associated with the 1950s Jet Set – Elvis ‘The King’ Presley and King
Constantine of Greece were high-profile owners, as were racing drivers John
Surtees and Hans Stuck – the BMW 507 was the Munich firm’s answer to the
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and Ferrari’s 250 GT California Spider.
Elegant of line yet barely
concealing its inner aggression
Having started building aero
engines, motorcycles and small saloons, the Bayerische
Motoren Werke made its name in
motorsport in the 1930s with the advanced 328 sports car. After the War, when
its factories were first flattened by bombing then taken over by the Russians,
it faced a steep road to recovery.
Recover it did, thanks to
high-quality and advanced – if generally staid – designs. The company’s
American importer Max Hoffmann worked tirelessly to promote BMW in the US. With
agencies for Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, the man behind the 356 Speedster and
300 SL ‘Gullwing’ knew the market. He wanted a flagship, high-performance BMW
sports car, carefully priced at $5,000 so as not to upset existing demand for
sophisticated but affordable sports cars (356 Speedster) and super-expensive
GTs (300 SL Gullwing and Roadster).
Hoffman, having seen some early
sketches of the new sports car, didn’t like the way BMW was heading. So he
pressured the Bavarians to take on German-born, US citizen industrial designer
Count Albrecht Goertz who drew the final shape of the new 507. Mounted on a
shortened and modified version of the 501-series’ chassis, the 507 was a
masterpiece; perfectly proportioned, elegant of line yet barely concealing its
Under the bonnet sat a tuned
version of the company’s existing V8. BMW remains to this day preeminent for
its engines, and the twin-carburettor motor with high-lift camshafts was a
masterpiece. Power output for the first cars was around 140bhp and the 507 made
its debut in the US in summer 1957 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York.
Production proper started later
that year, and after no more than 35 cars were built the car was re-engineered
around the cockpit and fuel tank area, giving more interior space, while an
improved engine added a further 10-15bhp. Produced from 1957 to 1959,
these are referred to as ‘Series 2s’.
It was a fabulous car – at a
fantastic cost to BMW, which lost money on every one, even at the price of
first $9,000, rising to $10,500 in the US. In 1959 the company posted a
15-million-Deutschmarks loss. Max Hoffmann’s dream never came to reality, the
man with the Midas touch was part of a rare commercial failure, although the
cars were feted like few others and found their way into the garages of Elvis
Presley and Swiss movie star Ursula Andress.
In total, some 252 production 507s
were built, split roughly 35 Series 1s, 217 Series 2s.
This Motor Car
According to the original Kraftfahrzeugbrief (registration document) dated 3 July 1972
that accompanies this car, BMW 507 chassis 70103 was completed on 16 October
1957, which makes it one of the earliest Series 2s. According to recent
information received from BMW Group Classic, it was first delivered in black,
one of only 15 cars – the colour was felt not to be luxurious enough at the
time – and highly sought-after today.
The car’s Tag der ersten Zulassung (day of first registration) is listed
as 13 December 1957, and on the same document under Art (type), the car is described as ‘Roadster – geschlossen’.
It was a ‘closed roadster’; one with a hardtop, each of which were made to
Research and examination of the 1972 Kraftfahrzeugbrief suggest the following:
Müller (Oberstdorf) 13/12/1957 to unknown
Heinz Oehler (Berlin) 08/11/1966 to 17/03/1967
Sport Hölme (Berlin) 17/03/1967 to 11/10/1968
Rasthaus Hotel, owned by Gunter and Anneliese Neef (Gütersloh) 11/10/1968
M. Gould (Rockport, ME, USA; Sanremo, Italy; Paris, France) 03/06/1972 to
Lausanne-based Swiss owner, a cousin of Patrick M. Gould 30/12/1983 to
It’s from the time the hotel-owning
Neef family take ownership of the car that the history file becomes
fascinating. Original BMW service documents confirm work completed at the
Munich factory on 7 October 1969 (97,834km) and 20 August 1971 (111,450km)
billed to the Rasthaus Hotel, Gütersloh.
The invoices total many 1000s of Deutschmarks and clearly involved extensive
On 3 June 1972, globe-trotting
American ex-pat Patrick M. Gould bought the car from the Neefs, attested by a
customs form stamped by the Zollamt Gütersloh.
His address is listed as 77 Pascal Avenue, Rockport, Maine, USA.
Gould was a discerning enthusiast
for all things automotive. Writing from Sanremo in March 1973 to BMW specialist
Gottfried Liechti of Gutenswil, Switzerland, he apologised for his “long
forgotten” German when asking for a new front bumper. The relationship with
‘BMW Vater’ Liechti had started in November 1972. In German, describing the BMW
507 as “der schönsten je gebauten wagen” (‘the most beautiful car ever built’),
Liechti gave Gould some tips on ownership and useful contacts in the world of
At the same time, from October to
December 1972 a local bodyshop in Sanremo, Autocarrozzeria Alfa, was
commissioned to restore the car at a cost of some 2.1m lire, the work running
to over 600 hours. Intriguingly, on the invoice dated 21 December 1972 there is
also a reference to a Miura. History does not relate which one, but Mr Gould
was clearly a man of taste...
Local specialist Mario Berton retrimmed
the car and during this time the elegant BMW bore the American plate ‘Maine
719147’. It’s likely that this was when it was repainted red.
Gould sold ‘70103’ to the current Swiss
owner – his cousin, then living in Morges, Switzerland – on 30 December 1983.
The carefully typed receipt makes one error: the chassis is listed as ‘40 116’
– its stated engine number. On the Swiss importation document dated 18 January
1984, the chassis is clearly typed ‘70103’ and the country of importation ‘USA’.
Since then the 507 has led a quiet
life, taking part in occasional tours and available now for the first time in
An interesting and seldom-seen
alternative to a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, BMW 507s are increasingly
sought-after, valuable and hard to find with so much period documentation and
in such original condition. An improved Series 2, Mille Miglia-eligible,
delivered in über-desirable black and coming out of long-term family ownership,
this example has much to offer. We recommend it.