Black Sheep or Golden Boy?
They say you’ve got to spend money to make money. Although, in post-war 1950s Germany, trying to get back on one’s feet was no easy task. Which is why the story of the BMW 507 is all the more profound.
In the early ‘50s, renowned American BMW importer Max Hoffman called the firm to develop a new sports car, one tailored specifically for American buyers. Hoffman enlisted designer Albrecht Goertz to make his vision come to life on the canvas. BMW liked it quite a lot and commissioned him to craft the 507 roadster alongside a 503 four-seater.
After more than a year of prototyping, a finalized 507 was ready to roll, debuting at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 1995. The striking roadster boasted the marque’s ubiquitous twin-kidney front grille, a powerful stance, and a seemingly endless hood—not to mention, a new engine. The 507 introduced a sporting alloy 3.2-liter V8, which sucked air through a pair of Zenith dual-barrel speed manual transmission, the 507 would sprint from 0 to 60mph in around 10 seconds and were pegged on the Autobahn topping out at 136 mph. It certainly was not a slow car by ‘50s standards.
Where the tires met the pavement: 145 bhp, 3,168 cc OHV all-alloy V8 engine with dual carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with dual A-arms and torsion bars, live rear axle with torsion bars, hydraulic front disc, rear drum brakes, and wheelbase at 97.6 inches. Yes, it’s definitely a mouthful. Performance would, however, become the least of BMW’s worries. Development costs of the roadster grew to astronomical proportions for the post-war “Bimmer” with the new V8 engine and the hand-built aluminum body, equating to $6,300 a piece, for US models—thousands more than the equally sporting Jaguar XK140 or the hard-charging Chevrolet Corvette. The German multinational corporation would shelf-out its very own, loosing money on every single one that left the factory.
By the end of the decade, BMW called it quits on the vaunted roadster after producing just 251 units. Elvis Presley and John Surtees (the legendary racer) still owned one, among various famous celebrities of the day. Estimates range that there were just a couple of hundred or so left. We wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a barn somewhere that’s hiding one or two more.
Today, many enthusiasts argue that the 507 would have put BMW out of business had the carmaker not been successful in selling microcars and motorcycles to offset the extreme cost. At the same time, however, the BMW 507 certainly helped rekindle the company’s sporting reputation. In that regard, it set BMW on a course which, undoubtedly, helped steer it toward its current reputation of building quality, performance-oriented luxury automobiles. Without it, BMW would certainly be a different company than the company we know and love today.
Its character and patina show the result of decades of adoration and careful use. Finding an example that is well-preserved and in its original engine is virtually unheard of. The 507 gifts its owner with not only an exceptional automobile, but a world of possibilities with how it can be enjoyed.
To answer the question, it is The Golden Boy masked as the Black Sheep of “Bimmers.” Like any valuable and rare artwork, one needs an eye for beauty, an eye to recognize greatness. Its effortless elegance and sleekness are its most sought-after personalities up to this day, and I think the punch that it gave the industry will definitely continue to leave a mark.