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Car Tales: The Air-Cooled Porsche 911 America Roadster

‘There is often an interesting back-story to why people sell cars. All human life is there! For example, I bought a Porsche recently that was quite evidently in tremendous mechanical condition. But if that was the case, why was the paintwork faded and a bit scruffy?
‘Because it was the product of a divorce. The wife had had the Porsche as her driver. But she knew that come the final divorce settlement she wouldn’t be able to hang on to it. Which was why she left it outside in the sun every day, a decision that appeared to involve a large element of raising of the middle finger. In every other regard the car was in fantastic shape.

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‘The Porsche in question was a 964, the Porsche 911 America Roadster, a limited edition cabriolet variant of the 964 Carrera 2, intended for the North American market that ran from 1992 to 1993. Allegedly only 250 of this model was produced. It had the same mechanical setup as the Carrera 2, but its fender flares, brakes, suspension, and wheels were upgraded to Turbo-spec. The America Roadsters had a distinctly wider body from the other 911s, so the stance of the car commanded attention.
‘I like to think I am good at what I do at Beverly Hills Car Club – no time for false modesty in these circumstances, I believe. So I have to attribute this as the reason why in recent weeks I have had five of those 250 America Roadsters in my showroom. In this world of the 2020s, when cars from the 1990s have become extremely collectible, these vehicles are a fantastic opportunity as an acquisition.
‘Of course they are also fine examples of the air-cooled Porsche. As we know, there is an almost cult-like adoration of air-cooled Porsches, crystalised by Luftgekuhlt, a very special celebration of Porsche’s air-cooled history, at first an annual gathering in Los Angeles for vintage air-cooled Porsches – ‘ Luftgekuhlt’ literally translates as ‘air-cooled’. So far Long has put on several Luftgekühlt meetings: at first the intention was simply to bring together fans of vintage Porsches and let them meet up. But the idea quickly grew; by the third event there were over 450 classic Porsches on display, the biggest air-cooled-Porsche show in the United States.
‘A true Porsche happening, a blend of art and life, Luftgekühlt is a conceptual car culture event centred around a curated list of historically significant or interesting cars, both race and street. Think Burning Man as a model and you’ll be somewhere close to the target.
‘The Los Angeles event was set up by Patrick Long, presently Porsche’s only factory driver from the United States – Long has twice won the Le Mans 24 hour race for the marque. Now the geographical location of Luftgekuhlt has been considerably extended, with events held in the UK, at Bicester Heritage, a former RAF base, and in Germany.
‘In the Porsche vernacular, Luftgekühlt represents all the air-cooled cars in the manufacturer’s history, from the Pre-A 356 through the 993 model line, which ended in 1998.
‘The air-cooled cars themselves had something to do with that too. Porsche’s air-cooled 911s are among the best drivers’ cars ever made. Porsche’s long motorsports history can be felt every time you get behind the wheel. There’s a solidity in their construction and a certainty to their dynamics.
‘All of the air-cooled Porsches are tremendous cars. Every time you get behind the wheel of one you can feel a solidity in its construction and a certainty about its dynamics. 
‘The first air-cooled Porsche 911 was essentially an evolution of the 356. Instead of four cylinders, it had six. And the Porsche 911 had 4 seats, instead of just 2. But that air-cooled six-cylinder engine was still mounted behind the cabin, which meant most of the weight was over the driven wheels, increasing traction. Along with its direct steering and well-tuned suspension, the air-cooled 911 quickly started gaining fans.
‘It was the 993 that was the last air-cooled Porsche 911: every part of the 993 was redesigned from the ground up including the engine that offered greater power. However, in 1998 air-cooling was phased out as such engines failed to meet new US emissions standards; water-cooled engines also could be tuned more easily.
‘But air-cooled engines have advantages over water-cooled ones. For a start, they are lighter than water-cooled ones. And they are also simpler. Air-cooled engines don’t have a radiator or water pump, air-cooled engines have fewer parts that can fail. Such raw simplicity, combined with an impressive build quality, is what today has driven the prices of air-cooled Porsches high.
‘Part of the appeal of these air-cooled Porsche 911s, especially the oldest ones, is that they are essentially basic automobiles. It is just the driver, the engine, the transmission, steering wheel, and brakes. And in vehicles which are really pretty small.
‘There are those who define a true Porsche as the air-cooled 911. And truly no engine has quite as much character, as distinctive a sound, or as varied a history as the air-cooled beauty.
‘Any time a pair of Porsches come together, even at a Ralph’s parking lot, there is bound to be an interesting exchange of energies. Next time you, the Porsche driver, run into another such vehicle in Ralph’s parking lot, you can set up your own mini-Luftgekuhlt. Just remember the payment for your parking…
-Alex Manos, Owner

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