I have spent a whole career studying experience design, looking into the unknown of how people interact with concepts, objects, thoughts, emotions, technology, places, and time.
This, to outsiders looking in, often seems like far too curious of a subject to be observed objectively. In a sense they are correct, but just because it is messy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. So let’s start with something simple.
The beginning of an experience
This is where we will start a dive into Luftgekühlt 6, the 6th iteration of the iconic Los Angeles Porsche car gathering.
To me, like many other attendees, Luftgekühlt 6 started on a car ride home from Ganahl Lumber in 2018, aka Luftgekühlt 5. That was the moment when we began to wonder how Patrick Long and Jeff Zwart could possibly pull off something larger, bigger, and more over-the-top for their next gathering of air cooled enthusiasts. We sat thinking of new places in LA that could possibly host the next event even before the emotions and energy from the last one subsided.
Sometimes a few of us guess correct.
On our drive home from our first Luftgekühlt at the lumber yard we were throwing out potential spots and the Universal Backlot came up. Then I thought. No way, that’s far too big of an event to pull off.
What I should have realized at the time is that the thought of it being impossible was a key indicator to being on the right track. Months later an email invitation to Luftgekühlt 6 confirms the idea.
The Physical Beginning
Just arriving at Luftgekühlt is the start of something new and magical. You can sense it in the air, partially due to the sheer volume of air cooled four and six engines all racing down the 405, 110, 105, 10, and 5 to a common destination.
They roar in delight that their simplistic engines will be celebrated in mass for a day. They celebrate that their common body shape won’t be criticized by their similarity but instead cherished for their intricate variances on one another. As you get closer, the air begins to vibrate with an orchestral chop-chop-chop of air compressing and exploding to propel various vehicles forward.
Then the best part begins to happen.
You turn around corners to find unexpected gems. Yes, the vehicles, but more importantly you catch more smiling faces, more unexpected embraces of commonality, and more sharing of stories and events that took place between the last gathering.
For me, my first magical experience of Luft 6 took place even before I left the parking lot. My first magical moment was when I looked down the row of the garage to see a familiar silhouette coming towards me, square shaped with four circles on the roof. It was my Land Rover Discovery, affectionately called “Grover the Rover”, coming my way to greet me again after going on adventures with his new owner and coming back with proud new battle scars.
Luftgekühlt isn’t just a show about air-cooled vehicles. It’s a show about preserving the memory of vehicles on a deeply personal level.
Arriving on the Lot
To paint a masterpiece you need a fresh canvas, something to soak up the splashes of paint in an idea of expression. Luftgekühlt does this by crafting a safe space, a seemingly effortless experience that pulls people away from the chaos of Los Angeles.
This year for Luftgekühlt when you stepped off the bus you were taken to another world, one of brownstone buildings and compact city streets that evokes memories of New York City. However, this isn’t the Big Apple. No, this is the world that Jerry Seinfeld played around in for 8 years to create Seinfeld.
Attendees were greeted by the marquee display of two Porsche icons. One that is remembered by name, Moby Dick, and the other by its contrasting blue and orange paint.
In these waking moments the sounds of the last cars rolling in bounces off the surfaces of iconic film sets while the gentle rays of light reflect off the painted surface of the vehicles.
This is the time for the photographers to capture the gentle quality of the day with their apertures more open and their shutter speeds let loose for longer times. Every photographer on the set at this time knows that this moment won’t last forever. However, just like the rest of the show, they don’t dread that it will end, they just appreciate the uniqueness of the moment.
For me, this was a chance to quickly hop from location to location to get a sense of just what the team behind the event created for us. It was an opportunity to enjoy the simplicity of a car and a backdrop. A story being told in its simplest of elements.
Protagonist and Environment.
This was a time to appreciate the masterful craftsmanship of pairing details and locations.
It was a time to see pops of color.
It was a time to see little details lining up perfectly.
It was a time to see stories beginning to unfold.
It was a time to appreciate nods to historical events.
Some of them races.
Some of them celluloid dreams.
Some of them just a remembrance of the last time we all gathered together.
This is the photographer's paradise.
The Light of Day
As the sun started to pour more directly overhead, the energy of the venue continued to increase. This is the point in the day where we all came together to share the love of air-cooled but ended up appreciating the company of one another far more.
Now it was about the stories being told of magical little details, battle scars, and evolution.
At the beginning of the show it is an opportunity for the photographers to each capture their own little view of the event against a constant backdrop, but as the day unfolds it becomes more a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Turning a corner just as a hood pops up or an engine roars to life is what makes the show begin to come alive.
Now the backdrop of the fictional New York became more of a fantasy. Instead of being filled with hundreds of cars in stop and go traffic it was filled with people moving against the backdrop of static vehicles.
People were free to walk among the streets instead of being constrained by dense city sidewalks.
It was the time to appreciate the vehicles not in a vacuum, but instead love the way the crowd added to the images you were seeking to capture.
Yes, the streets of a fictional NYC were beginning to come alive with just the same energy of the real thing.
Exploring New Regions
Luftgekühlt 6 brought something completely new for this go around. It brought a state of transition from one world into another all in a single day. As you left the streets of NYC you went through a transitional point reminding you of the actual location of the event on the Universal Backlot. A place that was originally created to film silent movies. This show is far from silent.
After the transition, you were again greeted by a new world with open arms. This time with a fun South West flair.
A place to celebrate the uniqueness of driving these iconic vehicles beyond the pavement and onto the loose surface of dirt.
Instead of strolling down the dense city streets you begin to wonder, what if we all went on a roadtrip together just for the fun of it, somewhere far away from here?
What if we traveled to a place filled with cowboys and outlaws and brought these iconic machines with us?
This is where you find new inspiration on the classic Luftgekühlt storyline and you see the beauty of running into something in a place that's completely unexpected. In those moments, time seems to stand still as you appreciate the once in a lifetime opportunity before you.
Finishing with Tears of Joy
As peoples' SD cards began to fill and the energy of the day began to subside, another pure Luftgekühlt moment began to take place as the heavens opened up and gentle tears of joy began to rain down upon the crowd and the vehicles.
Typically on Hollywood film sets, the production crew will water down the pavement to give it an even darker tint. This time around the skies opened up to do the work for us and give the vehicles one last opportunity to shine before the crowds went home.
It presented a unique opportunity to look back on the vehicles we strolled by earlier in the day and shift our perspectives yet again. A new way for the vehicles to tell their individual stories.
Some vehicles treated it as a grand finale. A way to properly show off the care and attention their owners have given them over the years.
And for some it was just a somber reminder that their true place in the world isn't to sit at a car show forever, but to be out in the wild.
It is a remembrance that these gatherings are a unique time for not only the vehicles to come together, but also for the people that love them.
As we got back on the buses to leave the fictional land of film behind we were all beginning to wonder where we would meet agin next year.
I have a few ideas myself, but none of them seem impossible enough yet to be Luftgekühlt 7.
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