1939 Berlin-Rom-Wagen (VW Typ 60 K 10. Porsche Typ 64) A few days before the end of 1930, Ferdinand Porsche, at the age of 55 and after a distinguished career working for others, started his own design bureau in a tiny rented office in the centre of Stuttgart. His team of 12 handpicked men included his son Ferry and a talented group of engineers, almost to a man Austrian. In 1934 Porsche published his famous Exposé, or manifesto, in which he outlined his idea for an affordable, mass-produced car. One could say that the Volkswagen idea was in the air, even though the will of the German manufacturers to produce one was perhaps not as strong as the desire of the ‘Volk’ to own one – or ultimately to use it on the new and rapidly expanding autobahn system. Porsche commenced his proposal by citing the success of the Volksradio, mass-produced since 1932 and bringing entertainment, and the voice of Chancellor Hitler, to the masses. Adolf, too, wished to bring motoring to the German people, and engaged Porsche to build a car that would satisfy their joint ambitions. Porsche project number 60 was given the green light. By 1938, all of the development work on the prototype Volkswagens – to Porsche’s dismay now renamed KdF-Wagen (‘Kraft durch Freude’ – or ‘strength through joy’) was more or less finalised, and the newly completed Porsche factory in the Stuttgart suburb of Zuffenhausen was busy building the VW38, a pre-production series of 44 cars. The Auto Union and Mercedes Silver Arrows dominated grand prix racing, and German sights were now set on extending this technical superiority to sports cars. As the nation lacked an international road race with the prestige of Le Mans, the Mille Miglia or indeed ‘little’ Belgium’s Liège-Rome-Liège, Adolf Hühnlein – head of the Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde (ONS), the organising body for German motor sport – proposed an Axis-power marathon from Berlin to Rome. It was scheduled for September 1939, and the unique aspect of this 1300km route was the inclusion of the new autobahn running south from Berlin to Munich. This would be followed by a short, twisty passage through Austria over the Brenner Pass into Italy, then another high-speed dash down Mussolini’s autostrada to Rome. Clearly this was going to be a flat-out blast in which top speed and aerodynamics would take precedence over handling. Porsche’s earlier design proposal for a VW-based sports car – project T64 in Porsche-speak – had been repeatedly rejected. However, with the launch of the VW now imminent, and thousands of hopeful customers sticking savings stamps into their KdF coupon books, a headline-grabbing ‘sporty’ version suddenly seemed like a good idea. Porsche was commissioned to produce a team of vehicles for the race, with the proviso that the Rekordwagens had to use KdF mechanicals and bear a family resemblance to the road machine. Despite his rebuffs, Porsche had kept his team working on a sports car design in their spare time, although where that ‘spare time’ came from in such a busy team is anyone’s guess. Several ideas were already on the drawing boards – including the T114, a mid-engined, water-cooled, V10-powered car on what was essentially a stretched VW chassis – and a model of the streamlined body had been made and wind-tunnel tested. The various design solutions were amalgamated and retrofitted into the earlier T64 project. Confusingly, because the car had to be perceived as a Volkswagen, it was also designated as a Type 60K10: ‘60’ was the Volkswagen project number, ‘K’ stood for Karroserie (bodywork), and ‘10’ for the tenth variant. But to Porsche insiders, it was always T64. Three chassis and matching engines, numbered 38/41, -42 and -43, were set aside for the streamliners, with a fourth engine – 38/46 – as a spare. The first T64 was finished on 19 August 1939, only two weeks before Hitler, instead of sending his sportsmen speeding south to Italy, sent his soldiers racing east into Poland. With the Berlin to Rome race cancelled and the Führer now committed to the war effort, the factory still managed to complete the other two Rekordwagens, the second in December 1939 and the final model in June 1940. Car number one was presented to Bodo Lafferentz, an important board member of the newly formed Volkswagenwerk. It’s not recorded whether Lafferentz left the road backwards, as so many over-enthusiastic early Porsche 356 owners would do, but the wrecked T64 was soon returned. The chassis of this variant, 38/41, eventually became the platform of car number three. Models two and three were used throughout the war by the Professor and Ferry, as transport and experimental development machines. As the bombing of Germany intensified, Porsche relocated to the remote village of Gmünd in Austria. Here, the fledgling company would conceive and build the 356, before returning to Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen in 1950. In the meantime, as has already been related, T64 number two survived the war but not the peace, leaving only car number three. This remained in use by Ferry until 1949 when, badged as a Porsche, it was sold to the Austrian racing driver Otto Mathé. We have to fast-forward half a century before we pick up the remarkable story of the second of the Berlin to Rome cars. When Mathé died in 1995, his collection of early Porsches and homebuilt specials was split up. The T64 and one of his two Gmünd-made 356s found new owners, with much of the remainder eventually ending up in the hands of Thomas König and Oliver ‘Olli’ Schmidt, dedicated collectors of early Porsches and rare post-war VW-based racing cars. Thomas and Olli house their collection in their magnificent Prototyp Automuseum in Hamburg’s rejuvenated docklands area, with a whole section dedicated to Mathé and his racing exploits. In addition to several of Mathé’s cars, Thomas and Olli found themselves in possession of two containers full of mechanical detritus accumulated over a long life of playing with racing machines. The history-changing moment came when research in the Porsche and Volkswagen archives confirmed, from engine and chassis numbers, that what the pair were gradually unearthing and piecing together from the Mathé hoard was not just, as first thought, a rare 1938 Porsche-built VW chassis and engine, but the remains of the second and long-presumed-lost T64. It appears that when Porsche sold Mathé car number three, it included the valuable ‘spares’ salvaged from the wreck of car number two. Spotting T64 items now became an intriguing treasure hunt. The steering wheel was found on one of Mathé’s single-seaters, and the doorhandles unexpectedly turned up at the bottom of a box containing alloy castings from his ski-binding business. Finding themselves in possession of such an important part of Porsche history, the only way forward for Thomas and Olli was to recreate the complete car. The task was entrusted to the respected German restoration company Nostalgicar, which borrowed the Mathé example and arranged for it to be laser-scanned to determine accurate dimensions before making a wooden buck over which to form the light-alloy body. Unlike the chassis of the VW, where the steel floor is welded to the spine, the T64’s floor is integral with the body. The monocoque shell is constructed like an aircraft fuselage, with a latticework of perforated alloy beams supporting and separating a flat interior floor, and several inches below that an equally flat and aerodynamically smooth exterior floor.