These days, BMW’s 507 roadsters are hugely sought-right after collectors’ products that can provide for tens of millions of dollars apiece. But when the smooth, two-doorway convertibles strike the industry in the late-1950s, gross sales of the zippy sports activities vehicle ended up so gradual that they approximately steered the German luxury automaker into individual bankruptcy.

So how precisely did a sports automobile that was alluring ample to attract superstar proprietors like Elvis Presley, actor Fred Astaire and Prince Ranier of Monaco execute so badly with the standard community? And, why, many years later, are the remaining BMW 507s so common with collectors that a 1957 product at the time owned by former Components 1 champion John Surtees sold for approximately $5 million in 2018?

A perspective of the front of a 1959 BMW 507 in Munich.

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The 507’s story starts with Max Hoffman, a U.S.-dependent automobile importer who experienced aided Mercedes-Benz establish its preferred 300SL sports automobile in the early 1950s. Hoffman also labored as an importer in the U.S. for fellow German automaker BMW, and he convinced the enterprise that a two-doorway, roadster edition of BMW’s luxury sedans, the 501 and 502, would be particularly common with American sports auto fans, in accordance to GQ.

The resulting roadster release in 1956 was smooth with a curved aluminum frame highlighted by chrome detailing all over the headlights, windshield and bumpers. The 507 also featured a impressive engine: a 3.2-liter V-8 with 150 horsepower, paired with a four-velocity transmission. The motor vehicle can hit a best pace of a lot more than 130 miles for each hour.

The inside of a 1957 BMW 507.

National Motor Museum | Heritage Images | Getty Visuals

BMW 507 Roadster 1950s sporting activities motor vehicle V8 motor with double carburetors. The vehicle is on display screen through the 2017 Traditional Times event at Schloss Dyck

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Nevertheless attractive to the typical general public proved complicated and, the offender was easy: the expense.

Hoffman experienced wanted BMW to be able to promote 5,000 units per 12 months of the 507s for $5,000 apiece (which would be about $48,000 now, dependent on inflation). Nevertheless, superior creation prices for German, hand-constructed sports vehicles drove the rate up to approximately $10,000 (or, in excess of $96,000 right now).

Elvis Presley usually takes the keys for his BMW 507 in Frankfurt, Germany in 1958.

Bettman | Getty Photographs

Product sales of the motor vehicle cratered. (By comparison, the Mercedes 300SL was marketing for all-around $6,000 at the time.)

BMW ended up getting rid of revenue on every of the BMW 507s it made, which is why the organization only ended up turning out around 250 of the cars and trucks ahead of shutting down the model in 1959. Most of individuals versions of the roadster have been gentle-major convertibles, even though 11 of them showcased removable really hard-tops. 

The failure of the BMW 507 pushed the enterprise into economic distress, to the issue that German rival Daimler-Benz just about obtained BMW in 1959. Only an financial commitment from shareholder and industrialist Herbert Quandt saved BMW from individual bankruptcy. But the company rebounded in the 1960s, when revenue of the firm’s smaller sedans took off.

A white 1958 BMW 507 offered at auction by Sotheby’s in February 2020.

Source: Tim Scott | Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s