Market Finds: Will This BMW 507 Roadster Become A Monterey Auction Star?

Will This BMW 507 Roadster Become A Monterey Auction Star?

By Andrew Golseth
July 28, 2016

Photography courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Long before BMW melted its revered performance charisma into the current 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and i series lineup of today, it was a struggling postwar microcar manufacturer. Its first production car after the war was the 501, a successful luxury sedan thanks in large part to its robust V8. The Isetta and 501 offered little variety, something New York based European car importer Max Hoffman took notice of.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name, take note: Max Hoffman convinced Porsche to build the 356 Speedster and Mercedes to bring its W194 Grand Prix race car to the road—that’d be the 300SL “Gullwing”. Needless to say, Hoffman had a knack for conjuring up successful road cars and sought to do the same with BMW. Fortunately for us, Hoffman was able to convince the minds at Munich to build a flagship sportscar.

Max insisted on hiring Albrecht von Goertz to design both the two-seater 507 and two-plus-two 503 Grand Tourer, further proving the Bavarian bean counters’ faith in Hoffman. The elegant 507 convertible was fitted with a modified version of the 3.2-liter eight-cylinder derived from the 501 saloon, featuring an all-new four-speed synchromesh manual gearbox and twin carburetors. The setup was good for 148 horsepower, capable of bringing the roadster to 60 mph in under 10 seconds with a top speed of 135 mph, depending on optioned gearing. With all that power on tap, Alfin drum brakes at all four corners were selected to keep things sunny-side-up.

With a goal-price around $5,000, the 507 was aimed to slot between the affordable British sports cars, such as Trimuph and MG, and the 300SL. After development and construction costs were tallied, the BMW roadster ended up commanding more than $11,000—more than double its projected figure and BMW lost money on every one of them. This left the 507 in an odd spectrum, as it was said to be an inferior performer to the Gullwing with an equal cost of entry. Still, the elite and celebrity alike purchased the 507, likely out of uniqueness and sheer beauty—most famously driven by Elvis Presley.

This 1957 BMW 507 Roadster is just one of 34 Series I models built out of 252 total production units. Originally Papyros white over red leather, the car was repainted black before the odd but intriguing aqua color it currently wears. The interior is said to be all original, and judging by the inviting patina, it certainly appears to be a used but cared for cabin. The third owner was a Honda motorcycle racer that managed to just barely afford the car in 1963. He kept the car for over 50 years and even used it as his wedding chariot—is there a classier cabriolet for getting hitched?

The current owner picked up this regularly driven but routinely serviced 507 in 2014. The front drums were swapped out for a more potent disc brake setup—however, the original Alfin drums are included. The sea-foam paint was laid sometime in the third caretaker’s ownership but still presents in good shape given its age. The Rudge wheel’s center spokes were color-matched, while the barrels were left polished to match the bumpers, side gills, and wing mirrors. The original powertrain is still in place and has racked-up only 73k kilometers since 1958—averaging around 800 miles a year!

Unlike the Mercedes 300SL and Porsche Speedster’s sales success, the 507’s handmade-from-aluminum body construction was so laborious and costly, it nearly bankrupt BMW. Yet, it simultaneously proved to the world that BMW was a serious performance brand—something we wish they’d return to. Fast, ludicrously expensive, and undeniably beautiful, the 507 may have been ostentatious but it was exactly what BMW needed in 1957. Is it exactly what you need in 2016?

– One of only 252 examples produced (One of 34 Series I)
– Original interior and numbers matching powertrain
– Rare option Rudge wheels and factory hardtop
– Four owners and 73k kilometers since new

~145 horsepower, 3,168 cc OHV all-alloy V-8 engine with dual carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with dual A-arms and torsion bars, live rear axle with torsion bars, and hydraulic front disc and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 97.6 in.

Vehicle information
Chassis no.: 70044
Engine no.: 40051

Auction house: RM Sotheby’s
Estimate: $2,400,000 – $2,700,000
Price realized: Auction on May 20

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Chris Macha
Chris Macha
7 years ago

The V8 was introduced in 1954 in the 502, the 501 got the detuned V8 a year later.

7 years ago

Does anyone actually read these articles, or do you all just look at the pretty pictures? I’m surprised by the lack of editing, Mr. Golseth. You write a nice piece about a beautiful automobile and a legendary individual, and you get the man’s name wrong. Max Hoffman (not Matt) is the person who influenced auto makers and impacted the 1950’s sports car market.

The Tonde Songo
The Tonde Songo
7 years ago
Reply to  ehoff

Ya he got the name wrong but everything is on point well detailed

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