After nearly going bust in the late 1950s, BMW recovered to become a giant of the international automobile industry, but it was a close-run thing. The car that did the damage and pushed the Bavarian outfit to the brink was the BMW 507.
It all started innocently enough in 1954. American importer Max Hoffman saw a niche for a $5,000 sports car and was confident he could sell several thousand a year in the USA.
This ambitious project was duly undertaken by BMW, with the prototype 507 TS (for Touring Sport) making its debut at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the summer of 1955. The idea was to produce a high-performance two-door roadster that could compete with Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar on the race track, thus reminding everyone of BMW’s racing pedigree and gaining valuable publicity for mass-market road cars.
With its inward-slanting grille and curvaceous lines, the 507 TS was almost shark-like. It was based on a modified platform from the BMW 503, the handsome 2+2 coupe and cabriolet model also introduced in 1955. Albrecht von Goertz designed both sporty models and each was powered by the company’s lightweight 01W V8 engine, as borrowed from the BMW 502, and fitted with twin Solex Zenith carburetors.
The 507’s body was hand-crafted in aluminum, with the result that no two cars were identical. There was a removable hardtop available, but if ordered it was made to fit the car in question and these hardtops are not interchangeable. The result of all this detailed work was a price tag double that originally envisaged by Max Hoffman, a virtually unsaleable car, massive accumulated losses for BMW and discontinuation of both loss-making sports cars in 1959. Only 252 507s and 414 503s were built — making these rare 1950s BMWs ultra-collectable.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1956 (until 1959)
3,168 cc OriV VS
BMW claimed a top speed of 140 mph (225 km/h) and 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in around 10 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Elvis Presley bought a white 507 TS whilst on Army service in Germany, but rather crassly replaced the engine with a Ford VB alter returning to the States — he later gave the carto actress Ursula Andress.