Porsche 645 Spyder (1956)
Premiere: 1956 July 22, Solitude race track near Stuttgart
Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cam flat-4
The Porsche type 645 was a very special and beautiful prototype. It was the link between the 1956 550 A and the 1957 718 RSK. The idea was to make a similar car like the 550, but faster. This meant that with the 550's 1.5-litre Fuhrmann 4-cam engine, the 645 had to be smaller, lighter, lower, more aerodynamic. The 645 was the first Porsche-built car with full tubular frame (remember, the Porsche type 360 was not built by Porsche). And the rear suspension was new, now with coil springs instead of torsion bars. Both the front and rear tracks were narrower and the wheelbase was shorter. The front and rear lamps were mounted inside the body and covered with clear glass flush with the body - nice! Gone was the front fender design of the 550 (that was later implemented on the 901/911).
The 645 was faster than 550, but didn't handle as well, so Porsche's star drivers chose not to use it. The new prototype spyder was used by Richard von Frankenberg, a racing driver who was also the editor of the Porsche Christophorus magazine.
Next time the 645 was used on September 16, 1956, at the German Sportscar Championship round 6 on AVUS (Berlin GP). AVUS was a high speed track consisting of two opposite Autobahn straights. One of the curves was heavily banked, up to 43 degrees, to maintain very high speed.
In the race something strange and incomprehensible happened - on the high bank, Frankenberg's car drove off the track like remote controlled - there was no counter-action from the driver to avoid the disaster.
Looking the footage, no braking can be seen. If the brakes failed, then why there's no steering back to the track? Frankenberg said after the accident that he does not remember anything. Did he lose consciousness while driving the car through the banking where the driver is under really heavy G-forces?
Richard von Frankenberg survived the accident and that is a complete luck. The very sad story is, that there is no Porsche 645 after September 16, 1956. Considering how much work was put into this prototype, how cool it looked and technically was, it is a real shame such a piece of art and engineering is gone forever.
Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com
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