Obscure Autos: BMW 507Posted: September 12, 2011
Back in the Fifties, most of the European automakers were attempting to get back on their feet after World War II pushed most of the continent to nearly the Stone Age. BMW, for example, had few cars in their lineup that really got people into showrooms during the late Fifties, so they designed a halo car. The 507 may not have been the success it was supposed to be, but it was so influential that its design is still being seen today.
The 507 first surfaced in 1954. Max Hoffman, the importer for Mercedes and BMW at the time, wanted BMW to produce a sports car, to be mid-priced, with parts from BMW’s existing models. The main idea was for the new car to be cheaper than the already-established Mercedes-Benz 300SL, but pricier than the Triumph and MG roadsters available at the time. By 1955, a prototype was shown at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, to great press. The resulting design was intended to get BMW’s sporting image back into existence, and to bring in showroom traffic as well.
This, however, did not happen, for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, production costs skyrocketed, doubling the price from $5,000 to $10,000 by the time production started. This forced production to drop sharply from Hoffman’s initial prediction of 5,000 cars per year. In fact, only 252 507s were ever built, due to their high price and the slow demand as a result. In fact, BMW nearly went bankrupt by the time the 507 was out of production, only regaining financial health when the “New Class” models of the 1960s entered production.
The 507 was, however, a showcase of fine technology, and became a hit with the wealthy. Elvis, for one, purchased a 507 and swapped in a Ford V8. John Surtees, the famous British racing driver at the time, had one as well, and fitted his with four-wheel disc brakes, a first for any BMW; he also worked to develop the front disc brakes on the 507. Performance-wise, the 507 was right in line with the competition. While 11.7 seconds is a long time to hit 60mph in today’s numbers, back in the Fifties, that was respectable. Each one had an aluminum body and a new 0verhead-valve BMW V8, producing about 150hp. Today, the 507 is considered a highly valuble and influential classic–one fetched nearly $1 million at an auction last year, and the styling has inspired a few particular modern cars. The BMW Z8 and Fisker Karma, which were both designed by Henrik Fisker, share some details with the 507, particularly the wide, split grille up front. Overall, the 507 is one of the rarest Fifties BMWs ever produced, but its influence is still being seen even half a century on.