In April of last year, I visited Ganahl Lumber's Torrance, Calif. headquarters for an afternoon of discovery, as I dove headfirst into my first Luftgekuhlt event—the organizations 5th annual installment. Not fully aware of what to expect other than social media blasts and word of mouth, I was blown away by the vehicles on hand and perhaps more so by the lumberyard's OCD-level of organization that provided an uncommon backdrop that, unless you read about the relationship between Porsche and the old sawmill near Gmund, Austria, during World War II, might leave you shrugging your shoulders as to why the location was chosen. The last thing I said in that article was that I wonder what unique location they'd come up with next, and quite honestly, from a photography perspective, I didn't think that anything could top year five. Well, on May 11th, as I stepped foot on the backlot of Universal Studios and took a look around, I realized that somehow, someway, they'd managed to outshine their 2018 show.
It's not hard to visualize the imagery that comes from combining some of the nation's finest original, restored, and modified Porsche with a Hollywood backdrop that includes a courthouse square (the same one used to film portions of Back to the Future), New York street, an old western setting, and a small Mexican town. However, as an event organizer myself, I'm fully aware that the act of reserving the space and all of the red tape involved, rolling in what seemed like an endless line of cars and accommodating over 6,000 visitors along with car owners and guests is no small feat. And other than a hiccup during the media's intended 7am arrival that delayed our entry, the entire process felt seamless—hats off to the Luftgekuhlt 6 crew for pulling this off.
Early morning media access is of course important to gathering assets with as little interruption as possible, and in the case of Luft6, critical, being that the peppering of highly significant cars throughout the various settings was strategic though not secretive. The buses bringing people in from the local off-site parking were packed, and uninterrupted photo bursts were to be short-lived. I know, because as the 8am ticket holders and additional media arrived, a stampede of eager Porsche fanatics flooded New York street and each and every car hosted a steady stream of onlookers. Much like last year's event at Ganahl, the overwhelming talk of the crowd was just how cool the setting looked and felt.
While the rush of incoming visitors continued, the rest of the display vehicles continued rolling in via different sectors. This gave the crowd a unique experience in that they were able to hear and see the cars running as they carefully motored down the faux New York cityscape and into their respective spots.
And each time an owner set the parking brake and stepped out, they were approached with praise, questions, or a little bit of both. Automotive enthusiasm and general awe accompanied by genuine curiosity and mutual respect—beyond the incredible cars and clever backdrops, this is exactly what the Luftgekuhlt series has become known for.
With that said, here's the first gallery from our trip to the 6th Luftgekuhlt event, with more on the way.
We caught glimpses of Rod Emory's 356 RSR Outlaw vision during SEMA a few years ago when he essentially brought a tub with a mocked-up drivetrain in place and, even in that state, it attracted a ton of attention. One reason might be because this build merges an early '90s 911 with a '59 356.
Yes, Emory and crew have done something similar before, marrying a previous 356 with a Carrera 4 dubbed "356C4S," but in this particular case the focus was using as little filler as possible, relying on as much original metal from the two donor cars as possible. The idea of this latest creation began as a sketch years ago and when MOMO's owner, Henrique Cisneros caught wind of the concept, well, things got underway and a few years later, here we are.
The ITB set up we saw at SEMA didn't quite tell the whole story. Emory's creation does indeed rely on 4-cylinder power, but now utilizes a pair of turbochargers and a custom intake plenum with fresh air running across the dual intercoolers via sculpted quarter panel ducts.
Up top, the engine compartment is organized and purposeful, while below the complexity of dual turbochargers and extremely short exhaust tubing accompanied by a set of wastegates and rear-facing exits are celebrated, rather than being kept out of sight.
You expect a lot from a Rod Emory custom based on a lengthy resume and a trail of masterpieces but with the 356 RSR Outlaw, you get far more than you could have possibly imagined. For my money, this vehicle alone is worth the price of admission and judging by the massive crowd that gravitated toward the build throughout the entire length of the show, I'm not alone in that sentiment.
Historical vehicles are always a big part of this event and this 917K, one of 25 homologation cars, serves as the most period-correct version on the planet after having been restored from top to bottom. Armed with an air-cooled flat 12, it belted out over 600hp and is noted as being one of the most successful endurance race cars ever. Period.
With only 31 ever built, this recently imported 934 was restored and upgraded by the historic racecar gurus at Canepa. Originally intended for competition, the 934 was built to resemble a street car in order to adhere to Group 4 FIA rules and as such, retained its street-friendly amenities like power windows and the factory carpet.
Canepa set the car up for street-driving and its owner (some guy that used to have a show about nothing) is excited to say the least.
While the 911 family tends to garner more interest than other Porsche models at Luftgekuhlt, the 914 community continues to hold a strong presence each year, and if you made your way out of the "city" and toward the rear portion of the event, there was a massive corral of 914 in varying degrees of condition and modification to look over.
One of my personal favorites of the bunch was Ryan McLaughlin's Albert Blue 914, fitted with Wayne Baker styled fiberglass fenders that sit just over Jongbloed race wheels (15x7.5 front/15x8.5 rear) wrapped in sticky Toyo R888. The race-ready combination is as aggressive as it is eye-catching.
Inside the cabin you'll find a Houndstooth refresh and suede Momo Mod.7 wheel, while the music behind the driver's head is produced by a Type IV 2.6L flat pan mill.
Also displayed in the 914 section was this 2005 SCCA FP national champion owned by the late Bob Kirby. If you're a fan of heavily modified cars and race-specific vehicles, like myself, then you couldn't possibly walk by this car without taking a closer look.
Clean enough to hold its own at a car show yet fully capable and well known for leading the pack on race day, rumors surrounding the car's rebirth many years ago suggest over 250K was invested. Regardless of monetary speculation, the car is absolutely stunning in person, from the aggressive stance and aero, to the paint and intricate cage work, this car really should have been placed high on a platform during the event.
Much of the roll-in procedure took place after media and early entry ticket holders had already arrived but wasn't the nightmare that you might expect given lively sportscars combined with iPhone-wielding visitors, some of which were more focused on the picture they just took or their notifications to notice potential oncoming traffic.
The Luftgekuhlt 6 staff did a stellar job of directing traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, making sure that safety was of the utmost concern as they directed the incoming parade of classic and modern Porsche.
Their efforts were certainly appreciated, the event's layout making for the most unique pairing of Porsche and scenery that you're likely to ever encounter.
A before and after of the RUF Yellowbird on display. The "before" being first thing in the morning when the clouds hanging around suggested that rain might show up...
...and the "after," taken mid-afternoon with temps in the mid-70s along with a bright, sunny sky and a slight breeze—perfect car show weather.
You're probably going to find quite a few vehicles at Luftgekuhlt that you've never seen in person before and this 1954 P-312 Coffee Train might just be one of them. Intended to work the coffee plantations of Brazil, only 200 of these tractors were ever produced and only 20 are estimated to still be around. The sleek bodywork covers a traditional style tractor and avoids damaging the very plants it was intended to harvest.