Event // Water cooling at Luftgekühlt GB
Words and photography by Andrew Coles
Have we reached peak air cooled Porsche yet? It seems like the cars have never been more popular and values have skyrocketed accordingly, and everywhere you look, people are jumping to piggy-back on the popularity. But even though the Luftgekühlt air-cooled Porsche shows have only been around for a handful of years, they are not copying or imitating anything. They are the original.
The small Luftgekühlt team has been responsible for five landmark events in Los Angeles, and they have quickly set the standard for what a car gathering should be. From the location, the atmosphere and the merchandise, nothing is left to chance. Every detail is considered and carefully blended to produce the desired end result.
Luftgekühlt is the passion project of double Le Mans class winner and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long, and Southern Californian creative director, Howie Idelson. Until Luft GB, they’d never staged a Luftgekühlt event outside of Southern California.
The renowned ex-WWII Air Force base at Bicester Heritage was chosen as the location for obvious reasons. Not only has its many crumbling buildings and expansive grounds been transformed into the only specialist classic car business park in the UK, but those very crumbling buildings provide endless opportunity for the careful curation of a standout show.
Handling the creative production of the show was noted Porsche icon Jeff Zwart, who is equally as well known for his exploits behind the wheel of various Porsche rally cars and Pikes Peak machines, and for his photography and cinematic direction work. Yes, he’s the guy who turbocharged a 997 Cup Car and broke a record when Pikes Peak was still half gravel, and he’s filmed and directed many of the Porsche commercials we see on our televisions.
It was Jeff who carefully studied the Bicester Heritage premises and carefully placed cars where he wanted them for maximum effect. He described the process as being quite similar to framing a photograph, but then not actually taking the photograph. Instead, attendees are encouraged to do that themselves.
It was indecently wet for the inaugural Luft GB, as is befitting of an event held during the British summer. However, that’s not the full truth of it, as up until the day of the show Britain had been basking in weeks of sunshine more akin to California.
The country had so much sun over a sustained period of time that the usually lush grounds of Bicester Heritage had dried off to a golden tinge. The British were getting tans, sunshine was the norm and all was good, and everyone just kind of expected the good weather to carry on for Luft. Indeed, the sun returned that afternoon and hung around for a few more weeks – it was just wet for those few hours that particular Sunday morning.
Sports Car Safari had even arranged to borrow a 718 RSK replica from Classic Car Club London for the weekend, and we buzzed it around the city for an entire day beforehand in gloriously warm sunshine. On the morning of the show the heavens opened, and with no roof, no windscreen and no wet weather gear, we elected to leave the happy little 718 in London and took something with a roof instead.
On the way up we were feeling rather smug about our decision until we were passed at about 90mph by a genuine Porsche 550 Spyder, pelting through the driving rain. They had no roof or windscreen either and their car was worth several million pounds more than ours, yet they were not dissuaded. The Porsche spirit is strong.
It’s a testimony to the famed Porsche spirit of all-weather use that the dreariness didn’t put many owners off. Perhaps attendance figures from non-Porsche driving attendees was a little lower, but there was no shortage of desireable air-cooled machines to study in between the rain storms for those of us who were happy to put up with soggy feet. If anything, the weather sorted the wheat from the chaff.
We’ll be ready and waiting next time the Luft team returns to British shores, and hopefully, we can offer them some better weather as well.