Written by Marqued Staff, Photography by Shayan Bokaie and Trevor Dalton
May 1, 2023
Welcome to the high holiday for the followers of Porsche. Yes, that’s right: it was recently time for Luftgekühlt, where, for the first time, air-cooled engines met the waters of the San Francisco Bay. In addition to the ninth annual Luftgekühlt show, this year also saw the inaugural Air | Water gathering, a new experience that invites enthusiasts from all Porsche generations. The retired shipyards of Mare Island in Vallejo, California were the backdrop for this double-header of Porsche madness. Whether they drove their Porsches across the country – or just across the Bay – this weekend was a pilgrimage, as enthusiasts gathered to pay homage to Stuttgart’s finest.
The Porsche 956 built for Group C, raced by Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell.
Ahead of the weekend, Marqued sat down with former Porsche factory racer and Luftgekühlt co-founder Patrick Long to learn more about his vision for these events and about what goes into the complex task of choosing a location for each year’s gathering (you can read that piece here). As Long pointed out, he and his partners not only have to find a venue that accommodate a gathering of their size, they also have the added challenge of meeting their own aesthetic demands as they strive to infuse Luftgekühlt with new life each and every year.
“There aren't a lot of venues in the country that are turnkey ready for us in the scale that we want to be. And, our scale is fluid and adapts based on the venue itself,” noted Long. “A lot of people have chimed in and said, ‘Well, why don't you go to a baseball stadium and just fill their parking lots with cars? Or why don't you take over instead a couple of holes of a golf course? Or a racetrack?’ And so far, those venues don't deliver us what we set out to deliver. So, we’re not willing to settle.”
Jeff Zwart won Pikes Peak for the first time in this 911 in 1994.
To this day, Luft 6, which took over the movie stages of Universal Studios is heralded as one of the greatest automotive gatherings in history. In some ways, though, this put Luftgekühlt in an impossible position: How could Long + Co. top that? This weekend proved you don’t have to. The Mare Island location was spectacular. The looming cranes, rusted shipping warehouses, and decommissioned ships offered an element of ‘mass’ and ‘size’ to the visual experience. As with many previous Luftgekühlt locations, Mare Island also offers a deep historical connection to the region: its roots as a Naval shipyard date to the 1850s and dozens of cruisers, destroyers, battleships, and tankers have taken shape among its docks over the years.
Amidst all of this, noted Porschephile and director Jeff Zwart worked his customary magic and arranged the Porsches in storybook fashion, leaving breadcrumbs and cliffhangers to pull you into new buildings and down alleyways to discover hidden gems. This is the magical act where the Luftgekühlt team remains undefeated and continue to offer something new. No vehicle placards, no concours green, and no lawn chairs—just pure immersion.
To celebrate Luftgekühlt’s first event in the Bay Area – right up the road from Porsche Digital’s headquarters in Palo Alto – we co-hosted an intimate gathering for early supporters of the Marqued brand with our friend and Porsche enthusiast/racer Dave Hagan at his dedicated (and stunning) car barn in Napa Valley.
The courtyard was quickly filled with a range of Porsches that enjoyed some California's best backroads through wine country. Great cars, great vibes, and great people, are what we're all about. Stay tuned for the next one!
The coolest car barn ever?
Historically, owners of water-cooled Porsches who attended a Luftgekühlt weekend had to leave their cars outside the gates and then drive home knowing that they were still on the outside looking in on all the enthusiasm. This year, all that changed. While Saturday remained dedicated to Luftgekühlt’s original air-cooled focus, its organizers added a second Sunday event, named “Air | Water,” which opened itself to Porsches of all generations and allowed the weekend to showcase and to welcome Porsche subcultures that were previously left out.
Transaxle cars, off-road Cayennes, adventure-equipped Porsche 996s, and newer ‘enthusiast spec’ GT4s and 992s all finally had a day to call their own. It’s no shocker that the air-cooled market has seen values spike in recent years. This trend means emerging enthusiasts have been looking elsewhere in the model range for their first Porsche experience. Air | Water gave them their moment to share their cares, center stage.
This is what it's all about.
Standouts included Ken Block’s Hoonipigasus, which received its own warehouse for attendees to pay tribute—a very moving scene, and class act by all involved to honor Block’s legacy and last creation. While the heavyweight legends remained on display for both events, they were shifted around to give those attending both days a new format to experience familiar cars.
Congratulations to the Luftgekühlt team for pulling off back-to-back shows with a diverse offering. Now they just have to do it again next year (but, seriously, no pressure).
Photographer Trevor Dalton's clean, minimalist style and use of low light pairs well with his passion for analog film photography. You can see more of his work on his Instagram (@iamtrevordalton).
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