Photos by Randy Wells and Andrea Wells
Last weekend’s Luft 6 was an opera and a treasure hunt.
All the elements were there. A welcoming overture, some amazing props, enthusiastic actors, a musical score, an aria, an enticing libretto, some drama, a hero, and an energizing finale. The stage was where so many other visuals have come to life – the Universal Studios Backlot.
A curated set of air-cooled Porsches was tucked away into every nook and cranny of Hollywood’s most dramatic of sets. Instantly recognizable streets and architecture provided the perfect background against which to place the chosen 369 cars.
Those lucky enough to enter the event on May 11, approximately 5,000 attendees, purchased their tickets the first week they went on sale in April. They served as both the opera’s actors and the treasure hunters. They also wore the costumes.
The underlying theme of opera and treasure hunt was one of complexity, subtlety, serendipity, and discovery. The choice of a movie set had always been a dream of the organizers: Patrick Long, Howie Idelson and Jeff Zwart. Of course, a site of this fame would mean higher costs and some crowd restrictions. The upside was a Luft that would be exclusive and visually surreal.
The score was provided by a record spinning DJ at the top of the hill in the Universal Studios “Cowboy Town”. It carried the theme of adventure with songs that everyone could sing by heart.
To introduce the theme to participants as they stepped off the shuttle bus from the parking lot (another car show unto itself), the Luft organizers set a tone that was full of expectations. An overture of new Singer 911s and Emory Outlaw 356s greeted the crowd and guaranteed that nobody would leave at intermission.
Around the corner were the principals: the iconic Porsche 911R, 911RS, 911RSR, 935, and 917. These colorful guardians were set alone by themselves in front of spectacular backdrops ranging from the brownstones of New York’s West Village, Manhattan’s financial district, and Any Town USA.
It doesn’t get more glamourous than the streets of Europe, and that’s where our audience next found some choice 356 and early 911 morsels to feast their eyes. A ‘60s garage hosted a Porsche undergoing restoration. Another building had a Leica camera booth and Chopard watch display set among more 917s for those who felt in the buying mood. Included was a 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder chassis number 550-0090, aka “The Last 550”, considered to be the most original example in existence.
Where to go next? Down a dust covered alley? Over to the 50th Anniversary 914 display? What about the billboards promoting old horror movies? Perhaps to the Courthouse where “Back to the Future” took us to 1955? “Back to the Air-cooled Porsche” could be the opera’s title.
Every opera needs some drama and this event was no different. The shuttle lines from the parking garage were very long at times. There was no real road map provided for Luft 6 once the attendees arrived on site. This event was meant to be a puzzle and an adventure. There were also no signs indicating where your favorite Porsche model might be located. It was a true treasure hunt.
It was also the ultimate interactive Luftgekühlt. After searching out the car of your dreams, you needed to key in the number hanging from the rearview mirror onto this Luft site on your phone: https://luftcars.com.
This gave you access to the car’s details. That’s if you knew about this feature – having checked your email or social media the morning of the event. In other words, the synopsis for this Luft was left up to the viewer.
The Impresario and The Hero – Pat Long and Jeff Zwart pause for a single moment during the long day.
Jeff Zwart was the concertmaster and programmer of this visual treat. He used his cinematography background and brilliant eye to arrange each car in the perfect spot. He was surely the hero in this opera, fulfilling the appetite of every visitor.
The finale at the top of the hill in the Wild West village was, for me, a spot to reflect, gain some perspective, and rest from air-cooled Porsche overload. Graced by the R Gruppe contingent, hot rod 356s and rally 911s, it provided a familiar respite. The shade from broadleaf trees also allowed for a most welcome lunchtime picnic.
Then it was back down the hill to make sure I didn’t miss anything that the organizers intended. With this thought in mind, I was reminded of what Patrick Long had said earlier, “It’s always been a pipe dream to host Luftgekühlt at a movie lot, but connections and costs have always made us shy about the idea. We toured a few lots, but once we showed up to Universal it was on another level, so we had to go for it. Then we had to decide which plots to use – you’ve got Europe, Western, Mexico, New York, Courthouse – and in the end we just said ‘we’ll have it all.’”
Undoubtedly, Luft 6 was something the organizers had always wanted to do. Bring as many air-cooled Porsches as they could to a Hollywood set laid out in a curated and artistic manner.
Luft 4 in San Pedro was the last one I attended. It was a true happening – as in mind-blowing retro Woodstock vibe. I didn’t think that could be topped for the music and coherent layout. Luft 6 was more theme park in its presentation, and there were more young families in attendance. It would be wonderful to somehow blend the two.
Can these maestros top 2019? It’s hard to imagine an encore better than this. Even given the constraints inherent in learning to work with a location drawing on an ever-widening crowd, I think it can be done. It will take even more forethought, work and energy, if that’s possible. Can more volunteers be enlisted? Will Luft 7 be more inclusive? Knowing the organizers, I’m sure they will rise to the challenge.
Until then, Bravo!
Article and photos Copyright Wells Imagery. All Rights Reserved.