The BMW 507 is a roadster produced by BMW from 1956 to 1959. Initially intended to be exported to the United States at a rate of thousands per year, it ended up being too expensive, resulting in a total production figure of 252 cars and heavy losses for BMW.
The BMW 507 was conceived by US automobile importer Max Hoffman who, in 1954, persuaded the BMW management to produce a roadster version of the BMW 501 and BMW 502 saloons to fill the gap between the expensive Mercedes-Benz 300SL and the cheap and underpowered Triumph and MG sports cars. Existing designs by Ernst Loof were rejected by Hoffman, who found them to be unappealing. In November 1954, at Hoffman’s insistence, BMW contracted designer Albrecht von Goertz to design the BMW 503 and the 507. BMW engineer Fritz Fiedler was assigned to design the mechanical package, using existing components wherever possible.
Introduction and impact
The 507 made its debut at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in the summer of 1955. Production began in November 1956. Max Hoffman intended the 507 to sell for about $5,000 U.S., which he believed would allow a production run of 5,000 units a year. Instead, high production costs pushed the price in Germany to DM 26,500 (later 29,950);, driving the U.S. price initially to $9,000 and ultimately $10,500. Despite attracting celebrity buyers including Hans Stuck and Georg “Schorsch” Meier, the car never once reached more than 10% of the sales volumes achieved by its Stuttgart rival, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL.
Intended to revive BMW’s sporting image, the 507 instead took BMW to the edge of bankruptcy — the company’s losses for 1959 were DM 15 million. The company lost money on each 507 built, and production was terminated in late 1959. Only 252 were built, plus two prototypes. Fortunately for the company, an infusion of capital from Herbert Quandt and the launch of new, cheaper models (the BMW 700 and later the ‘New Class’ 1500) helped the company recover.
The 507 remains a milestone model for its attractive styling, which attracted some famous buyers. American icon Elvis Presley was the most noteworthy purchaser. In addition to owning another car, while on duty with the US Army in Germany in 1959 he bought a white 507 for US$3,500. He brought it back with him to the US, and at some point had the engine replaced with a 289-cubic inch Ford V-8. He gave the car to one of his most famous co-stars, the Swiss-born actress Ursula Andress, in 1963. She kept it for some 20 years and, in 1997, it sold at an auction for US$350,000. Another famous owner is John Surtees, who was given a 507 by Count Agusta for winning the 1956 500cc World Motorcycle Championship on a MV Agusta. Surtees worked with Dunlop to develop disc brakes for the front wheels of the 507, and his 507 eventually had disc brakes on all four wheels. Surtees still owns his 507.
202 507s are known to survive, a tribute to the car’s appeal. Bernie Ecclestone’s 507 fetched £430,238 ($904,000) at an auction in London in October 2007. 2009 the prices for 507s have reached €900,000.
The 507 shared the frame of the 503, shortened from 2,835 millimeters (111.6 in) to 2,480 millimeters (98 in). Overall length was 4,835 millimeters (190.4 in), and overall height was 1,257 millimeters (49.5 in). Curb weight was about 1,330 kilograms (2,900 lb). The body was almost entirely hand-formed of aluminum, and no two models were exactly the same. Many cars were sold with an optional hand-fabricated removable hardtop. Because of the car-to-car differences, each hardtop fits only the car for which it was made.
Front suspension was parallel double wishbones, with torsion bar springs and an anti-roll bar. Rear suspension had a live axle, also sprung by torsion bars, and located by a Panhard rod and a central, transverse A-arm to control acceleration and braking forces. Brakes were Alfin drum brakes of 284.5 mm (11.2 in) diameter, and power brakes were optional. Late-model 507s had front Girling disc brakes.
The engine was the aluminum alloy BMW OHV V8, of 3,168 cubic centimeters (193.3 cu in) displacement, with pushrod-operated overhead valves. It had two Solex Zenith 32NDIX two-barrel carburetors, a chain-driven oil pump, and a compression ratio of 7.8:1, yielding 150 horsepower (110 kW) DIN at 5,000 rpm. It was mated to a close ratio four-speed manual transmission. The standard rear-end ratio was 3.70:1, but ratios of 3.42:1 and 3.90:1 were optional. A contemporary road test of a 507 with the standard 3.70:1 final drive was reported in Motor Revue, stating a 0–100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration time of 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 122 mph.