I’m not an Elvis fanboy by any means. Was he one of the greats? To be sure, but you’ll not find cardboard cutouts of him in my apartment. (That would be pretty weird for anybody, to be honest.) What I will say about Elvis, however, was that he had incredible taste in cars. Namely, the BMW 507.
I was a little star struck when I learned that I would have the chance to drive this machine. It’s one of those cars that you see once every couple years at a concours d’elegance. Just imagine how white the hair of the owner must be for having saved up for one. There’s just not that many out there, roughly 278 made, so the concept of someone handing the keys to a mere mortal is a little insane.
Of course, it was pouring rain the day I got my first chance to sample its metallic treasures. The exact model came from BMW Group Classic’s vault on a drive that I’d been on with several other significant models that I’ve written about. As the coordinator stood beneath an umbrella walking me through all the toggles, there was this grave tone in his voice, almost as if to say, “Hey, so if you so much as scrape this car I will end your life”. He was polite as can be, but I’ll never forget the metaphorical weight of those keys.
The particular car I was in had just finished a factory restoration, so it was effectively better than new. It started with a song, and slid into first gear with a satisfyingly moist click. While the car looks sporty as can be, I’d soon compare it to a slightly more svelte Corvette from the same era. You’ll give the impression that you’re flying while standing still, but if you’re looking for actual high performance, this isn’t your ticket. Suspension is marshmallowy, wheels are thin, acceleration is nice enough.
None of that matters, though, because you’re sitting in a work of art. Every inch of the car designed to go toe to toe with the Mercedes-Benz 300SL is sublime sculpture. The Bakelite steering wheel feels warm and sturdy, and the shift mechanism is deliberate and heavy without being clumsy. There’s power there, but not any more than you need to get around at a decent clip.
Once you’ve stopped, however, is when the magic really happens.
My friend Timo and I drove into Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which even on a rainy day was swimming with tourists from all over the world. Without question, as we parked the car near a photogenic building they all turned their cameras on the 507. “May I take a photo with it?” asked nearly a dozen Japanese travelers. Selfie sticks extended people snapped away. We were asked questions about the car that we had no ability to answer in their native tongue, so we just nodded and said, “We know, we know, it’s gorgeous”.
The car really does have that special allure that only a handful of other cars share. It’s big, it’s impractical, it nearly bankrupted BMW—and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in.
Photography by Ted Gushue