Wendell Fletcher, Pasadena, California (acquired new in 1958)
Prescott Kelley, Weston, Connecticut (acquired from the above in 1987)
Cal Turner III, Parker, Tennessee (acquired from the above in 1998)
Prescott Kelley, Weston, Connecticut (acquired from the above in 2005)
Jerry Seinfeld (acquired from the above in 2010)
Excellence Magazine, Issue 183, article The Lonely Hunter
Porsche: Excellence Was Expected, model discussed, pp. 134-137
The Porsche Type 597 represents a part of the marque’s history often overlooked by casual observers. Following WWII, Germany was heavily demilitarized, but by 1954 was ready to become a more active member of the NATO alliance; thus, the Federal Army needed a transport vehicle. Borgward, Auto Union, and Porsche all entered proposals; Porsche’s Type 597 employed an industrial-spec variant of the proven, and robust, 356 engine, and it utilized four-wheel drive and a stamped steel monocoque chassis for increased rigidity and buoyancy.
Despite the Type 597’s superior performance, officials chose Auto Union’s simpler and far cheaper DKW Munga for the military contract. Porsche set its sights on offering the Type 597 to the civilian audience under the name Jagdwagen, or “Hunter’s Car.” An estimated 71 Porsche Type 597s were built between 1955 and 1958, with 49 produced for the civilian market. The vehicles were built in Porsche’s Werk 1 department, right beside the company’s racing machines.
This late-production Jagdwagen, chassis 597000148, is thought to be the most original of the estimated 15 Type 597s that still exist. The well-preserved nature of this Jagdwagen is largely due to the care of its first owner, Wendell Fletcher of Pasadena, California, who received the vehicle in conjunction with his position as Porsche’s North American distributor for industrial engines. Interestingly, Fletcher Aviation was the primary sponsor of the Porsche 550 Spyder that Hans Herrmann drove to victory in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana. During the long-distance road race, Wendell Fletcher flew his personal Navion airplane the length of the route to supply the team with parts.
In fact, Porsche intended this Jagdwagen to be Wendell Fletcher’s sales model and, as such, he approached various dealers and military suppliers with proposals to sell the technically advanced “Hunter’s Car.” Unfortunately, Fletcher never did develop any business with the Jagdwagen, but he did build his own four-wheel drive vehicle called a “Flair,” which adopted Type 597 drivetrain and Corvair power. In 1987, at the age of 92, Fletcher finally decided to sell his beloved and largely untouched Jagdwagen to noted Porsche authority and collector Prescott Kelley.
Jerry Seinfeld purchased the Type 597 in 2010, and it has remained an integral part of his collection since. Having covered less than 24,000 km from new and retaining its original vinyl seat covers, fabric top, and side curtains, this remarkable vehicle is as intriguing in its minute details as in its overall design. We invite you to carefully inspect this amazing and historic machine and discover its uniquely rugged charm.