Sixty years ago, BMW was a very different company to what it is today. Caught in the turmoil of Germany’s post-World War II resurrection, the company’s income came largely from the production of microcars rather than luxury machines. Plans were underway for a saloon car, which a V-8 engine had already been developed for. But, BMW needed something more. What was missing from the BMW lineup was something inherently exciting, something that would put them in the forefront on the minds of enthusiasts and the general public alike.
Max Hoffman, the noted European car importer based in New York City, saw an opportunity for BMW to create a halo car that could be sold in his dealership. Thinking that the car could fit in-between the higher-end Porsche 356 Speedster, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, and more pragmatic MGs (all of which Hoffman represented), it would be an ideal addition to his showroom. Sure enough, just like the Speedster and 300 SL, Hoffman was able to convince the superiors at BMW in Germany, and the BMW 507 was born.
Utilizing components from the BMW 502 and 503 series of automobiles, mainly the 3.2-liter overhead-valve V-8 engine, which featured an aluminum block and was uprated to feature twin carburetors to deliver a refined 148 brake horsepower, the 507 certainly had the underpinnings of a sports car. With a four-speed synchromesh gearbox and large Alfin drum brakes to help manage the car’s horsepower, the BMW 507 offered brisk horsepower and performance. It was capable of reaching top speeds of 123–135 mph, dependent on the gear ratio selected, and could accelerate from 0–60 mph in less than 10 seconds. Although BMW did not build the 507 with motorsport in mind, several examples found themselves driven in competition as some of the world’s most arduous racing events, including the Tour de France and the Mille Miglia.
Design was left to Count Albrecht von Goertz, a protégé of designer Raymond Loewy. He crafted truly exceptional bodywork for the car, a design which is considered to this day to be one of BMWs finest. The long, sweeping lines of the 507 began at the front with the low, sensuous nose featuring a stylish version of the now trademark BMW ‘twin kidney’ grille and a narrow chrome bumper. The theme of feline grace continued along the front of the car with sculpted wings featuring ‘shark gille’ vents complete with the BMW emblem. An elegant chrome rear bumper and twin exhausts gave the car a sporting tail.
While it was intended to be more attainable, the BMW 507 boasted a retail price of over $11,000, nearly double its target price, which made it a car that only few could afford. As such, the 507 attracted many well-to-do and famous owners, including motorsports icon John Surtees and even Elvis Presley. Only 252 examples, including both series, were made before production ceased in 1959.