The BMW 507 was produced from 1956 through 1959 with only 254 examples being produced. The styling was inspired by Max Hoffmann, America's largest import car dealer, and designed by Albrecht von Goertz. Goertz was born in Germany and later migrated to America as Graf Albrecht von Goertz. His portfolio included marques such as Studebaker and Datsun. He was also responsible for designing the BMW 503.
The 507 was a combination of power, exquisite styling, and a lightweight body. The exterior was constructed of light-weight alloy and attached to a metal frame and pressed-steel wheels. Under the hood was a 90-degree eight-cylinder engine that produced 150 horsepower. Top speed was achieved at 125 mph.
The official debut was at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show where it was the star. The car was shown in incomplete form with objects being place in the engine bay to fill the void of the engine that was still under construction. A working prototype was shown in September at the Paris Show. Customers took delivery the following year in November. One of the more famous customers was Elvis Presley. There were two production runs of the 507, the Series 1 and Series 2. The Series 2 were very similar to the first Series, but include minor updates such as a modified dashboard and revised bulkhead to accommodate extra luggage. With 210 Series 2 cars, they were produced in greater numbers than the 42 created Series 1. A heavy price tag was responsible for theses low production numbers. The cost to produce these was steep, so their price tag followed in similar fashion.
What had set out to be a lightweight, inexpensive, sports car with an estimated 200+ horsepower actually evolved into a heavy, money-pit, that had a poor power-to-weight ratio. The tools to produce the vehicle were expensive resulting in slow sales and BMW inching towards bankruptcy. BMW added performance options such as disc brakes and a five-speed transaxle but this did little to encourage customers.
The two-seater 507 sports cars based on the 503 were built to exceptional quality and engineering but unfortunately not well enough. In modern times, these are highly sought after cars because of their low production figures and the history of the marque.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2006
In the 1930s BMW was famous for their top sports cars, but WWII put the marque so behind that they couldn't return to auto production until 1951. The sensational 507 was monumental in proving that BMW could produce durable, fast, superbly engineered road vehicles.
Introduced at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in 1955, the pricy BMW 507 roadster was created with the intent of improving BMW's sporting image. BMW had high hopes for the classy 507, but unfortunately the snappy little roadster was unable to live up to these aspirations. The goal was to export the 507 to the U.S. at a rate of several hundred per year, but the vehicles were too expensive for postwar Germany, and too eccentric for American auto tastes and at a time when most Americans hadn't ever heard of BMW. BMW didn't have the tooling to produce the 507 in the desired numbers by him, and it took longer than expected to get the car to America.
Max Hoffman was a shrewd U.S. automobile importer who sweet-talked BMW management in 1954 into producing a roadster variant of the BMW 501 and BMW 502 saloons to fill the void between the pricy Mercedes-Benz 300SL and the inexpensive and underpowered MG and Triumph sports vehicles. Hoffman convinced BMW that he had plenty of wealthy American customers that wanted a sleek BMW sports car, which he would display at his lux NYC dealership. BMW was competing with rival Mercedes-Benz's 300SL model and needed both an image boost and extra cash flow, so they agreed to build the car. Hoffman had all of the right connections in the U.S. and owned distribution rights on the East Coast for the high-pedigree European auto and also sold them.
Hoffman was unimpressed by any early designs by Ernst Loof and BMW contracted German-American industrial designer Count Albrecht von Goertz to design the BMW sport models with the 502's big chassis and running gear. In November of 1954 Goertz designed the 503 coupe and convertible with the 502's chassis and pushrod aluminum V8 engine. Though he was pleased with the 503 and the boost it gave to BMW, Hoffman wanted a much more dramatic car, one that would be sensationally eye-catching on American streets. Hoffman persuaded Goertz to take even more creative liberty, and the result was the 507 two-seater. Goertz stressed simplicity in the design of the 507 and was intricately involved in every part of the design from the grille to the cockpit.
Fritz Fiedler was BMW's chief engineer who was assigned the task of designing the mechanical package by utilizing existing components wherever able. Hoffman made sure that the 507 had a new 3.2-liter V8 engine during a time when few European cars had a V8 due to stiff engine-size taxes. Even the famous 300SL only had a 6-cylinder engine, but Hoffman knew that the only engine he wanted was a V8 for his American baby.
After it's introduction, production of the BMW 507 began in November of 1956. Hoffman had high hopes of selling the 507 around a price of $5,000, but high production costs made that impossibility. The BMW 507 was closer to an initial price of $9,000, before rising to $10,500, but the model helped to establish BMW as a forward-thinking manufacturer that has continued to this day. Hoffman had hoped to sell around 5,000 units a year, but despite celebrity buyers that included Georg 'Schorsch' Meier and Hans Stuck, the 507 never reached more than 10% of the sales volume that rival Mercedes-Benz 300SL achieved. For 1959 BMW lost around DM 15 million with the company losing money of every single 507 model built.
The 507 sported a pointed nose with BMW's trademark twin grilles. Much like the then-new Ford Thunderbird two-seater, the 507 offered a removable steel top to go with its convertible top. A number of models were sold with an optional hand-fabricated removable hardtop that was unique to the car it was made for and only fit on that specific vehicle. Eventually the styling of the 507 inspired the Z3 and Z4, and especially the Z8. The 507 was built on the same frame as the 503, which was shorted from 111.6 inches to 98 inches. The 507 had an overall length of 190.4 inches and an overall height of 49.5 inches and weighed 2,900 lbs. The body was constructed almost entirely from hand-formed aluminum and no two models were ever exactly alike. Fully equipped and nicely detailed, the largely hand-built 507 cost about the price of two Cadillac's when it finally arrived at Hoffman's prestigious dealership.
The 507's front suspension was parallel double wishbones with torsion bar springs and anti-roll bar. Located by a Panhard rod and a central, transverse A-arm that controlled acceleration and braking forces, the rear suspension featured a live axle, also sprung by torsion bars. The brakes used were Alfin drum brakes 11.2 inches in diameter with optional power brakes. 507 models produced later in the production run sported front Girling disc brakes. The 507 safely could cruise Germany's unlimited speed highways at more than 100 mph thanks to hefty drum, and later disc brakes. When compared with other 1950's convertibles of the time, the 507 was equipped with sharp handling and exceptional rigidity due to precise rack-and-pinion steering, torsion bar front suspension, nicely engineered rear suspension and a high tech tubular chassis.
Powering the 507 was the aluminum alloy BMW OHV V8 engine of 193.3 cubic inch displacement that featured pushrod-operated overhead valves. It featured two Solex Zenith 32NDIX two-barrel carburetors, a chain-driven oil pump and compression ratio of 7.8:1 that produced 150 hp at 5,000 rpm and was joined to a close ratio four-speed manual transmission. Standard was a rear-end ratio of 3.70:1, but optional were ratios of 3.42:1 and 3.90:1. The BMW 507 could hit 0-60 mph in just 7 to 8.8 seconds, depending on gearing and had a top speed range of 128-138 mph.
A stellar example of a highly desirable limited-production German sports car, only 253 507's were built during the models four-year production run. In 1959 production was terminated. The launch of cheaper, newer models like the BMW 700 and the 'New Class' 1500 helped BMW recover as a company. A total of 202 BMW 507's are thought to have survived today.
The landmark model has been owned by numerous famous people including the iconic Elvis Presley who leased a white 507 in 1959 for $3,500 while stationed with the Army in Germany. Elvis would often fight lipstick stains all over his 507. In 1963 he gifted the car to the actress 'Bond Girl' Ursula Andress. John Surtees was another famous owner who received a 507 by Count Agusta after winning the 1956 500cc World Motorcycle Championship on a MV Agusta. Surtees still owns his 507 and worked with Dunlop to add disc brakes for the front wheels, before eventually adding disc brakes on all four wheels. In October 2007 Bernie Ecclestone's 507 sold for $904,000 at a London auction.
The 507 made its big screen debut in the 1964 film Fantômas.Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson