The car BMW roadster 507s that “stunned” celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Fred Astaire and Prince Rainier of Monaco, did not have the response expected from the general public, but today it is a significant asset, as in 2018 it sold for $ 5 million to a collector.
Today BMW roadster 507s are sought after by collectors and sold for several million. But when these two-seater convertibles hit the market in the late 1950s, they pushed the German car industry to the brink of bankruptcy.
But how is it possible that a car that “stunned” celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Fred Astaire and Prince Rainier of Monaco, has such a poor performance in the general public? And why, so many years later, are the remaining BMW 507s so popular among collectors that a 1957 model owned by former Formula One champion John Sourtees sold for $ 5 million in 2018?
According to CNBC, the story of the 507 began with Max Hoffman, a US-based car importer who helped Mercedes-Benz develop the popular 300SL in the early 1950s.
Hoffman also worked as a US importer for BMW and was the one who convinced the company that the two-door roadster version of the BMW 501 and 502 luxury sedans would be hugely popular among American sports car fans.
The roadster released in 1956 was sleek with a curved aluminium frame, chrome-plated around the headlights, windshield and bumpers. The 507 also had a powerful 3.2-litre V-8 engine with 150 hp, combined with a four-speed transmission. The car can reach a top speed of over 130 miles per hour.
As attractive as it was with all these features, the general public did not approach it for one simple reason: the cost.
Hoffman wanted to sell 5,000 507 vehicles a year for $ 5,000 ($ 48,000 today, based on inflation). However, the high production costs of German, handmade cars raised its price to $ 10,000 (over $ 96,000 today).
Sales collapsed It should be noted that the Mercedes 300SL 300SL was selling for about $ 6,000 at that time.
BMW ended up losing money on each of the BMW 507s it produced, so the company ended up producing about 250 cars before scrapping the model in 1959. Most of these versions of the roadster were convertible with soft roofs, although 11 of them had removable hard roofs.
The failure of the BMW 507 plunged the company into financial hardship and it was almost acquired by rival Daimler-Benz in 1959. What ultimately saved BMW from bankruptcy was an investment by shareholder Herbert Quant. But the company recovered in the 1960s when sales of its smaller sedans skyrocketed.
As for the 507, the fact that it came out in limited numbers and that car lovers still appreciate its sleek design, helped it become a valuable acquisition for collectors in the coming decades.
Last February, a white 1958 BMW 507 was sold by Sotheby’s for $ 2.35 million.