Why Are They Referring to Dr. Porsche’s Type 64 as a Nazi Car?

The big news out of Monterey Car Week this year was the attempted sale of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche's 1939 Type 64. What should have gone down as the biggest sale of the week ended in a no-sale with car collectors and casual observers left scratching their heads in bewilderment and booing the auctioneer. 

In fact, in was such a blunder that this story has spread like wildfire throughout not only the automotive world, but also outlets like The New York Times, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Guardian and others. This news has gone worldwide. 

In a nutshell, the bidding started at a wildly strong $30 million with the auctioneer asking for $500,000 increments. Bidding quickly ramped up to $70 million, at which point the auctioneer announces the bidding to actually be at $17 million. No bidders were realized after the course correct. 

So, what went wrong?  

The Type 64 Has a Troubled History

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It's German and it was built in 1939, meaning its reputation will always be dubious no matter which way you slice that cake. 

And make no mistake, this car's history is dubious. Head designer of the Type 64 was of course Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, who also penned the people's car, the KdF Wagen (better remembered as the VW Beetle), at the behest of Hitler. The Type 64 was destined for larger things, however. As the New York Times reported:

The car was supposed to be part of a propaganda campaign, marking the Nazis’ 1938 alliance with Italy and the absorption of Austria.

The Type 64 was essentially meant to be a 'halo car' of sorts for Nazi Germany specifically and the Axis alliance generally. Nazi propaganda that thankfully never materialized. 

It's also worth noting that there's all the possibility in the world that Porsche himself took more than a few notes from Tatra's Hans Ledwinka when designing the Type 64: After all, he admitted to doing so when it came to the KdF Wagen, as outlined in this story from Petrolicious. And if you look at a Tatra T77, the resemblance is there.  

 

Can We Separate the Car From its History?

Given its troubled past, is the car still an important part of automotive history, or should it be destined to remain an outlier for the rest of its days?

This isn't easy to answer, as its implications go far beyond the automotive world, so it's one we will defer for others to struggle with, as we have no interest—or money—in this car. It's important to note, however, that this car has twice appeared at the Goodwood Festival of Speed: 1998 and 2003. A lot has changed since 2003, though, but it was once celebrated.

More telling yet has been Porsche AG's lack of celebration of the car or its provenance leading up to its sale. As Bloomberg reported:

Porsche AG and the Porsche Museum were careful to distance themselves from the sale, declining for weeks to comment to Bloomberg on its nomenclature and relative significance to the Porsche company story.

Here's the thing, though. Porsche has a Type 64. They even bring it out on occasion. How do we know? We have photos of it on display labeled as a Porsche at the Rennsport Reunion in 2018. Porsche claims that two survived, so we can only assume they mean the black Type 64 they have and the one based on this article.

So then, why the sudden change? Given that this silver Type 64 is the only known vehicle left that Ferdinand Porsche actually drove, it's hard to understand just why the company is now distancing themselves from their unsavory past. They've mentioned it as a Porsche in press releases, and they've also mentioned it being a part of their permanent display

From that press release:

Five years since it opened in January 2009, the Porsche Museum has decided to update its permanent exhibition. . . The previous opening exhibit, the aluminium[sic] body of the Type 64 "Berlin-Rome car", now takes its place in the correct chronological order and is featured in the "Porsche before 1948" section. 

Why, then, the change? What is it about this car?

Is this Porsche just turning their nose up at what they feel is not a "true" Porsche? Of the detractors, Bloomberg expands:

Others, including the man who inspected the car for RM Sotheby’s before it went to sale, were careful to note that the Type 64 is not technically a “Porsche.” Its engine and most of its parts were supplied by Volkswagen, with components from Fiat and other niche suppliers of the time. Ferdinand Porsche was building cars for just about everyone in Germany at the time anyway, including Daimler and Auto Union. Porsche AG wasn’t even founded until 1948—10 years after this car was built—so it surely isn’t accurate to call it a true Porsche, the line of thinking goes. 

Of course, Porsche has no qualms with the 912, 914 or 924 being considered 'real' Porsches, which leads us to believe they want nothing to do with the Type 64. If they don't, then why should enthusiasts?

 

The Big Auction House Had a Misstep.

People were quick to blame RM Sotheby's—the company auctioning the Type 64—after the incident as the auction house tried to mitigate its losses and save face. Bloomberg did receive a statement from RM Sotheby's explaining what went wrong. Again from Bloomberg:

“As bidding opened on the Type 64, increments were incorrectly displayed on the screen, causing unfortunate confusion in the room,” the company said in a statement. “This was the result of a totally inadvertent and unintentional mistake.” The company said it was an “unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room.”

Two RM Sotheby’s representatives were not available for comment after the sale; a third walked away without a word when approached for a statement about the car. In an emailed response to a Bloomberg News request for comment, a spokeswoman said that “despite interest from discerning collectors, we were unable to reach common ground between seller and buyer on the night.”

So who's to blame? Many were quick to point out that the auctioneer was hard to understand, and that the 13/30 mistake was just an entire audience mishearing him. But the screens corroborated him, and it seems hard to believe that crowd excitement/bidding would suddenly cause those involved to make such an egregious gaffe. We were present at the Friday night auction, and can report that even with excitement in the packed room, he was understandable. 

Was it Actually a Mistake or a Joke Gone Wrong?

If this were a joke, we're not sure who's the one left to benefit or laughing, for that matter. While there might be enjoyment in this particular car not selling given the reasons outlined above, tanking your reputation hardly seems like the way to go about it. Bloomberg was there and was able to get some live feedback:

“What a joke,” said Johnny Shaughnessy, a collector from Southern California, who was in the room when it happened. “They just lost so much credibility. My father could have bought that car for $5 million years ago. It has been passed around for years, and no one wants it.”

Comments from collectors in the crowd right after the episode included “What a scam,” “They just slit their own throat,” and “It worked for Banksy; it didn’t work for RM,” a reference to the 2018 Sotheby’s sale which saw a piece of artwork by Banksy shredded in a surprise stunt just after it sold.

They say no publicity is bad publicity, but as for what happens next, that remains to be seen. For now, the car remains for sale on RM Sotheby's site. 

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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
8/21/19 11:39 a.m.

surprise Yikes on bikes!

Harv1954
Harv1954 New Reader
8/21/19 1:10 p.m.

Excellent article, my business is to appraise classic vehicles and the writer does an excellent job of adding insight to the current controversy regarding this car.  Because of my personal background, I acknowledge that I was happy to see the car not "break the bank", because of its history. My mother was Dutch and lived through the five years of German occupation from age 12-17. My father was an American soldier and they were married August 1945. My father returned to Europe to work for the American Battle Monuments Commission in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium.  I attended American Schools on base in France and Germany graduating from high school in Munich, Germany in 1972. One of our high school "field trips" was to visit the Dachau Concentration camp outside Munich. 

I share this background because I feel it is important to understand the context of my comments when I say - cars of the Nazi era should be in Museums for historical purposes but not the source of income for speculators, collectors, and auction houses. The car was built as a propaganda tool to celebrate the Autobahn, which was largely built with slave/concentration camp labor.  This particular car has been controversial for years, with several transactions being canceled after the car was supposedly sold. The final paragraph of this article provides additional insight. 

  https://ferdinandmagazine.com/first-ever-porsche-heads-for-auction

cef911f1
cef911f1 New Reader
8/21/19 1:29 p.m.

Then my Beetle (Type 60) should be considered a Porsche.  That said, it is definietly part of Porsche's history.

 

ronbros9
ronbros9 New Reader
8/21/19 4:40 p.m.

 

it seems to have turned into a RACIST thing, and little to do with the car!

what about the old timer gun collector guys whe collect old German guns?

Harv1954
Harv1954 New Reader
8/21/19 9:44 p.m.

Didn't mean for it to be a "racist" thing - more a genocide thing. 

 

Onevintage02
Onevintage02
8/22/19 2:09 a.m.

OK, I'm starting to wonder if anyone looks into history anymore, not just the fake news which I do believe is also included in the article and I expect better from Classic Motorsports!

As a Porsche owner and vintage car lover, I feel I must shine some light here on this specific Type 64 car to which a friend who I had the honor of buying him his 70th birthday meal last week (he once owned said car, also owns some other famous Prosche's too).  Yes, the auction house had an issue, and I have been attending these events for years and never seen this type of thing happen.  I was in attendance with a prior owner, who also showed me a patch of an invite to Monterey from 1982 and a whole bunch of documents about the car.  Like other amazing Porsche's he has shown me in the past, I know he's well known in the community and is an expert in the field, so I know him to be accurate and true over the years.

First of all, Porsche took money from Hilter to build the VW as cheap economical transportation (probably also to fund his true dream of a sports car which this is and not a VW build)  Does this make the car a Nazi build, not likely, would that make all VW Bugs Nazi cars, not so sure about that.

So the black car you took a photo of from Rennsport (looks great and I love it) It's not a real one and was a recreation, hey it may even have a correct stamp, but I'm pretty sure it's not the real deal.  Also, another car was in the parking area that was aluminum, one I loved, yes this too was a copy and honestly, if you were to have a copy - this is as cool as one could probably get!  News flash, the Red and white striped 917 Le Mans-winning car is in private hands in GB, not the one you see at the museum.  While yes they have a real 917 in the museum, however, it was painted to match the winning car, still very cool and I love the 917 (I'm even born on 917).  Who would question that right?  

In Europe, they have some amazing fabrication houses and it's very likely that Porsche is being silent for they may not want to open pandora's box.  Porsche was offered this specific car (most significant car in history three times by each of the prior owners and it was declined as too expensive).   I believe Porsche also had a video around where Dr. Wolfgang was kissing the black-bodied recreation car where he said welcome back home, this video was quick to disappear from the web. 

Oh, the Aluminum 64 shell body in the museum, that was claimed to have been made from scratches of a leftover car, that too is likely not the real deal and the proportions are off.  No parts or shells were found with the Otto Mathe car/grounds of the one we are discussing here, some claim this, but various sources say it's not true.  Additionally, I hear that when the car went to the Otto Mathe exhibition, this car took a very long time to come back in the hands of the owner (scan and scale in this time.... mmm possibly). 

The Berlin Rome car K64 was the 64 th construction on papers and get the name and number of this construction when it comes to reality.  Otto Mathes K64 car has a Porsche title from 1939 and built by Porsche (Let's all see some titles people). 

K64 base was not a bug and not a KDW ,it was a prototype car made in aluminum for racing and not to produce a mass-produced car like the VW.  This car also had a soft 80% restoration in the 90's in Austria and around 2000 photos exist on this car from the restoration.  

 

K64 additional information that seems to be more accurate to the story from a couple of sources:

https://www.stuttcars.com/porsche-models/64/

Current Alum Replica Body at the museum:

https://www.nusgram.com/media/BIYbzy8hi3x

 

Let's hope this car gets the respect it deserves and finds a true home and a nod to one of the greatest names in history and favorite of so many!

I'm often finding wrong information or missed items in vehicle articles these days when it comes to the historic cars across various brands.  We still have people alive in the know and history buffs that can qualify, I'd really like to see more of that going on prior to press. 

 

Thanks, 

 

Vintage car fan of all types.

 

 

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