Porsche 645 Spyder (1956)

Premiere: 1956 July 22, Solitude race track near Stuttgart

Porsche 645 Spyder

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 Spyder and the 1957 718 RSK Spyder. 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 built around a space frame made of tubes. 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).

Porsche 645 Spyder, top view
The fuel tank was mounted on the right side, so there's a door only on the left side © unknown (please inform if you know)
Porsche 645 Spyder, Richard von Frankenberg
Racing driver and motoring journalist Richard von Frankenberg © unknown (please inform if you know)

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.

Porsche 645 Spyder, Solitude 1956, Richard von Frankenburg
1956 July 22, Solitude race track near Stuttgart, German Sportscar Championship round 3, Richard von Frankenberg© Porsche
1956  Internationales Solitude-Rennen, Porsche 550, 645
1956 July 22, Solitude. After successful qualification, Frankenberg (#11) started the Internationales Solitude-Rennen from the first row. Despite the technical problems, he managed to finish in 4th place.© Porsche

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.

1956 AVUS, Porsche 645
645 at AVUS © unknown (please inform if you know)
1956 AVUS, Porsche 645 rear end
Cool flush rear lamps and unique engine cover© unknown (please inform if you know)

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.

1956 AVUS, Porsche 645, Richard von Frankenberg

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?

1956 AVUS, Porsche 645, Richard von Frankenberg
Frankenberg is dropping out from the car. It was not the seat belt era yet and this time driver's life was saved because he was thrown out from the car to land in the rather soft bushes. © unknown (please inform if you know)
1956 AVUS, Porsche 645
The 645 was damaged beyond repair already after the landing and is now burning down behind a gullwing Mercedes© unknown (please inform if you know)
1956 AVUS, Porsche 645
© unknown (please inform if you know)
1956 AVUS, Porsche 645
© unknown (please inform if you know)
1956 AVUS, Porsche 645
© unknown (please inform if you know)
1956 AVUS, Porsche 645
Unburnt front lid shows it was the only steel body panel © unknown (please inform if you know)

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 © Stuttcars.com

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