Journal: This Is What It’s Like To Drive The BMW 507

This Is What It’s Like To Drive The BMW 507

By Ted Gushue
July 5, 2016

Photography by Ted Gushue

I’m not an Elvis fanboy by any means. Was he one of the greats? To be sure, but you’ll not find cardboard cutouts of him in my apartment. (That would be pretty weird for anybody, to be honest.) What I will say about Elvis, however, was that he had incredible taste in cars. Namely, the BMW 507.

I was a little star struck when I learned that I would have the chance to drive this machine. It’s one of those cars that you see once every couple years at a concours d’elegance. Just imagine how white the hair of the owner must be for having saved up for one. There’s just not that many out there, roughly  278 made, so the concept of someone handing the keys to a mere mortal is a little insane.

Of course, it was pouring rain the day I got my first chance to sample its metallic treasures. The exact model came from BMW Group Classic’s vault on a drive that I’d been on with several other significant models that I’ve written about. As the coordinator stood beneath an umbrella walking me through all the toggles, there was this grave tone in his voice, almost as if to say, “Hey, so if you so much as scrape this car I will end your life”. He was polite as can be, but I’ll never forget the metaphorical weight of those keys.

The particular car I was in had just finished a factory restoration, so it was effectively better than new. It started with a song, and slid into first gear with a satisfyingly moist click. While the car looks sporty as can be, I’d soon compare it to a slightly more svelte Corvette from the same era. You’ll give the impression that you’re flying while standing still, but if you’re looking for actual high performance, this isn’t your ticket. Suspension is marshmallowy, wheels are thin, acceleration is nice enough.

None of that matters, though, because you’re sitting in a work of art. Every inch of the car designed to go toe to toe with the Mercedes-Benz 300SL is sublime sculpture. The Bakelite steering wheel feels warm and sturdy, and the shift mechanism is deliberate and heavy without being clumsy. There’s power there, but not any more than you need to get around at a decent clip.

Once you’ve stopped,  however, is when the magic really happens.

My friend Timo and I drove into Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which even on a rainy day was swimming with tourists from all over the world. Without question, as we parked the car near a photogenic building they all turned their cameras on the 507. “May I take a photo with it?” asked nearly a dozen Japanese travelers. Selfie sticks extended people snapped away. We were asked questions about the car that we had no ability to answer in their native tongue, so we just nodded and said, “We know, we know, it’s gorgeous”.

The car really does have that special allure that only a handful of other cars share. It’s big, it’s impractical, it nearly bankrupted BMW—and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in.

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Anders Bilidt
Anders Bilidt
7 years ago

Well if ever further proof was needed, these pics are it.
For the love of mineral engine oil and leaded fuel, please please please, loose the damned GPS when driving your classic car!!
Just look at those pictures… One of the most astonishingly beautiful roadsters the automotive world has ever seen! Such grace. And that interior. Perfection. Truly the stuff dreams are made of. Well, mine are anyway.
And then we find a big black plastic box full of modern gadgets and technologi stuck to the inside of the windscreen, and that annoying power lead dangling in the otherwise serene and cosseting interior.
Please try harder to retain the period feel of our classics. Drive them with an oldschool paper map in the glovebox. And if you really must use a GPS, then at least try to hide it – just to keep up appearances.

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson
7 years ago

Ted, I enjoyed reading the article and the pictures are superb as far as I’m concerned . I like the fact that you were clear and concise in your comments about the article and the comments so far.
You wrote what was on your mind, shared a bit of a dream for us to enjoy. Having been to Rothenburg many times , the pictures show the beauty of the town enhanced by the car.

7 years ago

These little pieces are nice, but need a different title. Recently, the articles convey more about what was done during a journey in the car and less about the car itself. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that if the piece is titled accordingly, but when I read the title “This is what it’s like to drive __________________”, my expectation is of a vintage flavored version of what one could find in “Road & Track”, “Car & Driver”, “EVO”, or a similar publication.

Thanks for driving the car, even under such hairy circumstances, and sharing a little of what ensued.

I always enjoy your interviews, Ted!

7 years ago

In the rain? Seriously? IN the Rain? And on a gravel “road”? And one of 258 or 277 or whatever (that’ll be disputed for a while!) ?

If I had seen you at Rothenburg I probably would have bought you a local brew and then taken away your keys and called the factory. And told them what fools they were.

(Missed by ‘this’ much buying one. And of course I should have, blah, blah, blah).
Very nice piece. ciao

7 years ago

Question: What is it like to drive the BMW 507?
Answer: Nice enough marshmallow.

Please do better. Describe the drive. Did you actually drive the car on cobbled stone roads and muddy dirt roads covered in loose rocks, or are those just staged photos? How many miles did you drive it? At what speeds? Describe the pitter-patter of rain on the canvas top. Windows closed, where in the spectrum between a Singer sewing machine and a Harley Davidson did this engine’s sounds live? etc….

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