Launched in 1955, the 507 must have been a fit of blind madness for BMW, which was facing financial meltdown. Surely a sports car could save the company? Surely not. Yet that is exactly what it did, twice. Hoffman and Hanns Grewenig, BMW's sales manager requested, not just the 507, but also the 503 coupé and cabriolet, based on the contemporary 501/502, a well-made but slow-selling luxury saloon. All three cars were equally slow selling and lost money. Part of the reason was cost. In 1955, a 507 cost $10,500 in the US (£3,200 in the UK) and in today's values that equates to over $93,000 (£64,000). The 507 might have been a looker, but it was over twice the price of a contemporary Jaguar XK140 and much more than its US competition: Chevrolet's Corvette and Ford's Thunderbird; Hoffman walked away from his promise and BMW sold just 252 and lost money on each one. That rarity means that today, a decent 507 is worth well over £1 million. To quote former BMW exec Walter Hasselkus (although he was talking about the MGF sports car in 1997): "We didn't have enough money to produce a sports car, but I'm very glad that we did..."
The 507 was hand built with an aluminium body draped over a shortened chassis and powered by an all-aluminium, 150bhp/173lb ft, 3.2-litre, cam-in-block V8 mounted well back in the chassis and driving the rear wheels though a ZF four-speed transmission. Alex von Falkenhausen, the legendary BMW engineer, breathed on the engine, but was banned from using an even hotter V8 design that was sitting in his workshops. Front suspension was double wishbones with telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar, and the solid rear axle was sprung with torsion bars and a Panhard rod for extra location. The first cars had all-round drum brakes, which given the weight of 1.3 tonnes, were probably adequate, though later models had front disc brakes, which were much better according to John Surtees, who owns one.
After winning the 1956 World Championship on an MV, the Italian management offered to buy Surtees a thank-you present.
"They told me at Hockenheim in 1957," said Surtees. "And I said I'd like to think about it. I went along to see Alex von Falkenhausen and he had this car there and I remember thinking, 'that's nice...