BMW 507: A Sales Mistake and Design Icon
They say you’ve got to spend money to make money. But in a post-war 1950’s Germany – at the time, still trying to get back on its feet – that was no easy task. Which is why the story of the BMW 507 is all the more profound. In the early 1950s, Max Hoffman, the US’ renowned BMW importer, called upon the firm to develop a new sports car, one tailored specifically with American buyers in mind. Hoffman enlisted designer Albrecht Goertz to pen his vision, BMW allegedly liked it quite a lot and commissioned him to craft the 507 roadster alongside a 503 four-seater. PHOTOS: Take it back to the '50s with more shots of the 1956 BMW 507
After a year and a half of prototyping, a finalized 507 was ready-to-roll, debuting at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 1955. The striking roadster boasted the marque’s ubiquitous twin-kidney front grille, a powerful stance, and a seemingly endless hood.
And, crucially, a new engine. The 507 introduced a sporting alloy 3.2-liter V8, which sucked air through a pair of Zenith dual-barrel carburetors, producing 148 horsepower at launch. Mated to a ZF four-speed manual transmission, 507s would sprint from 0 to 60 mph in around 10 seconds and were pegged on the Autobahn topping out at 136 mph. Certainly not a slow car by '50s standards.
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Where the tires met the pavement, the BMW fitted drum brakes at all four corners (front discs came later) and sourced an independent A-arm suspension up-front with a solid axle and torsion bar setup in the rear.
However, performance would become the least of BMW’s worries with the 507. Development costs of the roadster grew to astronomical proportions for post-war Bimmer, what with the new V8 engine and the hand-built aluminum body, equating to a $6,300 asking price for US models – thousands more than the equally sporting Jaguar XK140 and hard-charging Chevrolet Corvette. BMW would lose 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 had one; legendary racer John Surtees still owns one, amongst various other famous celebrities of the day.
Estimates range on the number of 507 roadsters still in existence, with multiple sources suggesting only 200 or so left, though, we wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a barn somewhere that’s hiding one or two more. At least we hope...
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