Legends bringing the past and the present
BY ANJA FAHS
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2017)
This is like Christmas Day for Porsche enthusiasts: one Porsche after the other in a large courtyard located in San Pedro, California, the range of colours reminiscent of a rainbow – although the typical pastel hues of the 1960s and the bright colours of the 1970s seem to dominate the palette. These masterpieces are exclusively historical Porsche motorcars featuring legendary air-cooled engines. Surrounding the dazzling array of vehicles is an equally colourful mix of visitors, made up of business people, Hollywood celebrities, motor sports legends, auto mechanics and guy-next-door Porsche fans. We are at ‘Luftgekühlt’ (Air-Cooled), an absolutely unique Porsche event that celebrates these classic vehicles with their air-cooled engines.
It is a blend of relaxed car show, fan meet and social gathering. Being staged this year for the fourth time, the event is the brainchild of two-time Le Mans winner and Porsche US factory driver Patrick Long and indie artist and designer Howie Idelson. Since meeting at a kart track in Southern California in the early 1990s, they have shared a passion for classic Porsches. They founded the ‘Luftgekühlt’ series of automotive events, which is now no longer an insider secret within the Porsche community and attracts visitors from all over the world. Patrick Long chats to us about his obsession with motor sports and how he turned his passion into a vocation.
Patrick, when did your love affair with the Porsche brand start?
It all began in the mid-1980s, when I was a child. A family friend had an emerald green Porsche 911 Targa. I vividly remember the sound and the “cool factor”, as the car was driven into the garage by my friend’s Dad as he came home from work. Almost twenty years later was the first time I strapped into a Porsche 911 race car for my first test with the UPS Porsche Junior team Leipzig.
Where does your passion for classic cars come from?
As a child, I grew up in a family where many members were enthusiasts to vintage dirt track cars as well as 1930s hot rods, so I came into contact with oldtimers early on and the joy of it has remained.
What makes the air-cooled Porsches so iconic?
Its timeless and classic design of course, its lightweight and agile performance and handling and mechanical reliability. This is simply unmatched.
Do you think a very special area was gone after Porsche started its water-cooled engines?
Well I think it was the beginning of a very different era, but the classic flat six boxer engine design has been preserved through all generations.
When did you come up with the idea of organising vintage car events?
After I purchased my first air-cooled Porsche 911, I started attending various meets and car shows. I found myself inspired to try and produce a show that captured opposing styles and crowds.
Was it your intention right from the beginning that the event would only be about air-cooled Porsches? Or are other vintage cars welcomed as well?
The Luftgekühlt events are all about the celebration of Porsche’s air-cooled history. We have had a few guest visitors, but the air-cooled factor was the only thing that got them through the gate – that’s the one condition. That was a Pinzgauer and a VW transport.
Tell us about your first event. When and where did it take place?
Our very first event took place in September of 2014 in Venice Beach, California. It took place on the site of the coffee shop of "Deus Ex Machina", which is a brand that specialises in café racer motorcycles and surfing.
And what really drives these events today after four Luftgekühlt events so far?
It really is an entirely unique experience each year. It’s about the people and the passion for the brand. It’s no secret that Porsche and Southern California have a decorated and special relationship. We continue to embrace that while doing our best to introduce new subcultures and the youth to the brand.
I guess you already built a real fan base for Luftgekühlt. Who came to Luftgekühlt 4?
Luftgekühlt 4 was our largest event so far. More than 1000 air-cooled Porsche cars and 6000 people came through the gates, from infants and dogs to legends of the Porsche racing community. There was a wide range of attendees. Guests from Russia, Asia, Australia and beyond participated.
Already working on ideas for Luftgekühlt 5 in 2018 yet? Will it take place in Los Angeles again?
It’s no fun without a little bit of mystery and suspense. Statistics would cast promise on a spring event in Los Angeles in 2018, based on the last few years. We always have a few wild ideas up on the planning board at the Luftgekühlt office.
Any plans to jump over to Europe one day with Luftgekühlt and bring it to the Porsche home in Germany, for example?
Yes, that could happen. We have had a humbling amount of outreach and we are currently looking at the idea very closely.
How many 911s do you own?
Well, let’s just say at least one from each air-cooled decade.
If not a Porsche – what is your favourite vintage car?
I am a big fan of the beautiful aesthetic and design of a Lamborghini Miura.
You surely drove a lot of the best, most famous and fastest cars in the world – but is there still a car left on your wish list to drive one day?
The Porsche 908/3 is one of the cars that I hope to race soon. Lightweight and with a short wheel base, it has already been driven by a couple of my racing heroes, Redman and Elford. On the Nürburgring and the Targa Florio long distance race is where this car flourished.
The 36-year-old American started his career on the karting circuit. He switched to motor sports at the age of 18 and was soon frequently seen on the winner’s podium, before being offered a ‘Junior’ contract with Porsche in 2003. He regularly featured in ‘Cup’ races above all during his first season, has been a ‘Factory’ driver for Porsche since 2004 and is currently the team’s only American driver.
Picture credit © Ted Gushue/Petrolicious