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Otto Mathé and The Fetzenflieger

The latest edition of the 9:11 video magazine features one of the most peculiar Porsche-based specials of all time: The Fetzenflieger

Otto Mathé began racing motorcycles at 16 years old. He continued racing motorcycles through his twenties, until 28 years old when an accident caused paralysis in his right arm. For the time being, Otto was out of competition. Throughout the thirties and Second World War he ran a service station where he produced fuel and oil additives. Following the Second World War the Austrian began racing again.

Lacking the use of his right arm, Mathé made the prudent decision to switch from two wheels to four. In 1949 he purchased one of the Type 64 Berlin-Rome cars from Porsche. With that car, and a 356, he returned to motorsport. Notably, both the Type 64 and Mathé’s 356 were right-hand drive, allowing him to shift with his left hand. Mathé contested the Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti in 1949, ultimately winning the event in 1952.

The Fetzenflieger

But for the former motorcycle racer, an enclosed car was clearly insufficient. In the early 1950s, Mathé began constructing a small open-wheel racecar. Based around a combination of Volkswagen and Porsche components, the car was originally powered by a 1.5-liter Porsche Spyder engine, and weighed just 395 kilograms. In motorcycle terms, that is about 85% of the weight of a Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

The diminutive racer was known as « The Fetzenflieger, » literally « tatter-flinger, » thanks to its white cloth side-panels which were often blown apart by backfires. The car proved to be a force to be reckoned with in competition. It featured a mid-engined layout, low center of gravity, and an extremely short wheelbase. The addition of a Fuhrmann engine from a 356A Carrera GT made the car even more potent.

Like his earlier Type 64 and 356, the car featured a shifter to the left of the driver. While this did allow Mathé to shift with his good hand, he had to use his right shoulder to brace the steering wheel while steering. This peculiar posture made him a fixture at European events.

Mathé primarily used the Fetzenflieger for sand and ice racing, though he also made fenders, lights, and a spare tire carrier. These additions allowed the Tatter Flinger to compete in on-road events as well as circuit events.

Following years of competition success, Mathé ultimately retired from racing, passing in 1995 at 98 years old.


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