Often overlooked, the Porsche Type 64 holds a significant place in the history of Porsche sports cars.
Great strides were taken in motor car performance during the 1920s and 1930s, a development that actively fed the motorsport industry, which in turn grew in popularity at an astonishing rate. During this time, the automobile became an object of national identity and pride, encouraging further innovation as drivers from the nation of their birth sought to bring glory to that country. This served to boost nationalism and to showcase a nation’s technological prowess, resulting in some of the most streamlined racers in the world, such as the 16-cylinder Auto Union and Mercedes Grand Prix race cars.
During the 1930s, Hitler wanted to provide a car for the masses, a car that the workers could afford to buy with the savings that the national labour organisation was busy setting up for them. Always searching for an opportunity, Ferdinand Porsche looked at the car that Hitler wanted for his people, the KdF-Wagen, and hatched a plan to build a lighter and faster version of this production model that would showcase the nation’s technology. Building on the success that he had achieved with the Auto Union, the intended KdF-Wagen sports version would be based on the production model and Porsche hoped that the state might help with financing the project. All hopes of state financing were however soon dashed as the German workforce was controlled by the national labour organisation whose bosses were focussed on funding the development of a car for the people, not a sports car. For Ferdinand Porsche, the prospect of using the KdF-Wagen platform to realise his sports car ideals was now tantalisingly close, as this production model would certainly suit the construction of a lighter, smaller and more streamlined racer.
During 1938, Ferdinand Porsche and Major Adolf Hühnlein met, and the subject of establishing an endurance motor sport event was discussed. Hühnlein was the head of the Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde or ONS, the organisation responsible for arranging motor sport events in Germany. Hühnlein was inspired, and he set in motion a plan to organise a race from Berlin to Rome, a 1500km event that would take place in September 1939. No doubt Hühnlein’s motivation to his superiors included promoting Germany’s excellent system of Autobahns which this race would utilise, and the event would also tie in conveniently with the start of production of the KdF-Wagen.
In preparation for the race, it was decided to build three special long-distance race cars, and to Ferdinand Porsche’s delight, these were ordered and paid for by Volkswagen. For political reasons the cars were called KdF-Wagen and so in Volkswagen circles the car was known as the Type 60K10, although the Porsche engineers referred to it as the Type 64.
The 64 was to have an aluminium body, and the wheels were fully covered with removable alloy panels. Due to the event being a long-distance road race, Karl Fröhlich designed the car to carry two spare wheels in its nose, a move which meant the standard fuel tank would have to be relocated further back on the passenger side. With the fuel tank now protruding into the passenger area, this resulted in that seat being moved towards the centre of the car and 30cm further back than the driver’s seat, in a staggered formation. Looking at the roof structure from the outside, it can be seen that the dome-shaped cabin was both low and narrow, making the interior uncomfortably confined.
The engine used in the Type 64/60K10 was the standard 985cc unit as used in the KdF-Wagen, but the standard rear axle ratio of 1:4.47 was unsuitable as the 64 was more powerful, lighter and had better aerodynamics. The decision was made to fit a 1:3.45 rear axle which pushed the maximum speed to 173.5km/h at 4000rpm, up from 134km/h with the standard ratio axle. By increasing the compression ratio, power output was raised to 32bhp at 3500rpm.
With the race date set for September 1939, production of the three cars, Sports Car 1, 2 and 3, commenced in the summer of that year. The three chassis numbers allocated to the race cars, also referred to as the KdF-Rekordwagen, was 38/41, 38/42 and 38/43. Karosseriewerk Reutter were given the task of making the bodies for the three cars from 0.5mm alloy sheets, but it wasn’t until 19 August 1939 that the first body was completed, a fortnight before the official start date of the Second World War. The second car was only completed on 20 December that year in a dark colour, while the third car, finished in the same silver colour as the first car, was only completed on 15 June 1940.
Unfortunately, with only the one car being completed prior to the commencement of hostilities, the planned Berlin-Rome race never took place as all motor sport activities in Germany were cancelled. Three of the drivers for the event were to have been Ferry Porsche, his cousin Herbert Kaes and Hans Klauser.
With the event no longer happening, Sports Car 1 (chassis 38/41) was given to Bodo Lafferentz, a member not only of Germany’s national trade union, but he was also a board member of the newly formed Volkswagenwerk. It wasn’t long though before he had a rather serious accident in the car, no doubt due to the high-performance capability of the car compared with other contemporary machinery. The damaged vehicle was duly recovered and returned to the factory.
Of the two remaining cars, Sports Car 2 (38/42) was put to work at the factory as an experimental vehicle. Sports Car 3 led a more measured life, becoming the personal transport of Ferdinand Porsche. However, between the years of 1940-1945, for reasons unrecorded, the body of Sports Car 3 was fitted to the chassis of Sports Car 1 (chassis 38/41), this being the accident-damaged Lafferentz car.
The story is further complicated by the fact that Allied bombing increasingly targeted the industrial regions of Germany. As a result, Porsche was forced to relocate their plant and equipment to a remote site in Gmünd, Southern Austria, which became the home of Porsche from 1944 to 1948. No longer needed at the smaller Porsche manufacturing facility, the two cars, Sports Car 2 and 3 were later kept at the family home in the picturesque and beautiful lakeside town of Zell-am-See in Austria. When the American forces occupied the area at the end of the war, they confiscated Sports Car 2 and put it to use on their local base. Presumably because the car only offered cramped accommodation for two, they decided to remove the roof, turning it into a very crude cabriolet. After giving the car a real thrashing, with the engine seized and the body a mess, it was simply left where it stopped and later scrapped, which was effectively the end of Sports Car 2.
The Porsche family were allowed to keep Sports Car 3 which they used as personal transport right up until 1949. Certain improvements were made to the car and the engine capacity was increased, and it was even driven to Italy for its bodywork to be ‘revived’ by Pinin Farina. Most importantly, sometime in 1948/49 Ferry Porsche had the lettering P-O-R-S-C-H-E made up in the now familiar wider-than-tall style, which was then fitted to the nose just below the front trunk opening.
However, the plans for Porsche’s own sports car were already on the drawing board in 1947 and the first of the new 356 models was officially registered in June 1948. Just as the Type 64 had looked so ultra-modern when compared to contemporary sports machinery of the day, so too did the Porsche 356 immediately date other sports cars of the period. It was at this time that, with the war now over and plans to develop the 356 into a really competitive sports car in the market, that the old Type 64 became redundant to Porsche. Fortunately, the Swiss racing driver Otto Mathé had shown an interest in acquiring the Type 64, otherwise this crucially important piece of Porsche history may well have gone the way of its two siblings, and been scrapped.
With plans to rally the car, Mathé purchased the silver/green-coloured Type 64 from Porsche in 1949 along with a whole batch of spares. Mathé then registered the car in the district of Tyrol near Innsbruck, which accounts for the ‘T’ in its registration number T2222. Although this car is today in private ownership, it can be seen at the Prototyp Museum Hamburg and other venues.
“Otto Mathé, was one of the first, if not the very first driver, to use Porsche products for racing,” said Oliver Schmidt of the Prototyp Museum in Hamburg. Today there are two Type 64s in existence, the first being the 38/41 car Mathé bought from Porsche in 1949. The second car has been built up from the spares that Mathé bought from Porsche, and before the purists raise their hands and say that can’t be, consider the following. When Mathé purchased the Type 64 from Porsche, he acquired a load of additional parts which had been rescued from Sports Car 2, the car that had been abused and then abandoned by the Americans. Mathé planned to use some of the spares to maintain the silver/green car, while others would be used to build other hill climb and race specials.
The first public appearance of the Porsche Type 64 after the Second World War was at the Innsbrucker Hofgarten race in 1948, but this was before Mathé had acquired the car. Between 1949 and 1953, Mathé competed with the Porsche in around eighteen different events including the Coppa Dolomiti in Northern Italy, Österreichische Alpenfahrt, Stella Alpina, Straßenrennen Meran and Korneuburg, Krems, Linz, Gmünd, Innsbruck, Eifelrennen, as well as several circuit races.
At the time that the Prototyp Museum Hamburg acquired the Otto Mathé cars, they filled almost two lorries with parts, together with the Fetzenflieger (literally translated means ‘Scrap-flyer’). But they did not realise at the time that they had bought into the history of the remaining Type 64 parts. Oliver Schmidt explains, “The story about rebuilding car number 2 starts for us when we had problems with the gearbox of the Fetzenflieger. When we took the gearbox out we saw the number ‘38/42’ on it and at first we didn’t know what it was, but later we found out that this was the number of the second Berlin-Rome car. And then we found more parts stamped with ‘38/42’ and finally we also found the almost complete chassis and front axle. One of the door handles we found in a box full of aluminium ski bindings, and so we also had many other parts for the car, but not the body.”
A completely new aluminium body was commissioned by the Museum from Nostalgicar in the German town of Neuss. All the parts from 38/42 were incorporated into this car such as the engine, dashboard, speedometer, door handles, front axle and an almost complete chassis. It is not uncommon to replace bodywork or even an engine on a race car during the course of its life, and so in the same way 38/42 has been given a new body and engine. On permanent display at the Prototyp Museum, today this car shows the correct war-time black-out headlamps, as well as the single overhead-mounted, driver-side windscreen wiper.
Because they no longer have one of the original cars in their collection, the Porsche Museum Stuttgart had a replica aluminium body made by a well-known bodywork specialist, Karosseriebau Drescher, located in Hinterzarten, Germany. Today this reminder of Porsche’s roots stands proudly in the new Museum.
Would it be pushing the concept too far to say that the current 911 RSR GTE PRO race car is a direct descendent of the Type 64 Rekordwagen? This writer would suggest not, because without the Type 64, we would not have had the 356 which in time evolved into the 911. Following the evolutionary trail, it would surely not be stretching the point too far to say that the Type 64 is the great-grandfather of the modern-day 991. Think about it…
Type 64 Specifications
|Engine||4-cylinder, horizontally opposed|
|Capacity||originally 985cc, later possibly 1131cc, still later 1085cc|
|Bore x stroke||70 x 64mm; 75 x 64mm; 73.5 x 64mm|
|Maximum output||32PS; 33PS; 40PS at 4000rpm|
|Weight||615kg; 585kg; 545kg|
|Weight distribution||40 per cent front; 60 per cent rear|
|Maximum speed||173.5km/h (theoretical), possibly 140km/h in practice|
|Tyres||4.50 x 16, later 5.00 x 15 (Mathe)|
|Lubrication||Shell 3X (summer); Shell X (winter)|
* taken from the Mathé car
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche, Prototyp Museum & Glen Smale