may not have offered as many “hidden gems” as Mare Island, but that might have been a deliberate pivot. Last year’s show felt like a game of Porsche discovery; depending on where you walked or the time of day you walked by particular buildings, cars would virtually “reveal” themselves. As a photographer, hunting for the right moment to capture cars was immensely exciting. But as a spectator, that experience may have been somewhat frustrating. The new venue leveled that playing field for sure, although admittedly, it seemed to have lost a splash of uniqueness.


As I’ve mentioned, the OC Fairgrounds is vast. As a result, plenty of cars came from the avid Porsche community, versus Luft’s standalone effort to curate the entire field. The wood stands that we saw at Mare Island were back again. These displays made it easy for us to find the gems among the crowd. Even though they weren’t different from last year’s effort in any way, they looked right at home in the new space. The indoor spaces were vast too, and for the first time incorporated a bustling auction. There was, undeniably, more to do than later year, but just like the outdoor layouts, the curated footprints weren’t nearly as unique as 2023.

Let me be clear: that doesn’t mean that the show fell short in any way. The Luft team made expert use of every unique fairground space. They even created a little 996 Roadtrip-esque display in the grass, allowing attendees to display their rooftop tents amongst each other. The sports arena took on a cool “desert” theme. Inside the stadium confines, you were treated to some of Porsche’s off-road, Dakar, and Pikes Peak builds from the past. But the amphitheater took the cake for Air | Water’s best display. Front and center to this all-white party was the Footwork FA12 Porsche, a Formula 1 relic from 1990 that ran a Mezger-designed Type 3512 (3.5-liter V12) engine. It wasn’t the most successful motorsport endeavor from the brand by any means, but its exploration was significant in focusing Porsche’s efforts for the decades after. Had its fates been different, we may not have met the Carrera GT as we know it.


In the United States, 2024 will welcome periodical cicadas above ground in the south and midwest regions. This rare phenomenon seems to coincide with Porsche’s appreciation for two previously discarded eras: pre-911 (356) and transaxles. These two periods were well-represented at Air | Water, including the rarest RS—the 968—which was deservedly put on a pedestal surrounded by other transaxle brethren. 356s of every type—A, B, C—were scattered around the grounds, too. The peppering was an important reminder of where the brand came from, especially as we take into account where it’s going.


Luft has decided to focus on two international activations in 2024: Poland and Denmark. As a result, Air|Water represented the company’s standalone effort to showcase the marque in the United States. Although there’s no doubt that Luft will eventually come back stateside, Air|Water has made it clear that it’s here to stay and promises to build on its foundational mission. Fortunately for us, Porsche keeps building cars that resonate with enthusiasts, so we have a lot to look forward to in Air|Water’s proud future.