BMW restores Elvis’ 507 roadster for Concours d’Elegance
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A 1950s BMW 507 once driven by Elvis Presley has been completely restored for the Concours d’Elegance show in Pebble Beach, California.
Only 254 examples of the BMW 507 were produced between 1955 and 1958, making it one of the most sought-after BMW models ever built. This particular car’s links with the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ made it an even more exclusive.
The rare and newly-restored 507 roadster is powered by a 150hp (112kW) aluminium 3.2-litre V8 engine, finished in Feather White and fitted with centre-lock rims. Inside, the King’s roadster sports a black-and-white interior and a Becker Mexico radio.
Above: Elvis Presley, better known as the ‘King’, with his BMW 507 during his military service
Elvis Presley took delivery of the car on 20 December 1958, during his military service in Germany, aged 23.
After disappearing for nearly 50 years, the classic roadster has gone under exacting restoration work for the last two years. The classic car event marks the car’s public debut since being restored.
When the car was found, the engine and gearbox were missing, though the original body parts and other components were mostly intact.
Rust had started to eat away at the floor, the rear axle was a replacement part (of unknown origin), the instrument panel was absent and the seats were fairly worn.
Above: Elvis had the roadster resprayed in red to stop his fans writing on the car in lipstick
American journalist, Jackie Jouret, wrote an article for Bimmer magazine in 2006 where she thoroughly research the BMW 507, in particular, the links between the music legend and a vehicle with the chassis number ‘70079’.
Her research found Elvis’s 507 was in fact not delivered as a brand new vehicle, but used previously by German racing driver, Hans Stuck. In the hands of Hans, the 507 won a number of hillclimb events in Germany, Austria and Switzerland between May and August 1958.
Interestingly, Elvis had the car resprayed in red. Why? His young female fans pursued him relentlessly during his time in Germany and frequently covered his car in messages written in lipstick – a problem many young men would love to have.
Upon Elvis’ return to the US following his military stint, he sold the red roadster with chassis number 70079 to a Chrysler dealer in New York.
The car was then bought for US$4500 by Tommy Charles, a radio moderator, who took the vehicle to his hometown of Birmingham in Alabama where he started a successful racing career.
Above: When the car was found, its engine and gearbox were missing
Charles swapped out the BMW V8 for a Chevrolet engine, which was so large the front frame carrier had to be removed from the vehicle. The 507’s gearbox and rear axle were also replaced, along with the interior instruments.
In the modified roadster, Charles won a race in Daytona Beach, Florida, and participated in several more races before selling the car in 1963.
After a couple more changes in ownership, the car then travelled to California, where it was acquired by space engineer and avid car collector, Jack Castor, in 1968.
Castor used the 507 occasionally as an everyday runabout before deciding to store the car for restoration.
Above: The vehicle’s interior was starting to be eaten away, and some of the interior instruments were missing
The engineer came across Jouret’s Bimmer article while in retirement, and wrote to the author saying BMW 507 chassis number 70079 was his.
Castor was aware that the vehicle was once used by ‘Hillclimb Champion’, Hans Stuck, but had never been able to confirm the car’s links with Elvis.
After inviting Jouret to look at the car, the journalist noticed Castor had collected a number of parts carefully stored in boxes for the planned restoration of the classic roadster back to its original condition.
The Bimmer journalist set up contact with BMW Group Classic, which allowed the company to confirm the details of the roadster links with Elvis and its other previous owners.
After a few years of discussions with restoration experts at BMW Group Classic, Castor finally sold the 507 to BMW Classic, on the proviso the vehicle would be authentically restored along the lines he had envisaged.
Above: The face of the fully-restored BMW 507
Once the car was shipped to Germany by container in 2014, the car went under extensive restoration work, using the spare parts collected by Castor, along with other components that had to be re-made from scratch.
A major step in the process was a complete rebuild of the car’s engine, that was made entirely from spare parts to original specification. It was not given an engine number due to the unavoidable but unusual use of old and new components.
The front carrier frame removed by Tommy Charles was reproduced and integrated into the floor assembly.
Above: The 507’s engine had to be rebuilt from spare and replica parts
With maximum authenticity at the forefront of the project’s objectives, the vehicle was not only re-painted in its original Feather White, but painted using methods used 60 years ago, which according to the company avoided excessive colour brilliance which is inappropriate for classic cars.
Unfortunately, before the restoration was completed, Jack Castor passed away in November 2014, aged 77.
BMW says while Castor’s aspiration to see his 507 through the eyes of Elvis remains unfulfilled, the company will present the classic roadster as not only the automobile of the ‘King’ but also as the legacy of Jack Castor.
The special BMW 507 will go on display at the Concours d’Elegance from 21 August.