We all know that the first Porsche, the 356, was built in 1948, and largely derived from Volkswagen Type I (you know, the Beetle) designs and components. Ferdinand Porsche was, of course, the lead engineer in charge of developing the car that would become the Beetle, then known as the KdF (Strength-through-Joy) Wagen. Between these two iconic cars, the Beetle and the Porsche 356 exists a transitional car, a sort of missing link that bridges Volkswagen and Porsche. It’s known as the Type 64, and the only true original one is going up for auction this summer.
While many sites are describing this car as the “first Porsche ever made,” I don’t really think that’s an accurate description of what this car really is.
The Type 64 was also known as the 60K10 because it was based on the KdF Wagen (Porsche’s type 60) and it was the 10th body (Karosserie) to be designed for what we now know as the VW Beetle chassis. The whole reason the car exists at all is because of a planned Berlin-to-Rome road rally, and in this race Hitler wanted to showcase his new People’s Car, the KdF Wagen.
To do this, a special racing KdF was commissioned, and Porsche’s design bureau got the job, which made sense, seeing as how they developed the KdF in the first place.
The 1938 Series 38 KdF pre-production chassis and drivetrain were used as the basis for the car, with the base 985cc 25 horsepower engine getting twin carburetors, a higher compression ratio, and some other tweaks to squeeze more power out of it—I’ve found different reports suggesting the 60K10 engines made 32 or 40 or even 50 horsepower.
That may not sound like much, but it was no joke for the era and the engine size, and was good enough to push the car to 95 to 99 mph.
The body was all-new and all-aluminum, far more streamlined than the normal Beetle body. Even though it was completely new, it had to at least resemble the basic KdF body so it could be an effective promotional tool for the car. Erwin Komenda, the designer of the original KdF, designed the Type 64 as well, and incorporated some key visual carryovers, including the iconic “butterfly” stamping on the front hood, and the distinctive rear air intake louvers, though on the Type 64 they’re under a one-piece oval window instead of a split window, foreshadowing the changes the Beetle would one day make.
The extremely narrow cabin and streamlined look were derived from an unrealized Porsche design, the Type 114 racer, and that narrow cabin and a re-located fuel tank necessitated one of the most famous quirks of the car, the staggered seating, which you can see in the diagram above.
Three Type 64s were built, though the 1939 Berlin-Rome race never happened, since Hitler decided it would be more fun to invade Poland and plunge the world into a long, miserable war.
Of the three cars, the first one, built in 1939, was wrecked and totaled that same year. A second one was built later in 1939, and that one survived the war, but had its roof cut off by American GIs and was joyridden into the ground. In 2011, this car’s remains were used as a basis for a re-creation.
The third car is the one that’s going up for auction, and was built in 1940, but used the chassis from the 1939 number one car, and the engine from the number two car.
The number three car was restored in 1947, and in 1949, the car was sold to racing driver Otto Mathé. On the sales contract it was referred to as a “Volkswagen Sport.” Mathé was paralyzed in his right hand from a motorcycle racing accident, so he had the car converted to right hand drive, and raced it extensively, and often successfully.
Mathé drove the car hard and wrecked it on several occasions, but always rebuilt it, eventually painting it turquoise in the 1950s. During one of these rebuildings the PORSCHE lettering was placed on the nose above the front air intake, the first time the car was actually badged as a Porsche.
Sometime later it was repainted back to silver, and the car was returned to LHD at some point as well. Mathé kept the car until his death in 1995.
The car changed hands a few times since then, and now it can be yours! I’m guessing you’ll need a pretty good stack of cash to buy this thing, though, as it is, essentially, the very genesis of Porsche itself.
Some are guessing that the Type 64 will fetch over $20 million at auction, making it the most expensive Porsche sold at auction, beating out Steve McQueen’s $14 million Porsche 917K racecar, sold in 2017.
If it hits $20 million, that’ll be a pretty damn good price for a Beetle with a home-built body kit on it.