On the odd occasion, a classic car is offered publically for sale, which has such historic significance, such provenance, heritage and all those other great classic car buzzwords, that it almost seems impossible to comprehend. Now is one such occasion.
There are very few marques which can measure up to Porsche as a legend of post-war sportscars and motorsports. They have built up a brand and carefully maintained their image synonymous with victory, speed, power and driver enjoyment. They have presumably had more international motorsport success than any other car manufacturer, and even their current modern offerings have a strong lineage back to their early roots. And all of that – the legend that is Porsche – started with this very car!
Does all of that sound like far-fetched hyperbole? Well, read on and judge for yourself…
Pre-World War II, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was working on a variety of engineering projects, one of which was of course the Kdf-Wagen which would eventually evolve into the hugely successful Volkswagen Type 1 after the war had settled. But parallel to this, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was working on developing a sportscar utilising many components from the Kdf-Wagen. Though the sportscar project was initially rejected by the German state, they quickly changed their mind when it was announced that a 940-mile road race from Berlin to Rome would be held in September 1939. It was the ideal opportunity for Germany to showcase their engineering excellence, and three examples of the sportscar which Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche called the Type 64 were ordered to be ready before the big race.
The chassis began with the Kdf-Wagen’s basic steel-pressed backbone which was then modified with rectangular tubular frames constructed from aviation-grade duralumin. A lightweight alloy floorpan was welded to the frame, all of which resulted in an ultra light but also very rigid chassis. This was necessary too as the entire drivetrain was equally borrowed from the Kdf-Wagen. Outright power was never going to be the Type 64’s core competency. Still Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche worked his magic on the 985cc air-cooled flat-4, and while he maintained the original displacement, two Solex carburettors, larger valves and an increased compression ratio ensured that power was up from the stock 23.5hp to a heady 32hp – that is after all a rather impressive 36% power hike! To top it all off, a coachbuilt all-alloy body was developed in a wind-tunnel at Stuttgart University. Low weight and aerodynamics were essential so the two-seater bubble cabin was extremely narrow while there were wheel spats both front and rear. Still adhering to aviation standards the body was assembled and attached to the chassis with more than 2,000 rivets.
However, the slight inconvenience of a 6-year, all-encompassing war got in the way, and initially only one of the three Type 64’s were completed: chassis no. 38/41. It was of course the property of Volkswagen and they handed it over to the head of the German Labour Front, Dr. Bodo Lafferentz. Despite the outbreak of the war and the subsequent cancelation of the Berlin to Rome road race, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche managed to push through that the two last cars should be finished purely for testing and research. The second car was completed some months later, but the third car never got any further than a body which lacked a chassis. In the meantime, Dr. Lafferentz had an accident in the first Type 64 which went back to Porsche to be repaired. This saw the chassis of the first car united with the body of the third car. After this, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche kept the car and used it extensively as his private means of transport throughout the German regime during the war years, as he travelled between his home in Zell am See to Berlin, and not least the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg.
During the final stages of the war, sadly the second Type 64 was destroyed by the US Army. In the mid-90s, parts of the car resurfaced and a new car was built up around them. Given that many significant parts including the entire body had to be reproduced from scratch, it is however debatable whether or not it can be justified as an original Type 64 or merely a very accurate replica which includes some original parts.
What remains is the very first chassis no. 38/41 with the body of the third car which that chassis was mated to in late 1940, and not least the original 985cc engine with no. 38/43 with which it was reunited in recent years.
In the immediate after-war years, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was imprisoned by the French for war crimes, and the entire company, and not least the Type 64, was left for his son, Ferry Porsche to commandeer. Ferry Porsche continued to use the Type 64 as his daily transport just like his father had including regular trips to and from their new workshop which he had relocated in 1946 to Gmünd in Austria. By 1947 the Type 64 was somewhat tired and they treated it to a much needed refurbishment. Then in July 1948, Ferry Porsche introduced their new Porsche 356 Roadster – the famous Porsche Number 1 – at a local race in Innsbruck where the Type 64 was used as chase car during the demonstration runs. Amusingly, the Type 64 – wearing the renown ‘PORSCHE’ script on its nose – pre-dated the so-called Number 1 by almost a full decade. It was during this event that the famous Austrian Gentleman racing driver, Otto Mathé, first saw the Type 64 and started negotiating with Ferry Porsche to purchase the car.
When he eventually finalised the deal in 1949, this was the beginning of a continuous 46 year ownership with Mathé racing the Type 64 extensively up through the 50s. Mathé drove the Type 64 to a convincing class win in the 1950 Austrian Alpenfahrt, but then had a somewhat disappointing ’51 season leading him to install a stronger 1.3-litre engine for the next season. In this guise, Mathé managed a hugely impressive 22 victories during the ’52 season! Eventually though, Mathé turned to other and faster race cars, yet he clearly felt a connection with the Type 64 as he kept it as the crown jewel in his private collection. He repeatedly declined Ferry Porsche’s many attempts to buy back the Type 64 between 1957 and 1964, and kept the hugely original Type 64 until his death in 1995.
Since then, the Type 64 has been cherished by two very prominent Porsche collectors who luckily both understood how unique and important this car is – the ancestor of all Porsches. They both preserved its authenticity and patina, keeping the car true and original to how it was built in 1939/40. Eventually, the current owner even managed to reunite the car with its original 985cc engine stamped 38/43. Even the cloth on the seats is still the original factory cloth which both Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and then his son Ferry Porsche sat on while using the Type 64 as their means of transportation between 1940 and 1949.
And now, this Holy Grail of Porsches is offered for sale publicly for the first time in history during RM Sotheby’s huge auction from the 15th – 17th August 2019 at Monterey Car Week. You’ll find the whole story here: RM Sotheby’s: 1939 Porsche Type 64. You’ll need deep pockets though as you’ll most likely be bidding against all the other big collectors such as Seinfeld, Jay Leno and perhaps even the Porsche Museum. RM sotheby’s haven’t officially put an estimate on the Type 64. Arguably, how could you? There’s nothing you can compare it to. But those in the know have suggested a figure somewhere around US$ 20 million. Deep pockets…