Luftgekühlt, which translates from German to “air-cooled,” is a pilgrimage for dedicated Porsche fans. It showcases the best of what many consider to be Porsche’s Golden Years — the air-cooled period. Luft 9 highlights the fastest, most prestigious air-cooled products from Porsche’s 1931 founding leading up to the discontinuation of the air-cooled 911 in 1998.
For the first time Luftgekühlt, often shortened to Luft 9, offered back-to-back days to commemorate all Porsches without regard to door count, means of cooling, motorsport success, and more. Air | Water exhibits vehicles from the Pre-A era to 992 — Mezger 997’s, Carrera GT’s, GT3 Tourings — alongside their classic counterparts. It did so with the mentality the venue makes the event. Mare Island’s deteriorating buildings, rusting machinery, and crumbling infrastructure struck a sharp contrast between the beauty of the Porsche lineage and Mare’s near dystopian setting.
It took me a bit to get used to Mare Island; I wasn’t expecting its rough edges. The Island was the West Coast’s first naval base servicing submarines and producing ships during both World Wars. Porsches are quick, but so were Mare’s thousands of employees. They set the mark for the fastest time to build a destroyer, a still-record 17½ days.
The base was retired in 1996 after building at least 89 vessels. It obtained California Historical Landmark and National Historic Landmark district status but, apparently, not a budget for upkeep.
Luftgekühlt 9 and Air | Water attracted hundreds of remarkable Porsches and a handful stood out. Here are my top picks from Luft 9 and Air | Water:
Table of Contents
What: 2023 911 Reimagined by Singer
Why: In my ideal world everything — my house, clothing, and car — would be to my preferred spec. You can’t always get what you want but you can with your Porsche spec, especially if it is a Singer designed vehicle. Singer is a Porsche restomod business that allows clients to design a vintage 911 of their own, a sort of field day for those who can afford a high six-figure auto price tag. This commission-only program creates some especially beautiful 911s, and the one that made it to Luft 9 is no exception.
Its cream color works exceptionally well with the yellow-orange wheels to satisfy my adoration for brown-scale sports cars. Don’t ignore those wide, smooth fenders and on-point fitment. Subtle modern touches — center-exit exhaust, a lip spoiler, and slight camber — blend beautifully with the memorable silhouette that early Porsches possess. Singer 911s are everything a classic Porsche connoisseur loves.
Why: Porsche’s roots trace to motorsport dominance, and its 917 and 956 often reigned as kings of endurance racing. The 910 is often overshadowed by these legends it’s standout, winning at the 1967 1,000km Nurburgring. Top-10 finishes at Le Mans followed.
In addition to its low-profile status and proven success, its design is worthy of an art gallery. I love its low-slung stance and pointed front end. My interest grew when I noticed the discreet front and side vents that feed into the squared-off rear end. Its modern stance and softly-smooth lines mesh.
Why: It’s baby blue, produces more than 100 horsepower per liter from its air-cooled, NA flat 6, and is one of only 25 units built. This stunning Speedster is the work of small Porsche tuner Gunther Werks. The Gunther staff removed more than 400 pounds from 1995 911, added more power, removed the roof, and then added distinctly contemporary styling to create the vehicle on display. The complex equation equates to one of the finer driver’s cars of the 21st century — and one of the best-looking Porsches ever. The catch? It costs more than $800,000 and is already sold out.
What: 1995 911 Carrera RS (993)
Why: Another German car manufacturer uses the term “race car for the road” when describing its slightly uninspiring so-called performance vehicles. Porsche’s Rennsport (RS) models characterize this marketing term as evidenced by the hardcore Carrera RS.
Its aerodynamics are borrowed directly from its Cup 3.8 RSR racing counterpart and remain striking today, but could you imagine pulling up to this beast at a stoplight back in 1995? It looked like nothing else on the road. Toss in its 300 horsepower, three-piece wheels, Bilstein dampers and forged pistons, and would obliterate challenger. It’s a race car for the road.
Best of Air | Water
What: 2005 Carrera GT
Why: The question: which vehicle is the rawest, most pure Porsche of all time? The answer: Check the subheading above. It’s not far-fetched to call the Carrera GT the finest driver’s car ever made and the most iconic supercar of the 21st century.
Once that tall, iconic spoiler emerges from the flat rear end, the Carrera GT means business. What other road car has a Formula 1 V10 power plant and makes do without traction control, all with a six-speed manual transmission? None.
What: 2007 911 GT3 RS (997.1)
Why: The arrival of the next-generation GT3 RS meant less: less weight, less glass, and less creature comforts. On the track though, this 997.1 is all about speed, cornering ability and more fun.
What I found most compelling about the 997.1 generation GT3 RS is less part. I love its bare-bones characteristics; with this Porsche you don’t get a large infotainment screen, automatic transmission or full leather upholstery with modern 911s. Nor do you get the Burj Khalifa-sized rear wing or plush comfort. Even the glass was replaced with lightweight plastic because every pound counts. When you sit in the GT3 RS’ cockpit, you get three pedals and the car. A car like this could be built today.
What: 1981 924 Carrera GT
Why: The Porsche 924 is everything but a Porsche. It’s closer to a Honda with its VW/Audi four-cylinder and skinny wheels and the styling is atrocious. The Carrera GT has actually lived up to the badge it wore on its hood thanks to fleeting customer interest.
Once Porsche management realized buyers weren’t attracted to the barely-Porsche vehicle called the 924, they transformed it into a legitimate track car with the Carrera GT nameplate. The reimagined 924 then took sixth place at Le Mans. An alien-like sports car with a VW van motor? Astounding.
Porsche won me over with the 924 Carrera GT. It added wide fenders to accommodate chunky, iconic 7- and 8-inch Fuchs wheels, a hood scoop for extra airflow, and shaving 330 pounds from the horrifically bad, stock 924.
The result: A perfect combination of boxy fenders and lip spoiler with a racing engine and manual transmission. It’s hard to complain about a 924 with track-level performance and a worthy look
What: 2022 Hoonigan Racing “Hoonipigasus”
Why: Car designer Ken Block died too soon. But Block graced us with a Pikes Peak bound, 1,400 horsepower 911 built in part by his Hoonigan Racing Team. Block had a long history of probably too-dangerous racing stints, including having a go at drifting Pikes Peak in his 1965 Mustang Hoonicorn RTR V2. Soon thereafter, Block built a twin-turbo, mid-engined, 1,400 horsepower machine to conquer one of the most dangerous roads in the world. And it’s as rough and purpose-built as a car can get. It may have been my favorite at Luft 9.
No one makes vehicles so dangerous and passionately as Block. The 1,000-horsepower vehicles require exceptionally high levels of skill to pilot and don’t exist elsewhere. Forget rally, forget Formula 1, forget endurance racing. Pikes Peak racers are another breed, The Hoonipigasus is a sight to behold with a wing larger than anything I’ve seen, even larger racing slicks, and silky smooth fenders and body lines. Of course, its Pink Pig-inspired livery borrowed from the Porsche 917/20 completes the car.
Mason Bloom is a reporter for TheWeeklyDriver.com. When he is not writing about industry news, new car reviews or covering live motorsport events, he’s a sophomore at Aptos High School on the California central coast.
Article Last Updated: July 21, 2023.
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