10 December 2015
1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II
- Chassis no. 70205
- Gearbox no. 40230
- Body no. 1203
$2,300,000 - $2,600,000
- Count Goertz’s design masterpiece
- Supremely rare with only 217 Series II examples built
- Desirable power and comfort of Series II specification
THE KEYSTONE OF BMW DESIGN
The finest accomplishments in automotive history not only break new stylistic and technological ground but they also set the standard upon which future models and, indeed, the entire brand is built. Certainly, automotive development is frequently a matter of history repeating itself, for no other reason than the notion that the company “got it right the first time.”
The BMW 507 of the late 1950s is precisely such a “halo car,” a supremely valuable, important, trendsetting, and brand-defining sports car. It is so jaw-droppingly perfect in design that, over four decades later, its proportional perfection was reinvented in the BMW Z8—James Bond’s weapon of choice, no less!
Consider, for example, the simultaneous elegance and sportiness of the roundel-emblazoned side-vent on the 507, which was not only carried forth into the Z8 but has also been used repeatedly in various BMW models and immediately signifies the Bavarian marque’s pedigree.
Ultimately, however, the car’s impact is quite staggering considering its production run of only 251 examples, of which only 217 were the Series II variant, a mere fraction of its contemporary competitor, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. Its creation is attributable in large measure to one Max Hoffman of New York City, the American car importer who recognized the American thirst for beautiful open two-seaters and, correspondingly, deserves great credit for the introduction of the Porsche 356 Speedster, Mercedes 300 SL and 190 SL, and, of course, the 507.
Compared to the 300 SL, however, the 507 utilized V-8 power, namely an overhead-valve aluminum block, equipped with twin carburetors and a throaty exhaust note, mated to a four-speed transmission. Last but certainly not least, Hoffman had final approval of the design, so he requested the services of Count Albrecht von Goertz, a protégé of famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy, whose futuristic themes for Studebaker in the early 1950s had caught Hoffman’s discerning eye.
CHASSIS NUMBER 70205
The BMW 507 on offer is presented from a distinguished and highly regarded private collection in which it has resided for many years. As a second-series variant, it benefits from increased engine displacement and therefore higher performance, as well as additional space behind the seats, affording taller drivers a more comfortable seating position. The colors of black over red leather perfectly accent the car’s sporting lines and certainly must be considered among the model’s most desirable color combinations.
The car’s known history is, quite interestingly, intertwined with New York City. Prior to the early 1970s, it was owned by Lacklan M. Mackenzie of Staten Island, and for at least 10 years in the 1970s and ’80s, it was owned by Shane O’Neil of RKO General, Inc., New York, who was the grandson of the founder of RKO pictures, one of the five large studios of Hollywood’s golden age. Mr. O’Neil became the company’s president in 1983 as the last family member to hold an operating position in the company, taking the helm of an empire that comprised 12 radio stations, two television stations, 11 Pepsi-Cola bottling companies, hotels, and much more. Following Mr. O’Neil’s ownership, the car was treated to a restoration in the late 1980s, very likely in the colors it is presented in today. It continues to present very nicely and correctly throughout.
A casual perusal of the car is utterly satisfying, revealing one dramatically attractive line after another. It is a light, almost feline, design of remarkable refinement, married to a powerful V-8. The stylized traditional BMW “twin-kidney” grilles have never before been executed so discreetly, and the restrained use of brightwork, evident in the narrow chrome bumpers, speaks to the perfection of Goertz’s minimalist design. The 507, then, is not only an all-important sports car to BMW and the collector car hobby as a whole but, above all, it also speaks to the genius of the gentlemen who brought about its introduction. In 1958, when the streets of Manhattan were crowded with large American cars clad in hundreds of pounds of chrome, fins, and ’50s flash, the 507 represented something almost otherworldly—lithe, fast, and utterly beautiful, as much then as it is now.
AddendumPlease note that contrary to the printed catalogue description, this car is not fitted with its original engine, but rather an unnumbered, factory-correct replacement unit.
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