The test vehicle would have looked similar to this 911 prototype before crashing into the guard rail

The test vehicle would have looked similar to this 911 prototype before crashing into the guard rail

A 51-year-old man died in Germany this morning while behind the wheel of a prototype for the next-generation Porsche 911. The victim, a Porsche engineer, was driving the vehicle on the A5 autobahn south of Frankfurt at approximately 2:45am when he lost control and slammed into a guard rail.

Speaking with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a spokesman for Porsche said the engineer "was one of the most experienced test drivers" and had been working for the company for 25 years. He also confirmed that the prototype was for the new 911 and that it was covered with fake panels to mask parts of the vehicle's appearance.

Local authorities are still investigating the accident but eyewitnesses claim the prototype was driving at a high rate of speed before the crash. The location of the accident was midway between Frankfurt and Heidelberg, in the German province of Hessen, and the particular stretch of road where the accident took place had no speed limit.

Numerous prototypes for the new 911 have been spotted testing across Germany in recent months, including versions for the standard Coupe and Cabrio, Targa, and high-performance Turbo models. Testing is still in the early stages as the new model isn’t expected to debut in production trim until early 2011.