The BMW 507 roadster is a car that’s historically significant for a number of reasons, it was the first production car to have an all aluminum V8, one was owned by Elvis Presley when he was stationed in Germany, oh, and it very nearly killed the company that created it.
The 507 you see here has a fascinating backstory, it was delivered new to Venezuela and then taken home to Canada with its first owner. It passed through a small number of hands before being rolled into a Philadelphia garage in 1978 and left there. It was recently rediscovered and it’s now being offered for sale.
Fast Facts – The BMW 507
- The BMW 507 is a roadster that was released in 1956 and sold until 1959 with just 252 made in total, in spite of the original plans to make 5,000 per year.
- The concept for the 507 is credited to Max Hoffman, an influential NY-based auto importer, who planned to sell the car for $5,000 USD and create a new market niche between the more affordable British MGs and Triumphs and higher end cars like the Mercedes-Benz 300SL.
- Due to runaway production costs the production BMW 507 would eventually cost over double the $5,000 amount at $10,500 USD. This severely limited its sales and very nearly bankrupted BMW.
- The car you see here was delivered new to Venezuela before being taken by its owner to Canada. It eventually ended up parked in a Philadelphia garage for 43 years and largely forgotten, it’s now being offered for sale for the first time since the Carter administration.
The BMW 507 + Max Hoffman
The idea behind the BMW 507 was actually conceived by highly-influential US luxury and sports car importer Max Hoffman. He convinced the BMW board that an elegant open-top sports car based on the BMW 501 and 502 sedan cars would sell well in the United States if priced competitively.
BMW liked the idea and assigned engineer Fritz Fiedler to develop the car, early body designs were penned by Ernst Loof however Hoffman didn’t like them, he instead recommended designer Albrecht von Goertz for the job and it would be von Goertz who styled the production car.
The car had a body-on-chassis design with an elegant roadster body formed from aluminum, it had a folding soft top, and a front-mounted 3.2 liter alloy-V8 producing 150 bhp sending power back through a 4-speed manual transmission.
The engine is of an overhead valve design with two valves per cylinder and two twin-choke Zenith carburetors.
Hoffman had originally specified that the BMW 507 should be priced at approximately $5,000 USD (in 1956 dollars) in order to slot in between the lower end British sports cars from MG and Triumph, and the higher end cars like the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
The Elvis 507 + The Lipstick Problem
Due to cost overruns at the factory, particularly the labour intensive hand-forming required for the body, the cost ballooned first to $9,000 then to $10,500 USD. Rather than selling 5,000 a year the total 1956 to 1959 production run totaled just 252 cars and very nearly bankrupted BMW.
Despite the staggering price increase (or perhaps because of them) there were a few notable buyers including Alain Delon, David Carradine, Prince Rainer of Monaco, King Constantine II of Greece, John Surtees, Ursula Andress, and Elvis who went on to own two of them.
The first 507 owned by Elvis was bought when he was serving on a US military base in Germany, it was finished in white paint and local girls had taken to leaving little love messages on the car penned in red lipstick.
This caused Elvis no end of embarrassment, particularly when driving onto the base, so he sent the car off and had it repainted in the same shade of red as the lipstick, to ensure that any future messages would be largely impossible.
Apparently the girls got around this problem by writing their messages on the windscreen instead.
The BMW 507 Shown Here
The car you see here is a 1957 BMW 507 Series II, It was originally finished in Silberblau (silver blue) over a matching Silberblau leather interior and delivered to its first owner in Venezuela – American expat Lester Stebbins.
Stebbins was a major figure in the motoring world of Venezuela at the time, the Chief Scrutineer and the Director of Automobile Racing of Venezuela, and he was part of the Franco-Venezuelan team that raced a Ferrari 250GT to 6th overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1956.
When he left Venezuela Stebbins took his 507 with him, it was said to be his favorite car, and he later sold it to another collector. As is sometimes the case the car ended up in a small private collection and was stored in a Philadelphia garage for 43 years – it was recently rolled out for the first time.
The car is now due to roll across the auction block with Bonhams on the 30th of September with a price guide of $1,800,000 – $2,200,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.