For all of the land yachts and giant ridiculous tailfins that were popular on American cars in ’50s, there were also a lot of Americans buying European roadsters. This was the period when MG got a foothold in America, on the strength of the MGA roadster, while more expensive models like the Mercedes-Benz 300SL found there way into the garages of America’s super rich.

New York automobile importer Max Hoffman, who was the man responsible for many of the high-end roadsters of the day making it over to America, figured that there was a gap in the market below the 300SL, and suggested to BMW that a roadster based on the 501/502 sedan might sell to Americans. Thus was born the 507 roadster in 1956.

BMW actually developed two roadsters at the same time, the bigger 503 flagship for the European market and the smaller 507, using a shorter version of the same platform. Even though the cars were based on the existing 502, BMW couldn’t keep the cost down enough to make the cars competitive, and fewer than a thousand units of both models combined were ever produced. The 507 is not only the rarer of the two, but it is also generally considered to be the more stylish.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II.

  • 1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
  • Year:
    1959
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    four-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    145
  • Displacement:
    3168 cc
  • 0-60 time:
    6 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    124 mph (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- image 653602
1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- image 653605
1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- image 653583

The body of the 507 is made of aluminum and was hand formed. This means that no 2 cars are quite the same, although they’re obviously very similar. This does mean that the handful of cars that were sold with removable hardtops were custom made, and each hardtop will fit only the specific car it was made for. The design itself is by Albrecht von Goertz, a German who had emigrated to the U.S. prior to WWII.

Since this was a German car being made for the American market, he was a logical choice to pen the design. Goertz would also design the 503, but it is the 507 that is generally considered his greatest work. BMW seems to think so as well, since the Z8 of 1998 was built with surprisingly similar bodywork. It’s a very modern design for the time, one that many cars that came a decade later would still be imitating.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 2400 MM (94.5 Inches)
Front track 1445 MM (56.9 Inches)
Rear track 1425 MM (56.1 Inches )
Length 4380 MM (172.4 Inches)
Width 1650 MM (65.0 Inches)
Height 1300 MM (51.2 Inches)

Interior

1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- image 653596

There are two different interiors for the 507, with this being the primary difference between the Series I and Series II cars. The Series II provided a lot more interior space, something BMW quickly realized the car needed. For this reason, only 35 units of the Series I were produced before BMW made the redesign.

This car is a Series II, which despite being not as rare, is generally the more desirable version of the car. It’s obvious from looking at that the 507 was made to be a luxurious car. This one has a red interior to contrast with the black body and body-matching dash. It looks good in a very ’50s kind of way.

Drivetrain

1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- image 653584

All of the cars built on this platform used different versions of the same all-alloy, V-8 engine. This includes the 501, 502, 503 and the 507. In this case it displaced 3.2-liters, breathed through dual carburetors and produced 145 horsepower. This was the first V-8 ever made by BMW, and it went first into the 501, the first car built by BMW after WWII.

The engine would live on for a little while after the debacle of the 503/507, eventually getting up to 160 horsepower. But the engine uses pushrods, and BMW wanted to move to a more sophisticated overhead cam design, so it was retired in 1965. It wasn’t a terrible amount of power for the time, but with the high price that ended up being attached to the car, it ceased to be competitive in its segment.

Prices

1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- image 653588

The original plan for the car was for it to cost $5,000, or about $2,500 less than the 300SL. That was a good position for it, market-wise, and Max Hoffman had guessed that he could sell about 5,000 units a year. But, BMW had been completely unable to keep costs under control, and when the car first hit U.S. shores, it was priced at $9,000, climbing to $10,500 shortly thereafter. Unsurprisingly, at more than double the planned price, the 507 was a sales disaster, as was the 503. The two cars nearly bankrupted BMW, and it was only by switching to a lineup comprised primarily of the cheaper “New Class” cars that BMW was eventually able to recover. This doesn’t mean that the 507 was a bad car, it probably would have been a massive hit at the original price — it just wasn’t worth the extra money.

Just 251 units of the 507 were built, and these days, the rarity created by the failure of the car in the marketplace has ironically made collectors willing to pay huge sums for the car. Examples in good condition routinely fetch in the neighborhood of $1 million at auction, and particularly well preserved examples have taken in as much as $2.4 million. That’s quite a huge sum for something that was a failure during its production lifetime. But again, the 507 was a good car, and one blessed with one of the greatest designs ever to grace a BMW.

Competition

Jaguar XK140

1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II Wallpaper quality
- image 653643

If you wanted a car that actually slotted in between the MGA and the 300SL, rather than one that planned to and then failed, the XK140 was the car for you. The car comes from a time when Jaguar was dominating at Le Mans, and a lot of the technology that made Jaguars such great track track was also going into the company’s road cars. The car was a hit, and is today nowhere near as rare as a 507. In fact, you can get one for less than $100,000.

Porsche 356 Speedster

1951 - 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster
- image 41958
Porsche 356 Speedster

Odd as it might sound today, the case for the 356 over the 507 was one of practicality. Not only did the Porsche cost less than a third of what the BMW cost, it was infinitely easier in the ’50s to find a mechanic capable of working on this VW-based machine than it was to find one who had even heard of a 507. The Porsche couldn’t match the BMW for power, but it was so light that it could still provide some thrilling driving.

Read our full review in here.

Conclusion

1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- image 653592

Even after all of these decades, it is still frustrating that BMW couldn’t manage to make such a wonderful car more accessible. A very shapely V-8 powered roadster is just the sort of thing that Americans would have loved if only it had been reasonably priced. The amazing thing is that, when BMW decided to try again with the Z8, it started off sounding great. Henrik Fisker was hired to update the design of the 507 into something contemporary and a 400-horsepower V-8 was stuck under the hood. It was terrible to drive, however, and a $128,000 price tag made this fact unforgivable. BMW killed it off after just 4 years, and just 5,700 units produced. Of course, that means they’re rare, and used Z8s are now selling for about $200,000. So the whole cycle seems to have repeated itself in an amazingly bizarre way.

  • Leave it
    • * Too expensive when it was new, horrifyingly expensive now
    • * Power is just decent
    • * There aren’t nearly enough of them

Source: RM Sothebys

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