California is set to reassert its credentials as the epicentre of the classic Porsche universe this August, when RM Sotheby’s offers what it is calling the first-ever Porsche for sale at the Monterey weekend.
Sotheby’s refers to the car as “the only surviving example of the Type 64 Porsche and the personal car of both Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche,” but the honorary title is at odds with respected Porsche historian and friend of the Porsche archives, Karl Ludvigsen, who describes this car and its stablemates as Type 60K10s rather than Type 64s. This car is noted by Ludvigsen as one of three 60K10s built by Porsche in preparation for the Berlin-Rome race, which was planned to run in September 1939. The historian explains things as follows:
“When, in 1941, Porsche compiled a book covering the activities of its first ten years, it conflated the Types 64 and 60K10 under the “Type 64″ heading. Understandably, this has led to confusion for later historians. This author prefers to maintain a clear distance between the two projects, which were in fact distinctly different and played contrasting roles in the Porsche sports-car saga.”
Type 64 Origins
The origin of the Type 64 Volkswagen is well documented. Ludvigsen’s must-have work ‘Origin of the Species‘ describes how, in 1937, “Porsche designers sketched the specifications of another member of the VW family, the Type 64, listed in the Porsche annals as VW-Rekord (Sport)”. However, circumstances surrounding the Type 64 plans were difficult.
Building one-off sports cars didn’t suit the PR tastes of the German Labour Front, overseers of the KdF-Wagen (Volkswagen) project that the Type 64 was based on. Nor would the organisation sell KdF parts to Porsche for the design house to build its own Type 64s. As Porsche could neither obtain the parts or the funding to take the project further, no Type 64s were ever built.
Enter the KdF 60K10
When the first Autobahn was opened from Berlin to Munich, a race was planned for Autumn 1939, to highlight the feat of civil engineering. After sprinting south through Germany along the new highway, the competitors would continue through Austria to the Brenner Pass before racing closed roads, all the way to Rome.
With deliveries of the new Volkswagen/KdF-Wagen scheduled for early 1940, the race was tailor-made for PR. A racing car built on the Volkswagen was now an entirely different proposition, and the Labour Front was now all in favour. Ferdinand Porsche decided that the cars should be built on the standard Type 60 VW chassis with a special aluminium body hand built by Reutter.
Much of the engineering for Type 64 was integrated into the Type 60K10, allowing a short development cycle. The first of three cars was finished in August 1939, with the second completed a month later. The race was officially shelved after Germany invaded Poland the following month, but one more car was finished in June 1940. Based on the damaged chassis of car number one, that is the car being offered for sale.
First-Ever Porsche: The History
Sotheby’s press release tells how “the third Type 64 was retained as a personal family car and driven extensively by Ferry and Ferdinand Porsche. When the company was forced to relocate headquarters to Gmünd, Austria from 1944-1948, it was kept alongside No. 2 at the family estate in the picturesque lakeside town of Zell-am-See. No. 3 was the only example to survive the war, and Ferry Porsche himself applied the raised letters spelling out ‘PORSCHE’ on the nose of the car when he had in registered in Austria under the new company name in 1946.
“In 1947, restoration work was commissioned by Porsche and completed by a young Pinin Farina in Turin, Italy. Nearly one year later, Porsche demonstrated the Type 356 roadster, no. 1, on public roads in Innsbruck, with the Type 64 by its side. Austrian privateer driver Otto Mathé completed demo laps in the Type 64 and fell in love, buying it from Porsche the following year. He enjoyed a successful racing career with the car in the 1950s—the very first to do so in a Porsche product—and kept it for 46 years until his death in 1995.
“In 1997, the Type 64 changed hands for just the second time in six decades and appeared at a handful of vintage racing events with its third owner, Dr. Thomas Gruber of Vienna, including Goodwood and the Austrian Ennstal Classic. Dr. Gruber is the author of the renowned Carrera RS book and one of the most respected Porsche specialists worldwide. Delightfully patinated, the streamlined 1939 Porsche Type 64 is now offered in Monterey from the long-term care of just its fourth owner, who acquired the car more than a decade ago, and is accompanied by many original spare parts, as well as extensive period images and historic documentation.”
Previous efforts to sell the Type 64
Instagram threads on this car throw up a few stories regarding previous efforts to sell it privately. One commenter on the RM thread suggests that Mathé’s guys may have altered a chassis number back in the day (quite common on older Porsches) and classic Porsche dealer, Maurice Felsbourg, commented that “The Otto Mathé car has been for sale by owners for years now. Each time asking price was met, they either raised it or changed their mind. They play golf with Piëch & Porsche, they surely won’t buy it. I hope bidding stalls at €5m.”
Sounds slightly like sour grapes you might think, but it is true that the car has previously been offered to specialists. One contact showed me an email from 2014, when he was offered the car at €12 million. Plenty of people will know about recent efforts to sell and that will influence some bidders. It if often the case that collectors reject the opportunity to buy in open market when the seller has made things difficult behind closed doors.
Whether you call this car a Type 64 or a Type 60K10, assuming the car all checks out, this is the most significant VW-Porsche to come up for sale since the last time it changed hands. Sotheby’s press release says that it could get up to $20 million: we’ll see how that goes.
Photos © Staud Studios 2019 courtesy of RM Sothebys