The legendary BMW 507 Roadster no longer needs to be presented. In any case, it is one of the most beautiful cars BMW has ever produced, and it will always remain one of the most important design icons of the 1950s.
The new BMW Roadster was unveiled at the Frankfurt IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung - German automobile show) in the autumn of 1955 in front of an enthusiastic audience.
It was produced from 1956 to 1959. At first, about a thousand copies were to be exported to the USA every year, but the production was too expensive and ended with a total production of 252 cars and 2 prototypes.
These 254 make it much rarer than the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, of which a total of 3,255 coupés and roadster were produced. From spring 1957, the 300SL was no longer available as a coupe with wing doors, but only as a roadster.
Despite its German origins, the 507 was actually the idea of an Austrian-born American named Max Hoffman (1904-1981). Hoffman was, at the time, the most important importer of European cars in the United States and known for his frequent recommendations to brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Alfa Romeo and many others. He is credited with designing a range of vehicles, including the Mercedes-Benz 300SL wing door, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and the now legendary Porsche 356 Speedster.
In 1954, Hoffman spent a great deal of time talking to the BMW board of directors about cars that were missing in the mid-1950s: his idea for the BMW 507 Roadster was to build a sports convertible based on the BMW 501 and 502 sedans. It should be priced between the expensive 300SL and the comparatively cheap and weaker motorized Porsche Speedster, Austin Healey and MG.
Early car body designs by Ernst Loof (1907-1956) were rejected by Hoffman, who found them too unattractive. In November 1954, urged by Hoffman, BMW commissioned the designer Albrecht Graf Goertz (1914-2006) to design the BMW 503 and 507.Goertz lived in New York at the time, and was later responsible for another beautiful car, the Datsun 240 Z.
The BMW engineer Fritz Fiedler (1899-1972) was commissioned to design the technology, if possible with existing components.
Thirty-four 507 Series 1 were built in 1956 and early 1957. These cars had 110-liter aluminum fuel tanks behind the seats. These large tanks limited both the luggage compartment and the passenger compartment and exhausted gasoline in the car when the convertible top was closed or the hardtop was mounted. The “Series 2” had a fuel tank – molded around the spare wheel – of 66 liters capacity under the trunk.
The frame of the 507 was a shortened 503 frame, the wheelbase was reduced from 2,835 mm to 2,480 millimeters.
The total length was 4.835 millimeters and the total height was 1,257 millimeters. The empty weight was about 1,330 kilograms. The body was almost entirely hand-formed from aluminum, and no two copies were identical. 11 vehicles were sold with a special detachable hardtop. Because of the differences from car to car, the respective hardtop fits only on the car, for which it was made!
The suspension at the front consisted of double cross-members with torsion bars and a stabilizer. The rear wheel suspension, on the other hand, consisted of a rigid axle, also suspended by torsion bars.
Brakes were made with Alfin drums of 284.5 mm diameter, a brake booster was available. Late 507 had Girling disc brakes in the front.
The engine was a BMW V8 made of aluminum, with 3.168 cubic centimeters displacement and hanging valves (“OHV”). It had two Zenith 32NDIX double carburettors, a compression ratio of 7.8: 1 and came to a power of 150 hp (110 kW) DIN at 5,000 rpm. It was combined with a narrow-steered four-speed gearbox.
A contemporary test of a 507 in the “Motor Revue” by its chief editor Ulrich Wieselmann gives an acceleration of 0 to 100 km / h in 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 196 km / h.
The US debut of the 507 took place at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York in the summer of 1955. The production started in November 1956. Max Hoffman assumed that he could sell about a thousand units per year for US $ 5,000 apiece. However, the high production costs drove the price in Germany initially to DM 26,500 (later 29,950), in the USA to 9,000 dollars and finally to 10,500 dollars. Despite prominent buyers including Elvis Presley, Hans Stuck and Georg “Schorsch” Meier, the sales reached just 10% of its rival from Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL.
The 507 should have revived BMW’s sporting image, instead it brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy. The losses incurred by the BMW company in 1959 amounted to DM 15 million.
The 507 remains a landmark of attractive styling. Today there are still 202 surviving 507 models, this is a tribute to the unbroken charm of the car.
In July 2014, BMW announced that Elvis Presley's car would be shown for a short time in its Munich museum before the extensive restoration.
According to reports Elvis had another 507, the number 70192, with which him and Ursula Andress are seen in the film “Fun in Acapulco” in 1963. He then gave this car to Andress.
John Surtees received a 507 as a gift from Count Agusta for the win of the 500cc Motorcycle World Championship on a MV Agusta in 1956. Surtees developed together with Dunlop disc brakes for the front axe of the 507 and his car finally had disc brakes on all four wheels.
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