MICKEY MOUSE

Od­dball or stan­dard-set­ter? This was the mys­tery that has long sur­rounded Porscheʼs Type 645 Spy­der, an unique and ad­vanced de­sign built to meet tough com­pe­ti­tion. We lift the veil to tell the story of the ad­vanced pro­to­type whose be­hav­iour won its ʻMicke

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Karl Lud­vigsen Pho­tos: Lud­vigsen/porsche Archiv

Karl Lud­vigsen looks back at the his­tory of the way­ward rac­ing Porsche

One of the od­dest episodes in Porsche his­tory is the brief and lit­er­ally me­te­oric ca­reer of the Type 645 Spy­der. The 645 was in pub­lic view in Ger­many for less than four months from its first ap­pear­ance to its last in the au­tumn of 1956. Its de­sign, which dated to more than a year ear­lier, had been pre­pared as a suc­ces­sor to the Type 550 that would be lighter, more aero­dy­namic and su­pe­rior in road­hold­ing.

Porsche pitched its 550 Spy­der into Europeʼs most com­pet­i­tive sports-car rac­ing class. France was in the 1500cc cat­e­gory with its Gor­dini, Bri­tain with Cooper and Lo­tus, East Ger­many with its six-cylin­der EMWS, Italy with both Maserati and OSCA, and Ger­many her­self with fu­elin­jected Borg­wards. Although the 550 was off to a good start with the Fuhrmann en­gineʼs 1954 in­tro­duc­tion, its chas­sis con­cept dated in some re­spects to Wal­ter Glöck­ler ʼs rac­ers as far back as 1950.

Egon Forstner de­cided to ad­dress this short­com­ing. An Aus­trian who had joined the Porsche cadre in Gmünd in the 1940s, Forstner was a ver­sa­tile en­gi­neer with patents in brake de­sign, cool­ing sys­tems, valve gear and trac­tor de­sign among oth­ers. Mov­ing to Stuttgart, he took over from long-serv­ing Josef Mickl as head of the cal­cu­la­tion depart­ment. It con­sisted of his as­sis­tant Ernst Henkel and, from 1956, new­comer Hans Mezger.

ʻThe cal­cu­la­tion-depart­ment of­fice was above the ex­per­i­men­tal depart­ment,ʼ said Mezger, ʻwhere ev­ery­thing was in one big area. We were on the third floor above the sec­ond-floor of­fice known as the D-zug or D-train be­cause it had side win­dows like those on a train, look­ing out on the ex­per­i­men­tal area be­low. In the D-zug of­fice were about eight en­gi­neers in to­tal with the chas­sis peo­ple on the left and the engine de­sign­ers on the right.ʼ

In the lat­ter part of 1954 Egon Forstner de­cided to start work on the de­sign of a new body and chas­sis to carry the Type 547 four-cam engine. Count­ing on their en­thu­si­asm for rac­ing cars, he reached out to oth­ers on the Porsche staff for

help with the project, given the Type 645 des­ig­na­tion. Two who signed up were en­gi­neer Ernst Fuhrmann and body de­signer Hein­rich Klie.

Fuhrman­nʼs in­volve­ment could well have taken place be­cause he saw this project as an op­por­tu­nity to bur­nish his cre­den­tials in the de­sign of rac­ing ve­hi­cles as well as the engine field in which his four-cam engine was al­ready estab­lished as suc­cess­ful. Am­bi­tious as he was to lead Porscheʼs en­gi­neer­ing team, Fuhrmann needed to be seen as more than an engine ex­pert.

So that their Type 645 could slip more smoothly through the air, the en­gi­neers re­duced its frontal area by nar­row­ing its track. In­stead of the 550ʼs 49.0 inches this be­came 46.9 inches at the front and 45.3 inches at the rear. Pro­duc­ing a fifth-size clay model, Klie fit­ted its body closely around the wheels, partly shroud­ing those at the rear, and rounded its nose in plan view.

The usual drag-in­duc­ing open­ing for air for the oil cooler was elim­i­nated by mak­ing the front lid it­self a sur­face-type cooler, with a labyrinth of pas­sages un­der­neath its sur­face, left un­painted to im­prove heat ra­di­a­tion. In­trigu­ing highly styled shapes were given to faired-in lamps at both ends of the car.

An aero­dy­namic fea­ture that ap­peared on Klieʼs de­sign model of the Type 645 was a head­rest for the driver be­hind which was an oval-shaped grilled air pas­sage into the engine room. As ex­pressed in the patent granted Fuhrmann and Klie on the de­sign, the head­rest was shaped to cre­ate a tur­bu­lent zone of high pres­sure be­hind it, above the grilled aper­ture, to re­duce the power lost in sup­ply­ing cool­ing air to the engine.

Also patented by Klie and Fuhrmann was an al­ter­na­tive means of de­liv­er­ing cool­ing air to the engine bay. This was a rear­ward-fac­ing slot al­most the full width of the lid cov­er­ing the engine, po­si­tioned and de­signed to pre­serve smooth air­flow above the deck while ad­mit­ting air un­der pres­sure into the rear com­part­ment. A small cen­tral bulge cov­ered the engine-fan hous­ing. Rear­ward-fac­ing air in­lets

“RE­DUCED ITS FRONTAL AREA BY NAR­ROW­ING THE TRACK…”

were above the car­bu­ret­tors.

The nar­row­ness of Forstner ʼs Type 645 was to help make it lighter, as would a 6.2-inch re­duc­tion from the 550ʼs wheel­base to a mere 76.4 inches. It was to be bod­ied en­tirely in mag­ne­sium, lighter but less durable than the usual alu­minium. There was no right-hand door and in­deed there could not be one, for the fuel tank was placed along the right side of the body, coun­ter­bal­anc­ing the weight of the driver on the left.

An im­por­tant at­tribute of the new Spy­der was a mul­ti­tubu­lar space frame. The con­cept was well known to Forstner and also to Fuhrmann, who had been with Porsche in Gmünd when it was work­ing with Italyʼs Cisi­talia, which spe­cialised in such frames. In­deed Er­win Komenda had de­signed a space frame for the mid-en­gined VW Sports road­ster of 1948, later hailed as the first ʻPorscheʼ car.

The frame de­signed for the 645 was breath­tak­ingly sparse. One key el­e­ment was a rec­tan­gle of large tubes lo­cated at the cowl, car­ry­ing the steer­ing-col­umn mount­ing. Three tubes at each side braced this to the assem­bly of crosstubes that car­ried the nar­rowed trail­ing-arm front sus­pen­sion and its anti-roll bar. Steer­ing was by equally di­vided track rods, op­er­ated by a small drag link from the steer­ing box, un­like the stan­dard car ʼs un­equally di­vided track rods.

An­other im­por­tant el­e­ment was a braced struc­ture of small tubes above the fa­mil­iar crosstube that housed the rear tor­sion bars. Ris­ing rear­ward from it were small tubes that peaked at a high crosstube whose ends were mounts for the rear dampers. Hang­ing from it was a fab­ri­cated cra­dle that car­ried the engine-gear­box assem­bly, at­tached un­der its bell hous­ing. Com­plet­ing the frame was an X-brace at each side of the cock­pit plus sin­gle di­ag­o­nals of small tubes brac­ing each of the struc­tureʼs open quadri­lat­er­als.

For the Grand Prix Cisi­talia of 1947–48, Porscheʼs Type 360 project, the en­gi­neer­ing team in Gmünd, Aus­tria de­signed a so­phis­ti­cated rear sus­pen­sion. In­stead of the swing axles of the pre-war Auto Unions it used up­per and

lower lat­eral links to guide each wheel hub, with brake and trac­tion torque taken by a trail­ing arm. Giv­ing pre­cise wheel con­trol with low un­sprung weight and far less cam­ber change than the usual swing axles, this was an im­mense step for­ward.

This sus­pen­sion made its reap­pear­ance in the Type 645. Here the trail­ing arms were the usual Vw-porsche blades, drilled for light­ness and set at a static an­gle of 10 de­grees above hor­i­zon­tal. Up­per and lower tubu­lar links went in­ward and slightly for­ward to piv­ots at­tached to the back of the engine cra­dle. While the lower links were hor­i­zon­tal the up­per ones sloped down­ward, to­ward the cen­tre, at 13 de­grees. This gave a rear roll cen­tre that was higher than that of the Cisi­talia yet not so el­e­vated as that of a swing axle. The de­sign pro­vided for two de­grees of neg­a­tive cam­ber at rest to en­hance the grip of the er­aʼs nar­row 5.25 x 16 tyres.

Fab­ri­ca­tions at­tached to the ends of the trail­ing arms car­ried each rear hub in a dou­ble-row ball bear­ing. Drive half-shafts had Hooke-type joints at their outer ends and pot­type in­ner joints that could slide to adapt their length to sus­pen­sion move­ment. Although sim­ply ar­rived at, with its tele­scopic dampers this was a so­phis­ti­cated link­age for 1955. Not un­til later in the 1950s would such sus­pen­sions be­gin to be adopted in Grand Prix rac­ing.

This am­bi­tious project was well on its way to re­al­i­sa­tion when Porsche chief en­gi­neer Karl Rabe, tak­ing a break from his con­cen­tra­tion on trac­tors, dis­cov­ered what Forstner was up to. On 15 Fe­bru­ary 1955 he mem­oed Porscheʼs se­nior ex­ec­u­tives that he felt it ʻab­so­lutely es­sen­tialʼ that ʻa fun­da­men­tal dis­cus­sion take place with Herr Porsche about this ve­hi­cle.ʼ He made the fol­low­ing ob­ser­va­tions:

ʻI canʼt en­vi­sion that one man car­ries this for­ward alone who at the same time re­mains the only re­main­ing the­o­reti­cian for the de­sign of­fice. I would not like to hide the fact that Herr Forstner has al­ready asked sev­eral times for our help, which with the best will in the world I could not pro­vide in view of the present work­load in the de­sign of­fice.

ʻI con­sider it nec­es­sary to clar­ify the ques­tion of the cost of this ve­hi­cle. Hith­erto Herr Forstner has only re­marked that the ve­hi­cle will not be more costly be­cause it will largely be built in-house. To this I would add that I have found no pri­mary con­tract cov­er­ing the cre­ation of such a ve­hi­cle.ʼ

Rabe had rum­bled Forstner ʼs end run around Zuf­fen­hausenʼs pro­ce­dures. The Type 645 hit the buf­fers, apart from some dis­cus­sion about the ad­di­tion of light­ness by us­ing mag­ne­sium in­stead of alu­minium for its gear­box hous­ing. It lan­guished dur­ing 1955 when the ex­ist­ing 550 Spy­ders seemed able to hold the fort. For 1956, how­ever, when Borg­ward was known to be ready­ing its 16-valve fuel-in­jected four, com­pe­ti­tion looked to be in­ten­si­fy­ing. Type 645 was re­launched on 16 Fe­bru­ary by work or­der num­ber 9159 call­ing for the pro­duc­tion of two cars ʻas soon as pos­si­bleʼ.

As­sum­ing sen­si­bly enough that Porscheʼs man­age­ment wanted these cars to play some part in the 1956 sea­son, on 28 Fe­bru­ary Egon Forstner ad­vised Messrs Rabe, von Rücker, von Hanstein, Hild and Fuhrmann that he con­sid­ered the tim­ing ʻex­cep­tion­ally tight and re­quir­ing the great­est haste.ʼ Raw ma­te­ri­als and draw­ings were avail­able, he said, for the cars to be built in the ex­per­i­men­tal depart­ment. The mag­ne­sium body­work could be formed in par­al­lel with the other work to speed things up, he con­sid­ered.

The lat­est de­vel­op­ment with the Type 547 engine was to drive its dis­trib­u­tors from the nose of the crankshaft in­stead of from the ends of the camshafts to elim­i­nate vari­a­tions in tim­ing caused by the lat­ter ar­range­ment. Space for the new drive, said Forstner, was not ob­vi­ously avail­able in the tightly packed 645. Although he re­quested a draw­ing that would show space for the newer engine, this never ma­te­ri­alised so his 645 would al­ways be equipped by the older style of

“RABE HAD RUM­BLED FORSTNER’S END RUN…”

engine, whose out­put dis­ad­van­tage Forstner con­sid­ered to be as much as 20 horse­power.

In mid-june of 1956 Egon Forstner re­capped his brain­chil­drenʼs state of af­fairs. One of the two cars had been com­pleted and tested on the Malmsheim skid pad. It was fin­ished just in time to be taken to the ʼRing for tri­als on 15/16 May along­side a 550 and a 550A. Tak­ing its wheel, Wolfgang von Trips just broke 11 min­utes on his sec­ond lap but did not per­se­vere fur­ther. In con­trast, Her­rmann in the 550A kept slash­ing his times, after var­i­ous changes of tyre pres­sures and anti-roll bars, to a bril­liant 10:35.2.

Hav­ing also tried the 645 Hans Her­rmann said, ʻIt was cer­tainly faster but to­tally un­drive­able. Von Trips and I de­clined em­phat­i­cally.ʼ Han­sʼs judge­ment that it was faster was a form of val­i­da­tion for what Forstner and his small team had wrought, but a rac­ing car must be man­age­able as well as fast. Her­rman­nʼs ver­dict in par­tic­u­lar was any­thing but pos­i­tive be­cause he was un­de­ni­ably skil­ful.

Nonethe­less the 645 was among the cars that Porsche fielded for the 1000-kilo­me­tre race on 27 May at the ʼRing, where it was driven in prac­tice by Richard von Franken­berg. Still im­ma­ture, it was re­jected by Franken­berg in favour of the 550A Spy­der in which he turned faster laps.

The Type 645 showed that its ex­pected high-speed ad­van­tage was in­deed present. On straights, Forstner re­ported, it had ʻvery steady road­hold­ingʼ. With suit­able gear­ing its max­i­mum speed was 162mph against 158mph for the 550A in its best 1956 fac­tory trim, in spite of the horse­power deficit of its out­dated engine. Forstner said its four was pro­duc­ing a mea­gre 98bhp.

Han­dling, how­ever, was judged treach­er­ous. Her­bert Linge tested it at Malmsheim and con­cluded that ʻthe car was so ter­rific in the back that the front axle was over­whelmed.ʼ You must re­mem­ber that it was al­ways hard to get enough test­ing time. Drivers wanted the lat­est, fastest car im­me­di­ately. In this case there was­nʼt enough time to set up the front sus­pen­sion prop­erly.

ʻRear ad­he­sion was enor­mous,ʼ Linge told Jerry Sloniger. ʻYou started out with a great deal of un­der­steer. But when the tail did break loose it came around like a can­non shot. No­body could catch the spin.ʼ

The new rear sus­pen­sion of­fered bet­ter grip which was not coun­ter­bal­anced by the cor­ner­ing power of the car ʼs front trail­ing arms, which leaned its wheels out­ward when the body rolled. ʻThe ex­ist­ing dif­fi­cul­ties that have shown up with cor­ner­ing,ʼ as­sured Forstner, ʻmust be able to be elim­i­nated by ra­tio­nal judge­ment with­out un­due dif­fi­culty.ʼ

Among the changes al­ready im­ple­mented was a new

link­age arm that speeded up the steer­ing by 28 per cent to help drivers catch the sud­den break­away. In­ter­fer­ence be­tween the new cen­tral steer­ing arm and the abut­ment screw for the up­per tor­sion bar was elim­i­nated. The Si­lent­bloc bear­ings sup­port­ing the front of the engine were re­ori­ented to pre­vent tear­ing. The height of the fuel tank was re­duced to cut its ca­pac­ity from 130 to 80 litres, low­er­ing the 645ʼs cen­tre of grav­ity. Com­pen­sat­ing would be a tank of 40 or 50 litres out­side the frame to the driver ʼs left.

In spite of his car ʼs ev­i­dent prom­ise, Egon Forstner complained to Porsche, Rabe, von Rücker, von Hanstein and Hild on 19 June, ʻitʼs been stand­ing in Ex­per­i­men­tal for weeks, com­pletely aban­doned.ʼ He enu­mer­ated the im­prove­ments made in the in­ter­est of bet­ter road­hold­ing. Putting its front sus­pen­sion and steer­ing back to­gether would take a me­chanic only two days, he said. All that was needed in or­der to re­sume tri­als was an engine.

More­over, Forstner added, the frame for 645 num­ber two was halffin­ished. Some ex­pen­di­ture was needed to source such parts for it as the rear up­rights and half shafts, tor­sion bars and dampers. ʻThe out­lays al­ready made oblige that the fi­nal step should be taken, namely to com­mence tri­als of the ve­hi­cle to win all the knowl­edge that is there to be won.ʼ

Egon Forstner con­cluded his re­port to Porscheʼs se­nior rac­ing cadre with a heart­felt query about the fu­ture of the Type 645, its half-fin­ished sis­ter and its as­sort­ment of com­po­nents. Al­ways in­sight­ful, the ex­pe­ri­enced Karl Rabe had raised reser­va­tions a year and a half ear­lier about the po­ten­tial of what was es­sen­tially a one-man project in the de­mand­ing Porsche en­vi­ron­ment where ev­ery man and ev­ery ex­pense had to count. Now he was ask­ing — no, beg­ging — the pow­ers that be for their sup­port of what would be his only at­tempt to cre­ate a com­plete au­to­mo­bile.

Their re­sponse was to leave the sec­ond car un­fin­ished and to au­tho­rise com­ple­tion and test­ing of the first Type 645. Even after mod­i­fi­ca­tions its han­dling was de­mand­ing. Caus­ing heavy ini­tial un­der­steer, in turns its rear tyres would grip much bet­ter than those in front. This would be fol­lowed by a sud­den and hard-to-catch tran­si­tion to over­steer at the limit. Con­tribut­ing to this were its short wheel­base and low mo­ment of in­er­tia about its ver­ti­cal axis, a func­tion in part of its cen­trally-mounted fuel tank.

Hav­ing tasted the Type 645ʼs speed in prac­tice at the ʼRing in May, Richard von Franken­berg was will­ing to cast his lot with it. Then 34 years of age and wear­ing glasses with heavy lenses, Franken­berg was not only skilled as a sportscar driver but also renowned for his brav­ery. Although he took this new kind of Porsche un­der his wing, he had no il­lu­sions about its at­tributes. He dubbed it ʻMickey Mouseʼ, not be­cause of its smaller size but in recog­ni­tion of its tricky be­hav­iour.

Mickey Mouse first raced close to home on the Soli­tude cir­cuit on 22 July 1956. Von Franken­berg qual­i­fied the new model in the front row, sec­ond only to Her­rmann in a 550A, but lost first gear even be­fore the 99-mile race be­gan. On his first lap brak­ing prob­lems sur­faced, a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the car which made ap­proach­ing cor­ners as ex­cit­ing as driv­ing through them. Power faded, too, as oil tem­per­a­ture soared — a lim­i­ta­tion of the front-deck ra­di­a­tor? — but von Franken­berg sol­diered on to a fourth-place fin­ish be­hind win­ner Her­rmann, von Trips in a Porsche and Edgar Barthʼs East Ger­man AWE.

In Au­gust Mickey Mouse prac­ticed for the sports-car race that ac­com­pa­nied the Ger­man Grand Prix at the Nür­bur­gring but did not com­pete. All Porscheʼs drivers con­cluded that its han­dling idio­syn­cra­sies were too daunt­ing a chal­lenge for a 312-mile race over that treach­er­ous track.

The Type 645ʼs next ap­pear­ance was at West Ber­linʼs Avus for the 152-mile Grand Prix of Ber­lin on 16 Septem­ber, round six of the Ger­man Sports-car Cham­pi­onship. Be­cause high speed was de­ci­sive at the Avus, with its long straights and steeply banked turn, von Franken­berg chose the Type 645 for this race in spite of the car ʼs known quirks. Like

“CHOSE THE TYPE 645 IN SPITE OF THE CAR’S KNOWN QUIRKS…”

Porscheʼs other Avus en­tries it was given a tighter ton­neau cov­er­ing the cock­pit with a low wrap­around wind­screen shel­ter­ing the driver.

Prac­tice at the Avus promised no dom­i­nance for the Mickey Mouse, which clocked the third fastest time be­hind Barthʼs AWE and Roy Sal­vadoriʼs mid-en­gined sports Cooper-cli­max. Soon after the start, how­ever, von Franken­berg took the lead from Sal­vadori on brak­ing for the flat South Turn and moved ahead of the field, trailed closely by the 550A of Wolfgang von Trips.

On their third of 30 laps, the two sil­ver Porsches droned down the back straight and banked onto the vast brick bowl of the North Curve. Built in 1937, it pro­vided a run­ning sur­face 24 yards wide, 13 yards of this banked at 43 de­grees. It was a con­stants­lope bank­ing de­lib­er­ately in­tended to al­low cars to run both high and low. Rudy Uh­len­haut of Mercedes-benz said it was ʻvery dan­ger­ous and you had to treat it ex­actly as if you were driv­ing on a nor­mal road. If you went too fast you just slid over the top.ʼ

Among the 50,000 Ber­lin­ers all eyes were on the lead­ing von Franken­berg when his car veered abruptly to the right and pow­ered at an an­gle across and over the ver­ti­cal lip at the top of the bank­ing, which flipped it. Cartwheel­ing as it vaulted two yards above the rim, the car bounded off the outer earth wall, over a wire fence and landed, a crum­pled flam­ing mass, in the street be­tween a Mercedes 300SL and an open-topped Opel Rekord.

Not un­til some five min­utes after this spec­tac­u­lar crash did a Porsche tech­ni­cian, Harry Lörcher, dis­cover the un­con­scious von Franken­berg ly­ing in the green­ery on the earth wall. Hav­ing plum­meted from the Mickey Mouse as it brushed through an aca­cia tree he was not, after all, a vic­tim of the white-hot mag­ne­sium flames that were con­sum­ing the in­verted Type 645.

Richard von Franken­berg was never able to re­mem­ber what hap­pened dur­ing this ʻMir­a­cle of the Avus.ʼ The three min­utes be­fore his crash were erased by the im­pact of his fall. ʻThat he sur­vived with only slight in­juries or none at all is myth­i­cal,ʼ said his son Don­ald. ʻHe had to lie five weeks in a Ber­lin hos­pi­tal, sev­eral weeks of those on his belly.ʼ This was the re­sult of se­vere in­juries to the skin of his back caused by the forces of his ejec­tion from the cock­pit.

The or­gan­is­ing auto club, the AVD, asked the fas­tid­i­ous en­gi­neer from the Glöck­ler rac­ing days, Her­mann Ramelow, to ex­am­ine the wreck­age on its be­half. He found no ev­i­dence of sud­den fail­ure or mal­func­tion of the steer­ing or sus­pen­sion.

Some spec­u­la­tion cen­tred on the right-side sus­pen­sion, which had been vir­tu­ally im­mo­bilised on all the Spy­ders to cope with the g-forces on the bank­ing. Be that as it may, the Type 645 had worn out its wel­come at Zuf­fen­hausen. ʻThe Mickey Mouse type,ʼ wrote von Franken­berg dryly, ʻwas not sub­se­quently re­called to life.ʼ

It did not ex­pire with­out teach­ing the Porsche rac­ers some use­ful lessons. The Type 645 had shown that frontal area could be re­duced and that per­for­mance ben­e­fits were be de­rived as a re­sult. Fur­ther im­prove­ment of its sus­pen­sion seemed pos­si­ble, even es­sen­tial, es­pe­cially at the front end. The oil cooler built into its front deck lid had proved its po­ten­tial and would be used in the RSK.

Best of all, its frame de­sign pointed out the new di­rec­tion for the suc­cess­ful 550A, which Trips drove to vic­tory at the Avus. It showed the clear ad­van­tage of the tubu­lar space frame that later Porsche rac­ers would use. ʻThe car led its race,ʼ Her­bert Linge re­flected of the 645. ʻIt could­nʼt have been a com­plete fail­ure and it taught us a lot.ʼ

As for Richard von Franken­berg, he was able to at­tend the Porsche com­pa­nyʼs Christ­mas fes­tiv­i­ties but only with the aid of a cane. He man­aged to main­tain his work as the ed­i­tor of Porscheʼs Christophorous mag­a­zine but, wrote his son Don­ald, ʻNum­ber 23ʼs ap­pear­ance was de­layed.ʼ Richard von Franken­burg would race again, and win, in 1957. CP

“LED ITS RACE… IT COULDN’T HAVE BEEN A COM­PLETE FAIL­URE…”

Be­low: Co-cre­ator Ernst Fuhrmann, in jacket and tie be­hind the car, showed fa­therly con­cern for his Type 645 at Avus in Septem­ber 1956. This would be the Spy­der ʼs fi­nal race

Be­low: Engi­neered by Egon Forstner with the sup­port of Ernst Fuhrmann, the Type 645 took shape in 1955 as an ad­vanced rac­ing Spy­der built on a tubu­lar-steel space frame

Above: The Type 645ʼs first pub­lic ap­pear­ance was in prac­tice at the Nür­bur­gring for the May 1956 1000kilo­me­tre race, show­ing the right-hand filler for its cock­pit-side fuel tank

Be­low far left: The Type 645ʼs rear sus­pen­sion used dou­ble lat­eral links to guide its rear wheels. This was a rad­i­cal ad­vance, in­deed too much so for the car ʼs trailin­garm front sus­pen­sion

Left cen­tre: In­stead of the head-rest in­let the en­gi­neers patented a slot across the rear deck which, tun­nel tests showed, de­liv­ered a sup­ply of air un­der pres­sure to the cool­ing blower

Left: The wind-tun­nel model showed a planned head­rest which was de­signed to cap­ture air for the engine in a grille be­hind it. Fuhrmann and Klie were cred­ited with the patent

Above: At the head of the field after the start, next to the 550A Spy­der of Wolfgang von Trips, the smaller size of Richard von Franken­bergʼs ʻMickey Mouseʼ was ev­i­dent

Be­low left: The Type 645ʼs front view at Soli­tude dis­played its faired-in head­lamps and the deck lid that served as a sur­face cooler for the engine oil, the filler for the tank be­hind it

Be­low right: When the Type 645 raced at the Avus on 16 Septem­ber 1956 ad­di­tional vents were cut in its tail to as­sist engine cool­ing. Dents showed the fragility of its mag­ne­sium body

Be­low: Amidst a stel­lar field of top 1.5-litre sports cars at Soli­tude on 22 July 1956, von Franken­berg in the Type 645 made a lively start in sec­ond gear from the front row

Above: For­tu­nately Richard von Franken­berg was thrown out of the Type 645 when it left the steep Avus bank­ing. The car had a nearly-full fuel tank when it crashed. Lit­tle of value sur­vived its ter­mi­nal in­ferno – it is amaz­ing no­body was killed…

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