Who would have thought that in the mid-Fifties BMW would have unveiled something as voluptuously beautiful as the 507? The company had a fine pre–World War II heritage that culminated in the crisp 328, but it did not resume car manufacturing until 1952, with the curvy, but slightly plump, six-cylinder 501 sedan.
Then, at the Frankfurt show of late 1955 they hit us with the 507, designed by Count Albrecht Goertz. The 507 was a fantasy made real; not flashy, but dramatic and with poise and presence. BMW hoped the 507 would straighten out its precarious finances, winning sales in the lucrative American market.
But the BMW’s exotic looks and performance were more than matched by an orbital price. Production, which had been largely by hand, ended in March 1959 after just 252—some say 253—had been built. In fact, the 507 took BMW to the brink of financial oblivion; yet if that had been the last BMW it would have been a beautiful way to die.
Mounted on a tubular-steel chassis cut down from sedans, Albrecht Goertz’s aluminum body is reminiscent of the contemporary— and slightly cheaper—Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster; from the front it resembles the later AC Aces and Cobra.
Like all modern BMWs, the 507 had a toolkit in the trunk.
Most 507s were built with all-around Alfin drum brakes. Some later cars had more effective front disc brakes.
Like the bumpers, the door handles were surprisingly discreet—if not particularly easy to use.
Ornate chrome-plated grilles in the front sides covered functional engine-bay air vents.
Souped-up 160 bhp versions of the 507 were good for 140 mph (225 km/h).
Knock-off Rudge wheels like this were the most sought-after option.
As a drive, the 507 tended toward marked understeer; so instant was throttle response that the tail easily spun out.
The 507’s body is an all-aluminum affair atop a simple tubular chassis. Brightwork is kept to the minimum, accentuating the clean lines. The brightwork included on the car is kept simple; the rear bumpers, for example, have no bulky overriders.
You rarely see a 507 with its top raised, but it is simple to erect and remarkably handsome.
The 3.2-liter all-aluminum engine was light and powerful. Twin Zenith carbs are the same as those of the contemporary Porsches.
The 3.2-liter engine tended to run too hot in traffic and too cool on the open road.
Eight BMW stylized propeller roundels, including those on wheel trims and eared spinners, grace the 507, nine if you include the badge in the center of the steering wheel.
The BMW had a brisk, wholesome bark and unmistakable creamy wuffle of a V8.
The 507, unlike the contemporary 503, has a floor-mounted stick to operate the fourspeed gearbox. Dash consists of a clock, speedometer, and tachometer. Some cars had internally adjustable door mirrors.
The interior was clearly inspired by US styling of the period, with gimmicky horn-pulls behind the steering wheel.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL BMW 507 (1956–59)
PRODUCTION 252/3, most LHD
BODY STYLE Two-seater roadster.
CONSTRUCTION Box section and tubular steel chassis; aluminum body.
ENGINE All-aluminum 3168cc V8, two valves per cylinder.
POWER OUTPUT 150 bhp at 5000 rpm; some later cars 160 bhp at 5600 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual.
SUSPENSION Front: Unequal-length wishbones, torsion-bar springs and telescopic shock absorbers; Rear: Live axle, torsion-bar springs.
BRAKES Drums front and rear; front discs and rear drums on later cars.
MAXIMUM SPEED 125 mph (201 km/h); 135–140 mph (217–225 km/h) with optional 3.42:1 final drive.
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 9 sec
A.F.C. 18 mpg (6.4 km/l)