8 March 2014
Offered from the Pray Collection
1958 BMW 507 Series II Roadster
- Chassis no. 70156
- Engine no. 40024
- Body no. 1155
Sold for $2,420,000
- Offered from the Pray Collection
- Two owners from new; single ownership since 1972
- Offered with original engine, number 40167, verified by BMW Classic
- Factory Rudge wheels, a Becker Mexico radio, and a factory hardtop
- Impeccable purity and provenance
The parallels between Max Hoffman and Malcolm S. Pray Jr. are many. Both were blessed with a gift of foresight that allowed them to look overseas at a new world of automotive possibilities. Both had the drive to dream big and the will to push those dreams into creation. They were both larger-than-life spirits, and those spirits are inextricably intertwined with this BMW 507.
It was Hoffman that brought the 507 to life, essentially telling BMW that they should build a roadster slightly less expensive than the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL so that he could sell it to wealthy American customers. Being the most powerful importer in America at the time, he got his wish, and he virtually single-handedly propelled the 507 into creation. It was designed at his behest by Count Albrecht von Goertz, with its sensuous feline curves and shark-like louvers being hand-assembled around a robust V-8 engine. A towering price of $11,000 limited it to the most discerning of clientele and to a production run of only 251 examples, which were produced over two-and-a-half years.
It is safe to say that Mr. Pray was among the 507’s admirers when it was first offered, which was at about the same time that he was getting his own start in selling German automobiles. He was further influenced by an encounter with a fellow Greenwich resident, Al Mitchell, who was an airline pilot who happened to own a 507.
After an inquiry from Mr. Pray, Mitchell located this car in Pennsylvania, still with its original owner, Alan Friedland. Mr. Friedland was an enthusiastic participant in Sports Car Club of America races during this era, driving a McKee-Ford, an Elva Mk VIII, and this 507. Surviving records, located by RM Auctions, indicate that Mr. Friedland drove his 507 in the Northeast Ohio Regional Races of the SCCA, held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August 1962, among others. Spares that came with the car included low-cut gears for hill climbing, indicating that Mr. Friedland’s competition activities were not confined to the twisties!
The Friedland 507 was purchased by Mr. Pray, who became its second owner, on August 17, 1972, and he would never sell it. The file on the car includes a Pennsylvania title, which was issued to Friedland in 1971 and shows its reassignment to the Pray Automobile Corporation the following year.
In the 1980s, the interior, which included the seats, quarter panels, kick panels, door panels, and dashboard, was reupholstered in red Connolly leather; new Wilton wool carpeting was installed; and the interior wood was replaced or repaired as necessary. In 1997, the 507 underwent more significant work, with much of it being performed by Mr. Pray’s own shop. All trim was removed, repaired, and reinstalled. In 2006, the body was stripped, minor scratches and dents were repaired, and all panels were refinished in Graphite. Since this work was completed, the car has only been gently used, and it has just enough wear so that it looks the part of its 17,563 kilometers.
The Pray 507 was equipped by the factory with a Becker Mexico radio, as well as with two of the most desirable items, Rudge wheels and a removable hardtop. The Rudges, which are painted silver, have remained with and on the car its entire life. Mr. Pray chose to drive the car with its top down, and during the 1997 restoration, he had a new convertible top fabricated and the mounting pins for the hardtop removed. However, the original hardtop was kept, and it remains in unrestored condition.
As a happy conclusion to the story, the 507’s original 155 brake horsepower Series II engine, number 40167, was recently offered to the Pray Estate. Its authenticity to this chassis was confirmed by the 507 Registrar of the Historic BMW Club Germany, Wolfgang Niefanger, and BMW Classic. The original engine was acquired, fully rebuilt, and is now offered with the purchase of the car.
Today, the Pray 507 is all it was when it left the factory in 1958, and all that it should be, down to a collection of receipts, invoices, and documentation that accumulated during its time in Greenwich.
The success of foreign automobiles in America was built upon the will of a few extraordinary men who sold a few extraordinary cars. Malcolm S. Pray Jr. was one of those men, and the BMW 507 was one of those cars. It was only natural that Mr. Pray would not only purchase a 507, but that he would also buy one from its original owner in 1972, long before other enthusiasts came around to the model. For nearly 42 years, it has been a mainstay of the Pray Collection, representing the success of both a marque and a man.
AddendumPlease note this vehicle was first registered in 1959. The original owner has graciously provided RM Auctions with a partial list of events in which it was campaigned, along with photography of the car participating in those events. Please see an RM specialist to review this exciting history!
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