In a press release announcing the upcoming sale of the car you see here, auction house RM Sotheby’s declares it “the most significant surviving piece of Porsche engineering and design history.” It’s hard to argue with that, since this is believed to be the oldest-surviving Porsche. It’s so old, it actually predates the company by nearly a decade.
This car is a Type 64, which Ferdinand Porsche designed for a 1500-kilometer race between Berlin and Rome planned for September 1939. It was based on the Porsche-designed Volkswagen Beetle—then known as the KdF Wagen—but fit with streamlined aluminum body panels and a hotter 32-hp flat-four. The race never happened. Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939, and the Type 64 project was effectively cancelled. One car was built, which became property of the German government.
Ferdinand’s son Ferry built two more examples of the Type 64, though. Chassis #2 was completed in December, 1939, and chassis #3 was finished the following June. Type 64 #3 actually used the bones of the first car, which was crashed by the managing director of Volkswagen. While Type 64 #2 didn’t survive the war, chassis #3 did, and was retained by the Porsche family when they relocated to Austria. Ferry Porsche put the company name on the front of the Type 64, registered it in 1946, and had Battista “Pinin” Farina—who later founded design house Pininfarina—restore it in 1947.
In 1948, Porsche debuted its first car, the 356, and during an early appearance in Austria, Type 64 #3 was at its side. Austrian racer Otto Mathé bought the car from the company in 1949, and raced it extensively in the early 1950s. Mathé kept the car for the rest of his life, and shortly after he died in 1995, it was sold to Dr. Thomas Gruber, himself a Porsche historian.
In August, RM Sotheby’s will auction Type 64 #3 in Monterey, and it’s expected to command at least $20 million. It’s totally original, and it comes with a number of spare parts, too.
To become the most expensive Porsche ever, it has to beat the 917K used in the film Le Mans, which fetched $14 million at auction in 2017. Given its significance and only-one-left status, we expect Type 64 #3 to do so with ease.