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


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


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


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


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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