There’s a reason Elvis Presley had one of his two BMW 507 Roadsters painted red: it didn’t show the lipstick marks left by adoring fans. That’s the way the story goes, at least, but perhaps some of them were simply showing their admiration for a truly spectacular and exotic car that Road & Track described as a “fortuitous combination of all-out racing beastliness and the true grace of postwar Italian design.”
Once again, as with other landmark luxury European sports cars including the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and Roadster, the driving force behind the BMW 507 was legendary New York importer Max Hoffman, who persuaded BMW there was a market—particularly among America’s highest rollers—for an exotic, high-priced, European open-top sports car. Hoffman recruited New York-based German ex-patriot industrial designer Count Albrecht von Goertz to pen the dramatic aluminum body.
The chassis was a shortened version of that used on the 502 sedan, which also furnished the fabulous burble of the all-aluminum 3168cc OHV V-8 breathing through a pair of Zenith twin-choke carburetors. With the V-8 rated at 150 HP, the 507 was good for 124 MPH. When deliveries started in June 1956, sales didn’t materialize as fast as Hoffman had hoped, in large part because, although the exotic BMW was undoubtedly beautiful, its initial price of $8,988 was a deal more exotic than Hoffman’s $5,000 target, at which he forecast annual sales in the thousands. Nevertheless, the 507 got even more exotic, its price rising to $10,500 in 1959. In its short career, which returned sales of just 252, BMW invested considerable development effort in the car, befitting its status as a prestigious flagship model.
This 1959 BMW 507 Roadster is No. 242 of those 252 produced. As a late-production Series II model, it benefits from the revised cabin that increased space and legroom by moving the fuel tank aft to the trunk floor. Early cars were drum-braked, while front discs later became an option; however, this example features the very rare 4-wheel disc-brake option, developed in conjunction with BMW by none other than British motorcycling world champion and future Formula 1 world champion John Surtees for his own 507. Another extremely rare extra is the hard top, which it’s reckoned was supplied to just 11 BMW 507s. Each of the hard tops was individually fabricated to fit a particular car, as the hand-crafted bodies varied from one car to another. The BMW 507 also features a Blaupunkt radio, three-piece luggage set and a tool kit under the hood.
Part of Rick Grant III’s collection since 2002, this BMW 507 Roadster was previously owned by well-known BMW collector Goetz Pfafflin, a long-time BMW Car Club of America member and founder of the BMW Vintage and Classic Car Club of America. Its 3168cc OHV V-8, backed here by a ZF 4-speed manual gearbox, was rebuilt along with the suspension and brakes in 1997 by BMW specialist Brummer of Munich, Germany. A professional restoration by Bruce Kelly’s Lake Country Classic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, followed in 2021, focusing on the bodywork, paint, upholstery, top and chrome. That same year, Pfafflin completed the 3,500-mile BWN Vintage Marathon of Europe, with Brummer repairing the wiring system prior to the rally, and the BMW was displayed at the 2021 Concours d’Elegance of America.
With 202 known survivors of the 252 built, it goes without saying that any BMW 507 is far rarer than the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster, which totaled 1,858 sales. This example is rare even within the small and exclusive circle of BMW 507s.
This vehicle will be offered at MECUM Auctions annual Kissimmee Florida, The World’s Largest Collector Car Auction®, along with almost 4,000 cars and thousands of Road Art items. Taking place January 4-15, 2023. View more cars and register to bid online at https://drive.mecum.com/