It’s the holy grail of Porsches: the sole remaining Type 64 created by Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche and the oldest model to bear the famous name – and it’s coming to auction later this year.
The historically important vehicle will go under the hammer at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in August and although there's no estimate attached to it, it’s safe to say that it will command a multi-million-pound price.
Experts at RM predict it will fetch at least $20m (£15.46m) and describe it as “perhaps the most significant surviving piece of Porsche engineering and design history”.
“Without the Type 64, there would be no Porsche 356, no 550, no 911,” says Marcus Görig, car specialist at RM Sotheby’s. “This is Porsche’s origin story, the car that birthed the company’s legend, and it offers collectors what is likely an unrepeatable opportunity to sit in the seat of Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche.”
The Type 64 predates the first production Porsche, the 356, and was initially built by Ferdinand Porsche for a road race, the 1500km Berlin-Rome that was due to take place in September 1939.
Porsche was by that time already well underway in producing the KdF-Wagen – the vehicle that would become the Volkswagen Beetle – but he also had dreams of creating a lighter, faster version of the model suitable for racing.
That chance came with the announcement of the Berlin-Rome race, which was intended to promote both the autobahn system and the launch of the KdF-Wagen.
The German government duly commissioned three special long-distance racing versions of the KdF-Wagen for the race, and Porsche and his engineers began work on the Type 64.
Although built around the same suspension and drivetrain as the Volkswagen, the Type 64 had a lightweight aluminium body, while its wheels were fully covered with removable alloy panels.
The fuel tank was also moved further back, to create space for two spare wheels in the nose, and the passenger seat moved towards the centre and further back than the driver, to accommodate the fuel tank.
The engine was the standard 985cc unit found in the KdF-Wagen, but tuned to 32bhp and with a faster top speed of 173.5kph.
It was built to race, then, but it would have to wait a while for its chance: soon after the first of the three cars was finished in late August 1939, war was officially declared and the Berlin-Rome race was cancelled.
At this point, Ferdinand’s son Ferry picked up the baton and completed the two additional cars – the second by December 1939 and the third in June 1940, using the chassis from the first car, which had been damaged in an accident. It is this third car that will be sold by RM Sotheby’s.
Retained by the Porsche family for their personal use, it was driven extensively by Ferry and Ferdinand and was kept alongside No. 2 at the family estate in Austria.
The second car sadly didn’t survive the war. US forces confiscated it towards the end of hostilities and put it to use on their local base. The roof was removed and the car effectively driven into the ground then left to rot.
This car, however, was left unscathed and when Ferry Porsche registered his new company name in 1946 he himself applied the raised letters spelling out ‘PORSCHE’ on the car’s nose.
The next year he decided to give it a spruce up, commissioning a young ‘Pinin’ Farina to do the work, then – nearly a decade after its completion – finally started racing it.
By this time, Porsche’s plans for the 356 were well advanced and the Type 64 was beginning to be yesterday’s news. Fortunately, Austrian privateer Otto Mathé had fallen in love with it and bought it from Porsche in 1949. He enjoyed a successful racing career with the car in the 1950s – thus becoming the first true Porsche racer – and kept it for 46 years until his death in 1995.
Two years later it was sold again, to Porsche expert Thomas Gruber, and it goes to auction courtesy of its fourth owner, who acquired the car more than a decade ago.
Specialist Andy Prill has recently inspected the Type 64 and says: “I’ve seen countless special Porsches in my career, but nothing like this. I was very careful in examining the authenticity of the Type 64, no. 3 and its chassis.
"After spending many days with the car, I have found evidence that all key components of the cars are original as built in 1939/1940. This is the most historically significant of all Porsche cars and it is simply incredible to find the very first Porsche in this original condition.”
“We’ve had the honour of presenting some of the most significant cars in the history of numerous top marques at Monterey, and the Type 64 now stands among them,” adds Gord Duff, Global Head of Auctions at RM Sotheby’s.
“The Type 64 helped define what a sports car is today, and it carries many of traits we’ve seen throughout seven decades of Porsche production and still see in some of the marque’s most sought-after contemporary models.”
RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction takes place from 15-17 August, during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance week, and also features a one-marque Aston Martin sale. Follow this link for more information about the sale.
Images: Staud Studios © 2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s; archive photos from the Otto Mathé collection