The oldest surviving Porsche in the whole world

The 1939 Porsche Type 64 is the first automobile to carry the iconic "Porsche" script. Based on the Volkswagen Beetle, also developed by Ferdinand Porsche, the Type 64 is the oldest surviving Porsche. The coupé was developed in a time when Porsche offered vehicle development work and consulting, but wasn’t building cars under its own name. The Type 64 debuted almost 10 years before Porsche launched its first official car, the 356.

80 years later and the Type 64 went under the hammer at a public auction for the very first time. Despite its age and the many owners it had, the Type 64 is as original as it was in day one. It doesn’t look as pristine as some classic cars do, but that’s because its previous owners went with sympathetic restorations that preserved its aged finish and unique patina of its silver paint. How much did it change hands for? Well, it remained unsold, mostly because RM Sotheby’s auction didn’t go as planned. But the we know that the coupe is estimated to worth at least $20 million.

The Story of the Porsche Type 64

1939 Porsche Type 64
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The Porsche Type 64 started life as a wooden scale model

Although Porsche became a full-fledged automaker in the late 1940s, it all goes back to the early 1930s, when Ferdinand Porsche began offering vehicle development work and consulting. Before that, Ferdinand was the chief designer of Austro-Daimler and then worked for Mercedes-Benz and Steyr Automobile.

Having established his own company in 1931, Porsche recruited some of his co-workers and the business grew rapidly. His first project was to design a midsize car for Wandered, but Porsche also took projects for other German companies. Later in the 1930s, Porsche developed the famous Auto Union single-seater race cars. In 1934, Ferdinand Porsche was also commissioned by the German state to design a "people’s car" based on the Type 12 vehicle created for Zundapp. The "people’s car" project became the iconic Volkswagen Beetle.

This is where the Type 64’s story begins, as it was based on the Beetle. Specifically, it was a continuation of the Type 114, itself a sports car version of the Beetle. Developed in the mid-1930s, the Type 114 was rejected by the German state since it was a big departure from its vision of a car for the common man. However, the idea was revisited later when Volkswagen asked Porsche to design a solution that would address the Beetle’s poorly performing narrow tires. The German company dubbed the project Type 60K10, although Porsche named it Type 64.

The Type 64 soldiered on through World War II as Ferdinand Porsche's personal car

The car started life as a wooden scale model. Designed by Erwin Komenda and Karl Froelich, it was tested in the wind tunnel at the Stuttgart University by Josef Mickl. The three Austrians were the same people who helped Porsche design the Auto Union race cars and the Volkswagen Beetle and would later form the team that developed the Porsche 356 and 550 models.

The project didn’t come to fruition with Volkswagen, but it was again resurrected when Germany and Italy announced a 940-mile race from Berlin to Italy. The National Socialist Motor Corps then asked Porsche to produce three cars based on the Type 64. The race was eventually cancelled by the outbreak of World War II, but Porsche eventually completed three cars. Only the vehicle depicted here survived and soldiered on through World War II as Ferdinand Porsche’s personal car.


1939 Porsche Type 64
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  • Loosely based on VW Beetle
  • Aerodynamic body
  • Design inspired the 356
  • Covered wheels
  • Muscular fenders
  • Still looks authentic
  • Mild restoration
Up front, we can see round headlamps from the Beetle and a sloping front lid

The Type 64 is obviously influenced by the early Volkswagen Beetle, but it has a sleeker and more aerodynamic shape. Up front, we can see round headlamps from the Beetle and a sloping front lid, but the latter is smoother and lower than Volkswagen’s tiny two-door. The rest of the front end is unique, featuring tall fenders, an oval grille under the nose, and a flat bottom with no bumper.

Unlike the Beetle, the Type 64 has a split windshield design, while the front section of the roof is notably higher. This bubble roof design was usually used on high-speed cars back in the day as part of the teardrop shape that improved aerodynamics.

Similarities to the the Beetle continue onto the sides, but it’s mainly just the shape of the roof and the windows. The doors, although just as tall, have a different shape around the Type 64’s wide beltline. The Type 64 also features wheel covers for improved aerodynamics and rides on thicker tires. The rear fenders become more muscular toward the back, where they meet each other to from a pointy bumper.

1939 Porsche Type 64
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Granted, the Type 64 isn't the prettiest Porsche out there, but it wasn't designed to be one

For the rear section Porsche kept the Beetle’s oval window, albeit flatter on this car, as well as the high-mounted engine radiator. The engine lid is also somewhat similar to the Beetle’s, but it has a more spartan design with no character lines and just a couple of locking mounts. The Type 64 doesn’t have any taillights, just a pair of small red lights mounted on the lower rear fenders.

Ferdinand Porsche made the body out of alloy in order to keep weight down. The Type 64 tips the scales at only 1,346 pounds (610.5 kg).

Granted, the Type 64 isn’t the prettiest Porsche out there, but it wasn’t designed to be one. This car was design to become a race car and defeat its competitors through excellent aerodynamics and a low curb weight. It’s been 80 years since it was created and it’s still one of the most aerodynamic designs. More importantly, the Type 64 is the earliest expression of Porsche’s iconic design. Many of the Type 64’s styling cues made it onto the 356, which in turn inspired the 911 that’s still in production after more than 50 years. The Type 64 is the car that started it all for Porsche.

1939 Porsche Type 64
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1939 Porsche Type 64
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  • Spartan interior
  • Painted metal dashboard
  • Speedometer only
  • Cloth door panels
  • Original cloth seats
  • Rubber floor mats
This simple layout was very familiar among cheap cars of the era

The Type 64’s interior is as spartan as they get. Actually, spartan is an overstatement. Nowadays, we refer to entry-level cars that costs around $10,000 to $15,000 as being spartan, in the absence of fancy technology and leather. Well, the Type 64 is just a painted dashboard with a clock in the center, a pair of seats, and cloth door panels.

This simple layout was very familiar among cheap cars of the era. The Volkswagen Beetle had a similar layout in the late 1930s with a metal dashboard painted in body color and two gauges in the center section and two storage compartments at the center. The Type 64 was clearly inspired by the Beetle, but Porsche simplified the design even more, leaving just a speedometer and three knobs in the center. The storage compartments were covered with metal lids bolted onto the dash, while the floors have thin rubber mats. Unlike the Beetle, the side walls of the foot wells aren’t covered in soft material.

1939 Porsche Type 64
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For a car that's 80 years old, the interior of this Type 64 looks fantastic

The door panels, on the other hand, have some sort of cloth on them and they’re also fitted with door pulls made from welded rope. Somewhat ironically, Porsche fitted pockets on the lower door panels, a feature that early Beetles didn’t have.

For a car that’s 80 years old, the interior of this Type 64 looks fantastic. Sure, you’ll notice some wear and tear on the seats and the door panels, but bear in mind that the seat fabric is the same on which Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche previously sat on.

The interior layout also reminds me of the Porsche 356. Ferdinand obviously kept some features, like the center mounted panel on the dashboard and part of the door panels, but the 356 looks much fancier and includes gauges behind the steering wheel.

As far as storage room goes, the Type 64 has most of its front trunk occupied by a pare of spare wheels. Being a race car, having more than one wheel was a necessity back in the day when most competitions were held on public roads that often included many miles of rough gravel.

1939 Porsche Type 64
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1939 Porsche Type 64
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  • Original 1.0-liter engine
  • Up to 40 horsepower
  • Manual transmission
  • 1.3-liter engine upgrade
  • Mostly original drivetrain
  • Good power-to-weight ratio
The Type 64 rolled out of Porsche's shop with a tiny 1.0-liter (985 cc) engine

The Type 64’s chassis began as a KdF-Wagen with a basic layout of a steel-pressed backbone. However, Porsche modified its shape and flanked the structure with rectangular tubular frames made of aircraft-gauge duralumin. This technique was pretty advanced for the era, with mainstream race car building adopting it only after World War II. Ferdinand Porsche also welded a floor pan and underbody made of lightweight alloy to these frames, mostly to improve the car’s aerodynamics.

The Type 64 rolled out of Porsche’s shop with a tiny 1.0-liter (985 cc) engine. The unit was borrowed from Volkswagen and rebuilt with dual Solex carburetors, larger valves, and higher compression. Output is estimated at 32 to 40 horsepower, a significant increase over the standard 23 horses. Although up to 40 horsepower might not sound like a lot to modern standards, we need to keep in mind that the Type 64 tipped the scales at only 1,346 pounds (610.5 kg). This results in a power to weight ratio of 65.5 horsepower per tonne. That’s close to a modern small hatchback.

The Type 64 delivers impressively fast starts according to people who drove it, but there are no official specs for 0-to-60 mph sprints and top speed. Needless to say, the Type 64 likely needs around 10 seconds to hit 60 mph, while top speed should be close to 90 mph. During a public demonstration of the then-new 356 in 1948, the Type 64 was used as a chase car and was seen closely following the much newer Porsche. It was then when, impressed with the car’s agility and speed, private racing driver and lubricant produced Otto Mathe purchased the vehicle.

Porsche Type 64 Specs

Engine 1 liter, 985 cc
Carburetors Solex
Output 32-40 horsepower
Weight 1,346 pounds (610.5 kilos)
Power to weight ratio 65.5 horsepower / ton
0-60 mph 10 seconds (estimate)
Top speed 90 mph (estimate)
The Type 64 was driven to class victory in the Austrian Alpenfahrt, a two-day rally covering 800 miles

In 1949, the 1.0-liter engine was replaced with a slightly larger 1.1-liter unit so that Mathe could race it in superior classes. With this engine, the Type 64 was driven to class victory in the Austrian Alpenfahrt, a two-day rally covering 800 miles. In 1952, the engine grow even bigger, this time to 1.3 liters, which brought the Type 64 more wins in local races.

Although it changed the original engine, Otto Mathe kept the original mill until his death, when it was transferred to a family friend. In 2008, the engine was restored and reunited with the car when the Type 64 was sold to a German car collector. After 59 years, the Porsche Type 64 was restored to original specs, save for the Fiat-sourced cable braking components that Porsche added in 1949.


1939 Porsche Type 64
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The coupé is documented with a full history and bibliography by German automotive author Hans-Karl Lange

Although it changed owners three times until 2019, there’s no information as to how much it was traded for. This isn’t surprising, as rare and unique cars are usually sold in private transactions with undisclosed prices.

The Type 64 changes hands for the first time in 1949, when Porsche sold it to Otto Mathe. The Austrian racer kept the car until his death in 1995. In 1997, the almost 50-year-old coupe was sold to Thomas Gruber, a Porsche enthusiast from Austria. The car remained with Gruber until 2008, when it was purchased by an unnamed German enthusiast with "one of the largest car collections" in the country.

In preparation for the 2019 sale, the Type 64 was inspected by Porsche expert Andy Prill. "I’ve seen countless special Porsches in my career, but nothing like this. I was very careful in examining the authenticity of the Type 64 and its chassis. After spending many days with the car, I have found evidence that all key components of the car are original as built in 1939/1940. This is the most historically significant of all Porsche cars, and it is simply incredible to find the oldest Porsche in this original condition," he told RM Sotheby’s, the auction house that handled the sale.

1939 Porsche Type 64
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The coupe is documented with a full history and bibliography by German automotive author Hans-Karl Lange. The file also includes design drawings, period photographs, factory documents, and correspondence between Ferry Porsche, Huschke von Hanstein, and Otto Mathe, some from the time when the Germany company tried to buy the car back for its museum.

The bidding for the Type 64 was rumored to start from around $20 million

A public price estimate for the car wasn’t available, but thebid for the Type 64 was rumored to start from around $20 million. That’s the most any auction house ever asked for a Porsche.

The record is being held by a Gulf-liveried 917K model. Raced in 1968 and 1969, it was owned by race car driver Jo Siffert and featured in Steve McQueen’s "Le Mans" movie. The car was auctioned at Pebble Beach in 2017 for a whopping $14 million. The second most expensive Porsche is a 956 race car from 1982. A Le Mans winner, it was auctioned for $10.1 million in 2015. The third most valuable Porsche is a 550 Spyder that was sold for $6.1 million in 2016.

1939 Porsche Type 64
- image 854013

All told, the Type 64 was on its way to become the most expensive Porsche in history. Sadly, the auction didn’t go very well due to an incredible mistake by RM Sotheby’s. Specifically, the auction house announced that the bidding would open at $30 million, a sum that most of those in attendance considered ridiculous. Amused by the price, some bid up to $70 million for the Type 64, but the auctioneer announced that he actually said $17 million rather than $70 million. As a result, people walked out of the room. Many collectors deemed the auction "a joke," while some added than the organizers "slit their won throat."

As a result, the Porsche Type 64 remained unsold and will probably show up at a different event next year. However, the coupe will probably change hands for a lot less than $20 million when it happens.


Fiat 508 C Mille Miglia

1939 Porsche Type 64
- image 855648

Fiat was a prominent company before World War II and many of its road cars had racing versions, mostly designed for the Mille Miglia. The 508 C was based on the Fiat 1100, a small family car introduced in 1937. But the race car was radically different design-wise. The body was completely redesigned in order to obtain a more aerodynamic shape. The 508 C Mille Miglia had a strange-looking rear end with an elongated roof line, an abruptly cut off tail, and smooth rear fenders. It looks a lot like a wagon, but the rear section of the cabin has only aerodynamic properties. Although it looked weird, the 508 C Mille Miglia had fantastic aero properties, all tested in the wind tunnel at the Politecnico di Torino university. In many ways, this car was designed just like the Porsche Type 64. The Italian coupe features a 1.1-liter engine that generates 41 horsepower and tips the scale at 1,800 pounds. The 508 C MM its class in the 1938 Mille Miglia. The Fiat 508 is obviously not as expensive as the Type 64, but some versions can fetch close to $1 million.

BMW 328

1939 Porsche Type 64
- image 855647

The 328 is arguably the most famous BMW from the interwar era. Produced from 1936 until 1940, the 328 was also a very successful race car. Powered by a 2.0-liter inline-six engine rated at 80 horsepower, the 328 scored no fewer than 100 class wins from 1936 to 1938, including at the Nurburgring, Mille Miglia, and the RaC Tourist Trophy. It also won its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939, coming fifth overall. Originally a roadster, the 328 was modified into an aerodynamic coupe in 1940. Similar to the Porsche Type 64 and Fiat 508 C MM as far as aerodynamics go, the 328 went on to win the Mille Miglia with an impressive average speed of 103 mph. While most 328s fetch close to $1 million at auctions, some rare models changed hands for more than $5 million.


1939 Porsche Type 64
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Porsche has built an impressive amount of iconic cars over the years, ranging from dominant race cars and rare sports cars to overly powerful SUVs and hybrid supecars. Some of them are expensive, but some cost millions of dollars, especially if they’re built before the 1980s. But none of them are as important as the Type 64. This car may look weird, may look old on the outside, and it may have a spartan interior, but it’s the car that started it all for Porsche. It’s the car that inspired the 356, Porsche’s first production car and the vehicle that eventually spawned the iconic 911. Without the Type 64, there’s a big chance that both the 356 and 911 would have been different. The Type 64 deserves a place in a museum or at least a caring owner to give it the attention it needs. The Type 64 must live forever, no matter the cost!

  • Leave it
    • Only one exists
    • Will cost more than $10 million

Source: RM Sotheby’s

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert -
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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