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Commercial Failure and Now Worth Millions: BMW 507

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The BMW 507 was truly a beautiful disaster for Bavarian Motor Works (BMW). The car’s commercial failure nearly bankrupted the automaker thanks to its exorbitant production costs and flawed sales projections. 

Although the car was initially a failure, it’s considered a highly desirable and valuable classic car, commanding some of the most exorbitant prices in collector car markets. In fact, a 1957 BMW 507 sold for over five million dollars at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed! Here’s a look into the BMW 507’s history, specifications, and downfall. 

History of the BMW 507 Roadster

The rich history of the BMW 507 begins with a different German car: the Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster. Although the stunning and powerful car came with a hefty price tag, it sold remarkably well, especially in the United States. Car importer Max Hoffman accurately predicted that Americans would take to the fine craftsmanship and robust specifications of high-quality European vehicles, and he made a name for himself by introducing the fine Mercedes-Benz 300SL to the American public.

With the success of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL in America, Hoffman set his sights on BMW. He suggested that the manufacturer develop a car that provided Americans with both style and performance, like the 300SL. But he recommended that the company develop a car that filled the gap between Mercedes-Benz’s incredibly expensive luxury cars and cheaper roadsters. 

BMW took Hoffman’s suggestion and got to work developing the 507, with engineer Fritz Fiedler designing its rolling chassis and Count Albrecht von Goertz — who also had a hand in the Mercedes-Benz 300SL — developing the car. 

The stunning 507 made its debut in 1955 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and received immediate praise for its unmatched beauty. It boasted a sleek and eye-catching body that outpaced some of the world’s most stylish vehicles, and some still even argue that it’s the most beautiful car of all time. 

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Specifications of the BMW 507

What made the BMW 507 truly special was that each unit was built by hand with aluminum, meaning that no two units were exactly alike. The car bore stylistic similarities to the BMW 503 Grand Tourer — also designed by Albrecht von Goertz — but was notably smaller and lighter. It had a wheelbase of 97.6 inches, a length of 172.4 inches, a width of 65 inches, and a curbside weight of 2,932 pounds. 

The car featured a highly advanced suspension system for its time, which contributed to its excellent handling and ride quality. Its front suspension consisted of a double wishbone arrangement with torsion bar springs and an anti-roll bar. The car’s rear suspension features a live axle that also came with torsion bar springs, which sat next to the car’s Panhard rod and transverse A-arm. The 1955 507s sported Alfin drum brakes, but later models featured front Girling disc brakes. 

One of the most desirable aspects of the BMW 507 was its 3.2 L overhead valve M507/1, BMW’s first-ever V8 engine. The engine produces 150 hp and features a 7.8:1 compression ratio, polished combustion-chamber surfaces, an ignition-advance curve, and high-lift camshafts. The V8 sends power to the 507’s rear wheels via a 4-speed ZF manual transmission.  

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The BMW 507’s Commercial Failure

Unfortunately, some of the BMW 507’s most remarkable features also contributed to its downfall, especially its unforgettable body. BMW couldn’t mass produce the 507’s high-quality body panels, and individual units had astronomical production costs. 

Max Hoffman thought BMW could produce 5,500 units per year, but BMW only ended up producing 252 units over the course of four years, the majority of which were convertibles. He failed to anticipate how Albrecht von Goertz’s brilliant design would make the car far too expensive for the majority of car lovers. The car was supposed to be more affordable than the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, but BMW needed to sell units at a whopping $10,500 — almost $100,000 today — to make a reasonable profit. 

Though the car was a financial nightmare for BMW, it did make a splash among more wealthy car lovers. Some notable BMW 507 owners were Hans Stuck, John Surtees, Fred Astaire, and King Constantine II of Greece. Constantine II wasn’t the only king who appreciated BMW’s stunning creation — the 507 became known as the “Elvis car” after the King of Rock & Roll purchased two units while serving in the Army in Germany. 

Get the Best Insurance For Your Luxury BMW 

Although a commercial failure, the BMW 507 went down in history as one of the most attractive cars of all time. And today, these classics sell for millions of dollars. 

Whether you’re driving one of these monumental pieces of history or another classic BMW, you need the best classic auto insurance around. Here at Classic Auto Insurance, we create custom policies based on agreed-upon value, and our plans come with exceptional benefits, such as inflation guard, rollover miles, nationwide roadside assistance with flatbed towing, and more. 

Ready to get the best classic BMW insurance on the market? Call our team today at 888-901-1338. 

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