This last December, we planned a trip to Hamburg to visit with family and to see the Automuseum PROTOTYP. This time, though, I wanted to travel via a different route, not the normal Dover-Calais channel crossing. Stena Line offer the Harwich to Hook-of-Holland crossing, which cuts out a lot of motorway driving through France and Belgium. We were late in booking and so could only get a daytime crossing, but for a small additional fee, we were able to access the Stena Plus feature which gets you into a private lounge. We took this option as it allowed us some quiet and the opportunity to plug in a laptop and to work, plus you get free teas and coffee throughout the crossing.
Taking this route to Hook-of-Holland, our journey by car to Hamburg was reduced to only five and a quarter hours instead of the seven and a half hours (it’s always longer than that) driving from Calais to Hamburg. It also means that by disembarking in Hook-of-Holland, you hit the German autobahns sooner, where you can make up extra time on your journey.
There is a lot to see in Hamburg, it really is a notable cultural centre in northern Germany. If you make your way down to Hamburg’s old harbour district, you will find that it has been transformed into a modern, hip area where many large corporations have established their headquarters. Many of the large and spacious buildings, once neglected and bland-looking, have been given a complete and sophisticated make-over, bringing them into the 21st century. One such building, which neighbours onto the Speicherstadt district (spice city), is today the home of the Automuseum PROTOTYP in Hamburg – and no, the ‘e’ is not missing, it’s the German spelling of prototype.
Convenient parking around the back of the building ensures that you don’t have to drive around endlessly looking for a parking before you can visit this fine establishment. As the name implies, the Automuseum PROTOTYP specialises in prototype models of both production and racing cars. By definition, the prototypes date from ca. 1930s forward, with the majority of vehicles on display originating from some of the bigger German manufacturers. While many of the display vehicles have German origins, there are some really special models produced by smaller companies that you may not have heard of before.
The reception is on the first floor, and so the atrium and stairway walls are richly adorned with period imagery, just to get you into the mood. Enthusiastic visitors can also explore the well-stocked shop at the reception, where you can choose from authentic scale models, books, marque-specific apparel and much more. Also in this area is a comfortable café area where you can rest your legs and enjoy a refreshment after wandering around the exhibits.
Visitors should remember that the German automotive industry was devastated as a result of the two World Wars, but despite this, there is still an interesting and wide representation of early models. One of the amazing realities is how innovative the German automotive manufacturers were before and after World War II, as evidenced by the prototypes on display.
The Automuseum PROTOTYP celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2018, and I am privileged to be able to say that I have visited this institution three times now, my first such visit being back in 2009, just a year after it opened. The exhibition hall is not huge by comparison with other museums, but what they may lack in the quantity of vehicles on display, they certainly make up for in quality! In this feature are a number of photos of cars that form part of the museum’s permanent or specialist displays.
Selected museum exhibits
|1498 cc||130 hp||210 km/h||395 kg|
In 1952, the Austrian mechanical engineer Otto Mathé built the Fetzenflieger using parts of the early Volkswagen Type 60 K 10 Berlin-Rom-Wagen racer and Porsche. The chassis and body are handmade. Body parts like the wings can be attached so that the Fetzenflieger can be used as a formula race car as well as a sports car. The shifter is installed on the left side because Mathé couldn’t use his right arm. To steer and to shift at the same time he leaned forward and pressed his chest on the steering wheel. The first engine – a 1500 cc pushrod Porsche racing engine and transmission were installed in front of the rear axle. In 1955, Mathé changed the engine and installed a 550 Spyder engine. He also improved the car by using rims and brakes from the 550 Spyder. The name Fetzenflieger is just a nickname because the engine was partly covered with linen fabric where a backfire could ignite the fabric causing the rear of the car to appear to be on fire. The Fetzenflieger was the most successful Austrian race car in the 1950s.
1951 Porsche 356 Gläser-Cabriolet
|1286 cc||44 hp||140 km/h||830 kg|
To relieve the Stuttgart coachbuilder Reutter, where the Porsche 356 cars were built from 1950 until 1963, the Bavarian company Gläser was charged with building 356 convertibles. Gläser assembled each Porsche from steel panels supplied by Reutter, but in 1952 production was ceased. Today only about 20 Gläser convertibles still exist.
1949 Volkswagen WD Sport
|1131 cc||35 hp||130 km/h||600 kg|
After the end of World War II, Wolfgang Denzel built a sports car with a body of his own design, mounted on a modified VW Type 82 Kübelwagen chassis, in a repair shop in Vienna. Denzel presented his first sports car in Vienna in 1948, aptly named the Volkswagen WD Equipment. The body was made of fibreglass and had no side doors for reasons of stability. The engine was based on the standard 1131 cc VW engine but was further tuned by Denzel, enabling him to participate in Austrian car races. Six cars were built with fibreglass bodies and six with steel bodies, and while none of the fibreglass cars survived, this vehicle is the world’s oldest surviving Denzel. It is also the only surviving Denzel four-seater.
|1098 cc||67 hp||200 km/h||525 kg|
From 1950 to 1954, six Glöckler-Porsche cars were built, this car is the forth car built. The Glöckler-Porsches are regarded as the precursors of the Porsche 550 Spyder. The designers of this superb race car were the Frankfurt car dealer, Walter Glöckler, and his workshop manager, Herman Ramelow. This car was built for the race driver Richard Trenkel who participated in the 1100 cc sports car class and in 1953, he became German Champion with this very car. The car is clothed in aluminium, and the tuned Porsche engine is located ahead of the rear axle. The head lights were taken from Ford!
1949 Petermax Müller Weltrekordwagen
|1100 cc||78 hp||215 km/h||550 kg|
Petermax Müller built one the first racing cars using VW and Porsche technology. Of the total of six hand-made racing cars, which are characterised by their aerodynamically shaped aluminium bodies, only this example still exists today in original condition. Müller used V-shaped hanging cylinder heads, and together with the VW engineer Gustav Vogelsang, he changed the pistons and cylinders and installed four Solex single carburettors. The so-called ‘Vogelsang engine’ is regarded as the forerunner of the Porsche 356 engine. In 1950 Petermax Müller, together with Fritz Huschke von Hanstein (later to become Porsche’s PR supremo), participated with this car as the first Germans in an international race after World War II, in the Targa Florio. A short time later, the car became a world record car. Müller, Huschke von Hanstein, Helmut Polensky and Walter Glöckler drove in Montlhéry/Paris for four days at an average of 124 km/h on the high-speed race track, setting eight world, and 22 national-records, including the world record for over 10,000 km!
1951 NSU Kompressor Weltrekordwagen
|500 cc||98 hp||261 km/h||290 kg|
In 1951 Ferdi Lehder established two new world records on the autobahn from Munich to Ingolstadt with this small racing car, fitted with a 500 cc NSU supercharged engine. He drove the one kilometre and the one mile distance with a rolling start, at an average speed of 158 mph. On the same day, he beat these records again when he drove a distance of 10 kilometres at an average of 155 mph. That evening, the engineers put a 350 cc motorbike engine into the car, and Georg von Opel established a further three world records.
1960 Porsche 718/2-02 F1
|1498 cc||165 hp||280 km/h||465 kg|
In the late 1950s, Porsche race organiser Fritz Huschke von Hanstein instigated the construction of the 718/2, a formula race car based on the sports car Porsche 718. Five 718/2 were built to participate in Formula 2 racing in 1960, of which four cars were factory cars. The fifth car was sold to the private Scottish team run by Rob Walker. In 1960, the 718/2 were successfully driven by Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Hans Herrmann, Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips, Edgar Barth, Joakim Bonnier, Dan Gurney, and Graham Hill. At the end of the racing season Porsche won the constructors’ championship. In 1961, regulations in Formula 1 racing had changed so that the Porsche 718/2 was turned into a Formula 1 race car. This Porsche 718/2 was driven by Joakim Bonnier and Hans Herrmann in various Formula 1 races. Later it was sold to Scuderia Filipinetti, and after the 1962 racing season, Dutch privateer Carel Godin de Beaufort bought the car. After his death in 1964 at the German GP on the Nürburgring the car became part of the Donnington Grand Prix Collection, and is now displayed at Automuseum PROTOTYP.
1964 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS
|1966 cc||180 hp||263 km/h||650 kg|
Officially called the Carrera GTS, the Porsche 904 was the successor to the Type 718. For homologation purposes, approximately 120 cars were built in 1963/64. The body is made of fiberglass, which was a first for Porsche. This 904, chassis #052, is powered by the 4-cam Fuhrmann mid-mounted engine, and was driven by well-known French F1 driver, Jo Schlesser.
1960 Wendler-Porsche W/RS-001
|1498 cc||135 hp||228 km/h||525 kg|
This car was built by the coachbuilder Wendler, who was also responsible for building the bodies of the Porsche 550 and 718 cars. This car was probably built as a prototype for the Porsche 718 coupes. The Porsche 718 coupes, powered by a Porsche Type 547 4-cam engine, took part at Le Mans in 1961. This Wendler prototype is street-legal, the taillights come from a Mercedes-Benz 220 B and it is said that this prototype was sold to the Austrian Herbert von Karajan who was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years.
1942 VW Type 166 Schwimmwagen
|1131 cc||25 hp||80 km/h||910 kg|
As a cross-country amphibious vehicle, the Type 166 ‘Schwimmwagen’ was produced from 1942 until 1945. Because of the incomplete construction of the Volkswagen factory, the bodies of the Type 166 and Type 82 were produced in Berlin and brought by train to the factory where the cars were completed. Nearly 15,000 Type 166 ‘Schwimmwagen’ were produced.
1958 Porsche 597 Jagdwagen
|1582 cc||50 hp||100 km/h||1090 kg|
Porsche participated in a tender for a Jeep for the German army. However, DKW was awarded the contract, and so Porsche sold the remaining prototypes under the name ‘Jagdwagen’ (hunting car). The Type 597 is the first four-wheel drive vehicle produced by Porsche.
2004 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
|3600 cc||381 hp||306 km/h||1360 kg|
In 2003, Porsche presented the GT3 RS as a limited version of the Porsche 996 GT3 series. It was intended that this lightweight version would remind enthusiasts of the Porsche Carrera RS 2.7, which achieved several motorsports successes in the early 1970s. An optical connection with the Carrera RS are its coloured side stripes with the GT3 RS logo, which came as standard. Other distinguishing marks of the GT3 RS have been borrowed from the 911 GT3 Cup, such as the front spoiler with its three vents, and the newly designed upper part of the double-deck carbon fibre rear wing.
1960 De Tomaso ISI Nr.002
|1089 cc||85 hp||217 km/h||430 kg|
This De Tomaso Formula Junior race car was bought by Count von Trips for the young racing drivers of the Scuderia Colonia. Like Count von Trips, Alejandro de Tomaso, an Argentinian race driver, founded his own racing car company in 1959 in Modena, Italy. Among other things, de Tomaso built several Formula Junior racing cars that are based on Cooper technology. These cars were called ‘ISI’ – the nickname of his wife, Isabelle Haskell de Tomaso. The aluminium body was designed and built by Medaro Fantuzzi and it is powered by a tuned Fiat engine with a VW transmission.
1954 Rometsch Porsche Spyder
|1086 cc||68 hp||200 km/h||550 kg|
The Rometsch Porsche Spyder is based on a Volkswagen frame as well as on technology of the early Porsche 550 Spyder. It was built in early 1954 by Berlin coachbuilder Karosserie Friedrich Rometsch for the Renngemeinschaft Berlin-Halensee and scheduled for the 1100 cc sports car class. The Renngemeinschaft Berlin was a community of private racing drivers who could not finance a race car of their own. Sponsored by a wealthy patron, they participated in racing from 1952 till 1955. At the beginning of the 1954 racing season the new Porsche 550 Spyder was still in development, and could not be sold to private drivers such as the Renngemeinschaft. But the group obtained permission to build a car using body and mechanical parts from the 550 Spyder. The flat aluminium pontoon body was designed by Bernhard Cappenberg, also a member of the Renngemeinschaft. The Rometsch Porsche Spyder debuted in 1954 at the Leipziger Stadtparkrennen and was driven by Helmut Niedermayr, also participating in races in Rostock, Dresden, at the Halle-Saaleschleife, at the Sachsenring and at the Eifelrennen on the Nürburgring. At the end of the 1950s the car was converted by the German race driver Harry Merkel into a two-seated street legal roadster. After that it disappeared into oblivion, but in 2009, it was found in a depot near Hockenheim and it has subsequently been restored.
1958 VW Transporter T1 Bulli
|1131 cc||30 hp||90 km/h||1140 kg|
After the VW Beetle, known internally as Type 1, the VW Transporter was the second vehicle type built for civilian use at the VW plant. The transporter was developed in 1949, and the first generation (T1) was offered from 1950 to 1967. The T1 was the market leader among the transporters and was considered a symbol of the German economic miracle. From 1956, Volkswagen produced a total of 1.8 million T1 in various versions at their plants in Wolfsburg and in Hanover. This T1 was originally used as a fire truck.
This is just a small selection of the cars on display, so my advice is to plan a trip to the museum, and see this pearl of an exhibition for yourself. Click here to see the museum website, and you can see a gallery here containing more images taken at the museum on my earlier trips. A blog covering my second visit to the Automuseum PROTOTYP in 2011, can be seen here.
For those Porsche enthusiasts looking to try the Hook-of-Holland route, consider the following. The most popular and well-trodden route from the UK to Stuttgart, the home of Porsche, is to make the channel crossing from Dover to Calais. The journey from Calais to Stuttgart is a 468-mile drive, but by taking the Hook-of-Holland route, your Continental drive to Stuttgart is only 411 miles. Certainly, the journey from Hook-of-Holland to the German border is shorter than from Calais to the German border, so taking the Dutch option, you get more wheel time on the German autobahns, allowing you to make up even more time. If you are a Porsche owner, then taking the Hook-of-Holland route is surely the preferred option!
Using the Stena Line crossing to Hook-of-Holland ensures that you arrive on the Continent in a more relaxed state, and if you choose to have a cabin, then that is even better. Give it a try, it certainly eases access to those northern European classic car and historic race car venues.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & Stena Line