1939 Porsche Type 64 prototype to be auctioned by RM Sotheby’s

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Porsche
The Type 64 has a sculpted aluminum body and removable fender skirts | RM Sotheby's photos

RM Sotheby’s shook the ground at Luftgekühlt on Saturday when it announced that the earliest car to wear Porsche lettering on its nose, the Type 64, would be offered at the company’s signature collector car auction in August during Monterey Car Week.

Named simply Sports Car 3 at the time of its creation in 1939, the Type 64 is the sole survivor of the three seminal prototypes that would form the basis for the beloved 356 and 911 models to come.

Porsche
The prototype race car is the only surviving example

Luftgekühlt (air-cooled in German) is a massive annual celebration of classic Porsches, held this weekend on the back lot of Universal Studios in Los Angeles, where the auction house revealed its news.

The Type 64’s enveloping body that seemed so shockingly avant garde at the time was designed by Erwin Komenda for Ferdinand Porsche, who took the fundamentals of his “people’s car” to create a lightweight rear-engine racer to compete in a Rome to Berlin auto race that never happened, canceled because of Germany marching into World War II.

While Sports Car 1 was wrecked in a crash and Sports Car 2 was destroyed by occupying forces after World War II, the third prototype was used during the conflict by Ferdinand Porsche and his son, Ferry, as personal transportation.  The Type 64 was kept at the family estate in Zell-am-See, Austria, and in 1946, Ferry had the raised PORSCHE block lettering applied to the car’s nose, when he registered the car under the new company name.

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Porsche
Sports Car 3 was raced by a private owner in the 1950s | Porsche Classic Werks

In 1947, the aluminum body was cleaned up by the young Italian design house Pinin Farina. A year later, the car was demonstrated on public roads, where it was spotted by Austrian private racer Otto Mathé, who bought the car a year later.  Mathé enjoyed a successful racing career with Type 64 in the 1950s, and kept it until his death in 1995.

In 1997, the Type 64 was purchased by vintage racer and Porsche author Thomas Gruber, who competed with it in a number of historic competitions, including Goodwood in England and the Austrian Ennstal Classic.  The car goes to auction from the collection of its fourth owner.

Porsche
The 1.1-liter air-cooled flat-4 engine came from Volkswagen

The Porsche is in “delightfully patinated” condition, according to RM Sotheby’s, which holds its annual California auction at the Monterey Conference Center, this year on August 15-17, during the week that culminates in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

 “Without the Type 64, there would be no Porsche 356, no 550, no 911,” Marcus Görig, car specialist for RM Sotheby’s, said in a news release. “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.”

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Porsche
The passenger seat was pushed back to accommodate the fuel tank

Andy Prill, a well-respected Porsche specialist who inspected the Type 64, noted, “I’ve seen countless special Porsches in my career, but nothing like this.

“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.”

RM Sotheby’s has not publicized an estimated value for the unique car.  For more information about the sale, visit the auction website.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Wonderful car. Its body and frame design should be credited to the brilliant Erwin Komenda. Originally built as a racing Volkswagen, then type 60K10, it was conflated with another project, the unbuilt Type 64, after the war. It was given the Porsche name to help promote the forthcoming Porsche production sports cars, which were not directly patterned on this design. Thus it is not the prototype of the Type 356, which was designed from scratch by Komenda — and very well!

    • Right you are, Karl, and I added Komenda to the story. And while the type 64 was not originally designed as a prototype but a purpose-built race car, it eventually served as such in the creation of the 356, which as you point out was also designed by Komenda

  2. Great jumping Jeez-us- I can see why Sotheby’s didn’t publish an estimate on the car’s worth; it’s priceless. Do Seinfeld and Leno know about this, or Lord March? I’d really hate to see this amazing piece of living history just disappear into an anonymous private collection. Ya ‘spose the company might want it back for their stellar museum?
    Lotsa potential $$$ there.
    Rather have a 2.7 Carrera RSR myself, but no lottery $$$ yet (sigh).

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