The world of Porsche is full of superlatives: Its cars are often quickest around a given track, first across the finish line. Porsche itself has inspired perhaps the most fanatical marque-based following in all of automobiledom; new or old, its cars are among the most coveted by collectors and enthusiasts.
But it all had to start somewhere. That somewhere was, arguably, the beautiful, streamlined Type 64 coupe. Conceived by Ferdinand Porsche as a sort of high-performance KdF-Wagen (aka Volkswagen Beetle), it was pitched as a way to achieve glory through motorsports prowess and also demonstrate the high-speed virtues of the German autobahn system.
By necessity, it shared a basic configuration, a similar shape and some components with the rounded people’s car — including a four-cylinder air-cooled engine hopped up to 32 hp — but it wore a lightweight aluminum body hand-hammered at the Reutter Works.
Three of these cars were built. One was crashed and one was destroyed in WWII; this car, the third, was built on a chassis salvaged from the first prototype. It is, then, the oldest surviving Porsche (yet another superlative for the pile). It is slated to cross the block at the 2019 RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction ahead of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, coming up for sale for only the fourth time in eight decades.
If the Type 64 is far less famous than the car that followed it, the Porsche 356, it’s because it never really got its moment in the sun. The real proving grounds for the Type 64 was to be the 1,500-km Berlin-Rome race slated to run 1939; in fact, because the car was designed with endurance road racing in mind, the model was initially designed to carry two spare tires under its hood. But you know the story: war erupted, and civilian auto production — let alone the development of something as frivolous as a sports car — was quickly shelved.
But the dream of a Porsche performance car survived the horror of war, and this car survived as well; Ferdinand and his son Ferry Porsche used it as personal transportation. According to RM Sotheby’s, following the conflict’s end, Ferry himself added the P-O-R-S-C-H-E letters to the car’s nose when he went to register it for the road in Austria in 1946 (that’s provenance), making it the first car to ever wear the family name.
(Here, real nerds anoraks will note that “Lohner-Porsche” was used on a much earlier car designed by Ferdinand Porsche, which also happened to be the first gasoline/electric hybrid — but that wasn’t a Porsche exclusively).
A year later, it was sent off for restoration — a job handled by Battista Pinin Farina. It was then basically supplanted by the first true Porsche production car, the 356, and the rest is history.
Austrian privateer racer Otto Mathé purchased the Type 64 and campaigned throughout the 1950s; he held onto until is death in 1995, and in 1997 it was purchased by Porsche specialist Dr. Thomas Gruber. Its fourth owner, the unnamed consignor, purchased it roughly a decade ago.
And you could be the fifth owner; the car goes to auction during Monterey car week in August. We hesitate to even guess what it’s worth, but eight figures seems to be a given. There’s nothing quite like it: It’s a car directly responsible for the 356, the 911 and arguably everything else on road or track to bear the Porsche name and crest.
On top of all that, it still appears to wear the gracefully aging restoration work done by none other than Pinin Farina. While this Type 64 is certainly not the most powerful Porsche, or the quickest or the fastest, it’s the only surviving example of the very first. No matter what it ends up selling for, there’s incomparable value in that.
Published: MAY 13, 2019
Photo Credit: RM SOTHEBY’S