Classic Sports Cars

BMW 507 Roadster (1956-59)

October 3, 2012

BMW had only just restarted its car manufacturing after the war, when it was already launching a big luxury car in 1951. Unfortunately, the BMW 501, which was partly based on prewar technology, was unable to achieve any commercial success. It was followed by an even more exclusive model, a V8-engined BMW 502, which didn’t do much better on the market.

Despite company’s financial problems, BMW continued to supply prestigious and expensive automobiles. The first ideas for building a sports car and continuing the prewar tradition of manufacturing big sports cars were already being developed at the start of 1953. The result of these ideas was created in the Nürburgring office of the BMW Research and Development Department headed by Ernst Loof. It was a two-seater prototype with the internal designation Type 528 or model designation 507a. However, on the advice of the BMW importer to the USA, Maxie Hoffman, this design was discarded. The focus was now on designing sporty series based on the BMW 502. Albrecht Graf Goertz, a student of design guru Raymond Loewy, was living in New York and was appointed as the designer of the new car.

The BMW 507 was launched to the public in 1955. The beautiful roadster attracted people’s attention the way BMW had hoped for. The long and sleek engine compartment, the cockpit perfectly tailored to the driver and passenger, the short and muscular rear end, stretched side lines and gently sweeping curves gave the car a timeless design. The BMW 507 also came with a brand-new, but nevertheless clear and impressive BMW face. The double kidney grille was now vertical instead of horizontal, sweeping elegantly between the headlights across the entire front end of the car.

The engineering was based on the BMW 502 3.2-litre super saloon. The lightweight alloy bodywork was built on a chassis shortened by 35.5 cm compared to the saloon. The aluminium 3168cc V8 engine produced 150 horsepower. The sports car powered by this engine could be ordered with three different rear-axle transmission ratios. By contrast with the saloon, the gearbox of the 507 was not positioned separately between the engine and the front seats, but was locked together directly with the engine.

The BMW 507 was the most celebrated BMW automobile of the 1950s, but still there was a problem. It wasn’t popular with customers. The lack of orders meant that the managers responsible at BMW didn’t start up volume production but manufactured the cars individually from November 1956. An updated second series of the 507 was produced from the end of 1957. This second series car can be identified by the fuel filler door to the right at the rear. The much smaller tank had a capacity of 65 litres instead of 110 litres and was now located under the floor of the boot and no longer behind the seats. The instrument panel had also undergone changes, with a higher top edge and better facilities for installing the radio.

Despite the very positive response from the public, the anticipated orders, particularly from the USA, failed to materialize. Compared with several competitors, the output from the engine of the BMW 507 was not up to the high price tag. Only 251 BMW 507 roadsters were manufactured by the time production came to an end in 1959. Unfortunately, the BMW 507 failed to bring the financial success the company needed at the time. However, no other BMW car in the 1950s did more for the image of the brand as did the BMW 507 roadster.