Birthday : 1907-07-31
Deceased : 1995-11-29
Biography Otto Mathé
Otto Mathhé was a trained mechanical engineer and also used his experience as a designer of successful self-made products. Before the War, Austrian Otto Mathé (1907-1995) was a motorcycle racer, but a serious accident in 1934 paralyzed his right arm all but useless. He opened a petrol station and during the War he made his living developing a range of fuel and oil additives (the Mathé company survives). Otto Mathé had already been working on the idea of a Wankel engine since his apprenticeship. In the early post-war period – a few years before the Wankel engine became known – he built it himself.
Despite his disability, Otto Mathé purchased a very early Porsche car after the War and went racing. He drove international races at home and abroad with the “Porsche ancestor” the so-called “Berlin-Rome Car” (Porsche Type 64). In 1952 he constructed a single seater. Sometimes called the “Fetzenflieger” (“Scrap Flyer”), the car was powered by a Porsche 1500cc 4-cam engine, and used a selection of Porsche, Volkswagen and Kubelwagen parts.
Although built to Formula II specifications, the Special adopted a layout broadly similar to Formula III thinking – low, with a mid-mounted engine, and about the same size as a Cooper Twin. Open-wheeled, it would on occasion run with wings, giving it the appearance of a dune buggy. The car would run successfully on tarmac, sand (trotting tracks being popular brace venues in Austria) and ice. Otto Mathé would be three times Austrian Champion, despite having to develop a novel way of changing gear whilst steering. With “the Fetzenflieger”, Otto Mathé defeated world-famous professional racers like Hans Stuck, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Richard von Frankenberg on their works cars. In 1952, Otto Mathé participated in twenty car races and became twenty times winner – one-armed!
The history of the car is rather unclear after 1954, but it is almost certain that this is the car that attended the Commander Yorke meeting at Silverstone, 29th September 1956, where it was driven by Lothar Rafael of Vienna, and fitted with a JAP engine. Quite why Lothar chose this race is a mystery, no other appearances have been recorded on this trip, nor of the car ever running in 500cc trim at home.
At this very moment, the Fetzenflieger and other Otto Matthé cars are property of the Prototyp Museum in Hamburg
Pictures courtesy Racing and Recipes / Vintage Race Photography