It’s no secret that the price of some classic cars can be extraordinarily high. However, it seems like early high-performance roadsters take the cake when it comes to extremely expensive collector’s items. For example, classic Ferrari roadsters like the California Spyder can sell for north of $10 million.
However, the BMW 507 roadster was considered a failure for the legendary Bavarian motor company. Now, though, they’re pretty desirable.
The BMW 507 nearly killed the company as a whole
According to Autoevolution, the BMW 507 was an attempted recovery from the damage done to German during World War II. The company was doing pretty well in West Germany. However, its flagship models, the 501 and 502, feature a lot of ‘30s-style American design cues. As a result, the cars were quite outdated for the American market.
Enter New York-based luxury car importer Max Hoffman. He worked with BMW sales manager Hanns Grewenig to develop a BMW roadster with the American market in mind. The concept was to bridge the gap between lower-performance roadsters like the offerings from MG and Triumph and the prohibitively expensive Mercedes 300SL. Creating a performance-oriented roadster that is also affordable is typically a recipe for success, so onward they went.
The 507 was developed on the back of the 502’s chassis. However, it features an entirely different body designed by former Studebaker designer Albrecht von Goertz. The design was unlike any previous BMW and was pretty promising from the get-go.
The car featured drum brakes all around, with later models getting front discs to add stopping power. It also featured a double-wishbone suspension with anti-roll and panhard bars to make this roadster handle like it’s on rails. Most importantly, the 507 has a roaring 3.1-liter V8 engine that produced 150 horsepower and sent the power through a ZF manual transmission to the rear wheels.
With V8 power, a rear-wheel drive powertrain, and an open-top roof, it seems like a perfect American winner. Especially considering its 1955 reveal promised a price tag of $5,000, which works out to about $54,500 in today’s money. So, what happened?
Things don’t always quite go as planned, and the 507 wound up far too expensive
Though the initial plan was to sell 5,000 examples a year, it all quickly came apart when a production issue arose. The hand-made aluminum bodies drove prices through the roof. The BMW 507 eventually launched with a price tag of $9,000, which works out to about $96,700 in today’s money. That, unfortunately, made it more expensive than the 300SL it was attempting to undercut.
In total, BMW only managed to sell 252 examples of the gorgeous 507 roadster. Elvis Presley bought two of them. Additionally, American actor John Derek bought one, too. However, while it was within reach of the wealthy, the 507 was just too expensive for the average American.
Furthermore, with V8-powered competition in the 1955 and up Chevrolet Corvette offering more power and a similar top-down driving experience for one-third of the price, the 507 was doomed from the start.
Ultimately, its commercial failure is what made it the multi-million dollar collector’s item that it is today. Currently, a BMW 507 is trading for north of $2 million.