You and I both know that air-cooled Porsches have always been cool. But only in the past few years have these magic machines—mainly 356s, 912s, and 911s—basked in the widespread adoration I think they deserve. They're charmingly anachronistic, require both delicate and heavy inputs, and will make you grin like an idiot when you drive one.
The escalating interest—and skyrocketing market value—of the air-cooled Porsche has been synchronous with the rise of social media, which allows anyone with an internet connection to follow the personalities, coach builders, and collectors upholding the air-cooled tradition.
So who are the people wielding the most influence in the Porsche air-cooled world? Start with these six big guns.
Rod Emory, 42, Emory Motorsports, @rodemory
The term “outlaw” is thrown around a lot in the air-cooled community, but Emory is one of the progenitors of this tradition—only without the connotations that come to mind when generally thinking about hot rodding, though.
His work is borderline neurotic, his build methodology meticulous, and the cars, well, undeniably special. With a yearly production number of up to ten, it's easy to see why. Kinetic art is what comes to mind as an apt, yet cliché description of his builds. They are a synthesis of new and old; Rod borrows from old school metalworking techniques and tools like English wheels, wood bucks, and planishing and and blends them with modern technology, like 3D laser scanning and CAD, to construct Porsche 356s that are truly sui generis. Nothing else comes close.
Like most auto enthusiasts and professionals alike, Emory was touched by the air-cooled Porsche world as a kid; his father, Gary Emory, ran and continues to run Parts Obsolete, an air-cooled Porsche parts specialist shop. Since then, Rod’s life has revolved around Porsche, participating in both the GT3 racing series and concours events.
As one of the preëminent figures in the air-cooled Porsche world, Emory is in it for the long run: “This is my passion. This is what I love to do, and I’ll be doing it for the rest of my life,” he says.
Patrick Long, 35, Porsche factory driver, @plmotorsport
It’s not often an automaker’s factory driver organically pursues the brand in his personal life. On the track, Long pilots the illustrious Porsche GT3 R Cup Car—a staple of track dominance worldwide—but off the track he drives a light ivory 1973 911 E.
His love for Porsche, like most, can be traced back to his childhood. Like many kids of his era, his walls were replete with posters of archetypal supercars—Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, etc.—but the one that spoke to him most was one of a 930 Turbo.
“I remember saying to my dad ‘I’m a 911 guy instead of a Ferrari guy,’” Long recalls.
And since then, it’s been non-stop Porsche. Long has been one of only ten Porsche factory drivers for more than a decade, mostly piloting the brand’s infamous Cup Cars, but almost every model of air-cooled Porsche, including the brutal 917.
His passion for air-cooled Porsches materialized into Luftgekühlt, an event that not only celebrates air-cooled Porsches, but also the tight-knit community that pores over them so religiously. Along with Southern California creative iconoclast Howie Idelson, the pair has created an event that is developed exclusively for these cars and their followers.
Luftgetkühlt has been around for only two years so far, but, by far and wide, it’s an event that promises to keep the community and the cars alive for the next generation of lovers of air-cooled Porsches.
Howie Idelson, 42, Creative Director, @howieidelson
The Southern Californian creative tour de force wasn’t a Porsche guy when he and Long started playing around with the idea of what later became Luft. But he was a car guy, and that’s how the two met: As kids, they quickly befriended one another after hanging in karting circles.
“Pat and I we’ve always been friends and share similar thoughts on things—getting into deep conversations. This was one of the recurring thoughts. There was room for something where it was not that—not the norm, where we could give people the experience we wanted to have. That’s where it sprung from. I wasn’t the Porsche gearhead guy—but now I am. Now I have such an appreciation for the design and the people. I drank the Kool-Aid.”
By trade, Idelson dubs himself “a general creative,” but specializes in experiential marketing. Regarding Luft, “I just want to give these people a good experience. I want these people to walk away happy.” With the unexpected success of the past two Luftgetkühlt events, Idelson’s wish is coming true.
Matt Hummel, 39, @hummul
Matt Hummel’s approach to air-cooled Porsches is different to most other owners of precious, older Porsche metal. Whereas “get out and drive” is the catchphrase most gearheads now go by—thanks, Magnus—Matt interprets it a bit more broadly.
Far away from busy streets and the throng of humankind, Hummel finds solace in a quiet, wooded town nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California—far from a place one would expect to see a 1956 Porsche 356 Coupé being hustled on dirt back roads. But that’s exactly what Matt does, channeling a famous axiom from Ferry Porsche himself: “Our cars are meant to be driven. Not polished.”
His Instagram feed is replete with images that would make a stereotypical Porsche purist squirm—beauty shots of his unrestored, patinaed 356 Coupé set against terrains with huge approach angles, wet mud, and salt, places that seem better suited to a WRC car than a mid-50s Porsche. Hummel’s not afraid to take this car anywhere, though, even if it means the occasional bit of damage—he knows just as much as one can about repairing these cars.
For more than a decade, Hummel has been amassing a collection of air-cooled Porsche parts, lovingly stowing them away in his cabin. “It’s all about keeping the enthusiasm alive with the younger guys, so we need to help each other out,” Hummel says, referring to the times he’s given away parts to younger folks in the community.
“When another Porsche guy helps you out, you feel like you’re a part of the car and the community. This is about getting the cars out on the road.”
Rob Dickinson, 51, Founder of Singer Vehicle Design, @singervehicledesign
No list on the air-cooled Porsche community would be complete without mentioning the mastermind behind Singer Vehicle Design, the firm that’s creating of some of the most lust-worthy 911s around.
Rob’s mentality to these builds derives from “this neurotic notion of things being done ‘properly,’” or, what ends up turning out to be 4,000 man hours per build. No detail is too slight, nothing is overlooked, and, as a constant reminder, the phrase “everything is important” has been endearingly spray painted on the wall of the assembly shop. (Watch Rob himself explain the design philosophy of Singer here.)
Before Singer, Rob was already an impassioned old 911 hot rodder, inspired by R Gruppe builds. He took to his own, a 1969 911 E that eventually served as the philosophical inspiration of what Singer now embodies.
His own take on the importance of the 911:
“It’s the only car you need: Race on Sunday, drive to work on Monday, while collecting the kids and picking up the groceries. It's the duality, the modesty, the compactness, the robustness, the understatement, the style, the heritage, the classicism, the relevancy; it's Steve McQueen, it's Hans Mezger, its Norbert Singer, it's Butzi, it's the Ferdinands. It's the most important sports car ever. It's everything.”
Josh Kobrin, 36, Copywriter, @joshyrobots
Stationed in San Francisco, Josh Kobrin is an accomplished advertising copywriter by trade, but a complete air-cooled Porsche nut, too.
The origin of the obsession started when his then-fiancée made an ultimatum with him: It was either having a full-blown wedding with hundreds of guests over a few days à la a musical festival, or a more intimate wedding, but with an old Porsche as the reconciliation prize.
Since then, Josh has been driving a 1969 911 T hard and with purpose. “It’s my only car, and it’s just for pleasure. I use, abuse, and enjoy it.” Scour his Instagram and you’ll see for yourself.
His philosophy on these cars differs from everyone else on this list—namely, that it’s a bit rebellious. Turned off by the period correct, numbers matching mentality, Kobrin’s 911 has an amalgamation of parts from other different 911s, most obvious of which is a red passenger door and mismatched wheels—fuchs in the front, minilites in the back.
Kobrin’s passion project is Joshy Robots, a web shop for eccentric Porsche parts that exude a certain fuck you to stereotypical Porsche owners and drivers. “In response to the crazies who obsess over nuts and bolts, I made the most ridiculous thing I could.” That most ridiculous thing is an enamel deck lid grill badge that’s in the shape of a donut.
“I’m looking out for people to not take themselves or the community too seriously. I want to give people the courage to chill out. [Porsches] are toys—they’re tools—and they have a purpose other than appreciating in value.”