For this iteration of the event, my own beloved ‘75 911S hot-rod, Jolene, was included in the display – a privilege in the eyes of any air-cooled Porsche owner. Like any vintage Porsche enthusiast worth their salt, I felt it was only right to karmically pay for that space by putting some more miles on Jolene’s clock and taking the scenic route up to Norcal from LA. After all, the true spirit of Porsche is only unlocked through driving.
We have a tendency to try to draw parallels between all of the different passions we pursue as enthusiasts. It’s only natural to look for the similarities, to try to see the pathways that link all of these things we love together. If you’re keyed into the various things we cover with the C + T Journal, you’ll notice that all of the related worlds we access through vintage watches and horology not only offer safe spaces for obsessives to be nerds, but typically encourage that kind of obsessive behavior. The vintage Porsche community shares one really important thing with the vintage watch world, and that’s a sense of responsibility to not only take care of these magical things for the next generation, but a responsibility to gather around them as a community – to share in it. While the Luft series is undeniably the most elevated and conceptual series of car shows in existence, it’s also a place for the Porsche community to break bread and dig deep into the cars and stories that provide Porsche with a culture. These shows feel like the epicenter of the Porsche universe when they’re happening.
From mythical Le Mans-challenging race cars like the legendary late ’60s #37 910 to outlaw restomods like Jolene, to clean, honest examples of all the classics, to charming, patinated survivors, Luft 9 had it all. It also saw the introduction of Air/Water, the first Luft event to focus on the best of the modern Porsche world.
These shows arrange the cars in unique spaces and ways that have more in common with an art installation than cars and coffee, and the concentration on the full range of a single manufacturer really makes it feel special. However, getting there was half the fun for me.
Myself and C + T’s Creative Lead, Chris Elkjar, left LA on Friday after a breakfast meeting regarding Rolex Daytonas with fellow Porsche devotee and community fixture Paul Zuckerman, who you may know from the fabulously popular Spike’s Car Radio podcast. I had just gotten Jolene serviced and she was running really tight and properly. Longtime C + T Journal readers will know Jolene’s specs by now, but for the uninitiated, she’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing and is equipped with 3.45L twin-plug flat six that puts out around 300 horsepower and as much torque as you could ever want in a car like this. That big motor is mated to a modified 915 transmission and the car can be a lot to handle – always just on the edge – but when she’s dialed-in, the driving experience is transcendent. When Jolene runs like that, it’s incredible. She was dialed-in for this run, the transmission felt crisp and the clutch throw was just right. I just installed a set of RSR-style seats for extra support and ripping out of LA up the coast was a reminder of just why I love this car so much.
I’ve had the good fortune to have driven all over the world, to have enjoyed great driver’s roads in many countries and in many cars, but I have to say the rip up to Vallejo from Los Angeles is one of my favorite drives in the entire world. There’s just something about the central California coast; it has this magical aura to it, the roads are great fun with rolling hills, farmland, and even the great stretches of nothingness are beautiful. It’s a drive that mixes high-energy motoring with meditative cruising in a really balanced way and you feel like you’re really one with the machine in a way that’s difficult to do in a big city where you’re constantly driving defensively. Because of how much rain California has gotten recently, the hills that are normally a dry golden-color were lush and green. It was a different version of this scenery for me, and it was great to enjoy it with Elkjar riding shotgun and doing his thing, capturing the experience on a Leica and navigating. Jolene’s exhaust note is a big part of her allure and Chris recognized something about it on this trip that I have never quite been able to put my finger on.
“As most sports cars rev higher, the exhaust note increases in pitch,” Elkjar explained, “But Jolene hits a point at around 4k where the exhaust tone drops substantially, and it gives off a really throaty and uniquely powerful sound.” It’s a bark more than a scream, and I could happily listen to that rev-hungry engine bark its way through downshifts for the rest of my life.
Arriving at the event, it was an admittedly proud moment to have my car in the mix with some of the legendary machines on-site. There were concourse-level cars, rare paint-to-sample rides, and cars that people were just starting to restore, but had heaps of the Porsche spirit and survivor we love. It was a high pressure moment lining up alongside a lot of that machinery, and having just driven up the coast, we’d certainly honored the classic Porsche 993 ads by killing a lot of bugs fast. Jolene’s bright “Grand Prix White” finish displayed plenty of brake dust, road grime, and liquified bug carcasses, and I quickly started to wonder if the car should be detailed before the show after seeing how well-prepped some of its peer cars were. I quickly came to my senses and realized that the filth was earned, and that there was something perfectly Porsche about showing up to such an event with the car so obviously just used for its intended purpose. It felt like a painter showing up to a gallery opening in paint-splattered pants.
Mare Island was the first permanent US naval installation on the West Coast. Its many staging areas gave Luft 9 the perfect mix of industrial space to organize the cars and dramatic lighting of a shipyard to really show off how dynamic Porsche designs can be. It’s a photographer’s dream and the space itself having such deep history only added to the gravitas of the event, and was a constant reminder of how intentional everything Pat Long and the Luft team is. As we pulled in, the concept of Porsche being a community was underlined yet again in a rather serendipitous way. We pulled in behind Duane Wik, a guy I’ve known through Instagram for a while that also drives a 1975 911S in GP white. It was an incredible coincidence to pull up behind him at a show and Duane’s car is very, very different from Jolene, but equally cool in its own right. Duane is the kind of guy that wrenches on his cars himself and the contrast between our cars laid bare the idea that these cars are simply platforms. There’s a ton of space for self-expression within the vintage Porsche world that just doesn’t exist in other European classics and a lot of Porsche people work on their own cars; they figure it out as-they-go, and while there is snobbery in all communities, it’s much less prevalent here. Duane’s 911 got accepted into the show and he was originally going to fly out and ship it from Nevada as he felt a little sketched out about the car’s reliability after having done so much of the work on the car himself. After some serious guilt-tripping and cajoling from his friends, Duane drove it out from Nevada with a friend in a chase car and he was obviously proud to have made that decision and put the miles on. It was cool to connect with him and sync with a guy whose car started life in essentially the exact same form as Jolene, but has become such a direct extension of his taste and personality just like Jolene has for me. It felt good to have two uniquely different GP white ‘75s caked in road grime next to each other.
The cars at the event speak for themselves and there was no shortage of jaw-droppers. There was also some great watch-spotting to be had at the event – as is the case with any Porsche event – and I was particularly pleased to get a close look at the rare “reverse panda” Ikepod Hemipode chronograph The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah had on. That watch is a very cool, very under-the-radar piece that has an incredibly unique, but distinctly ‘90s design created by Marc Newson, the man responsible for designing the Apple Watch among many other icons of modern design.
After an overwhelming time at Luft 9, we headed back for LA early the next day with a psychedelic swirl of brightly colored 356s, 964s, and Le Mans cars bouncing around in our heads. Jolene growled her way down the coast again, we cut down the 154 at exclusively the posted speed limit the entire way, and as the sun sunk behind us, the Luft weekend felt like a dream. But all dreams end, and our’s ended in dramatic fashion with a well-earned parts failure after the countless miles of spirited driving I’d put Jolene through over the weekend. As we ripped through Santa Barbera, the “pull-the-fuck-over-right-now” light that all air-cooled Porsche’s have came on and it became immediately apparent that the fan keeps an air-cooled car air-cooled was no longer spinning. Was it a slipped belt? A ripped belt? Something in the belt assembly? I won’t bore you with the specifics of the repair, but it was ultimately a minor issue requiring a $40 OEM part. Any vintage car owner that really uses their car knows that sometimes having a good time costs a little more than gas and Jolene had certainly earned her ride on the flatbed in style. But that’s what this whole hobby is about; enjoying the car for what it’s made for. Luft 9 reminded me that these cars may be beautiful, they may double as sculptures, but they’re meant to be used and it almost feels good knowing that you pushed the car, even for the cost of a few parts and some time in the garage.
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