ELVIS might be gone, but his BMW 507, which he famously drove in Germany during his time as the world’s most famous GI, has enjoyed a Lazarus-like rebirth.
The white BMW 507 with the chassis number 70079 had an illustrious life even before Elvis acquired it from BMW Glöckler. It belonged to racing driver Hans Stuck, who competed and won hill climbs throughout 1958 before driving it to the Frankfurt, London, and Turin auto shows. It even scored a role in a Bavarian film (Hula-Hopp Conny) before ending up at the Frankfurt dealership where it was sold to the then 23-year-old singer.
The King used the car to commute to and from base and enjoyed it enough ship back to the US in 1960 after returning home from his army service in Germany.
By the time it arrived in the USA it was red. The popular reason behind the colour change was that Elvis had it painted due to it being used as a canvass for his many devotees to express their love with lipstick. Another long-held theory suggests the car was actually leased but Elvis thought he bought it because his German wasn’t great. So he had to return it on leaving the country and bought a red one to take home.
There is also a lot of doubt about Elvis ever having had a BMW 507 when he returned to America as there are no records or photographs to confirm it. Either way, in 1960 a 507 with chassis number 70079 was traded at a New York Chrysler dealer who flipped it for $4500. Its new owner modified it for racing, swapping the BMW engine with a Chevrolet V8, new gearbox and rear axle which required the frame to be cut.
It changed hands a couple more times before ending up with space engineer and car collector Jack Castor who stored it in warehouse near San Francisco where it sat for decades waiting in vain for a restoration. Castor knew he had a former Hans Stuck race car and had heard rumours it belonged to Elvis.
In 2009 an article in Bimmer magazine about the search for Elvis’s 507 caught his eye. He contacted the writer Jackie Jouret and took her to the “pumpkin warehouse” where the decrepit red BMW 507 was stored alongside other notable vehicles.
“Jack had tied down its engine bonnet with ropes,” she recalls. “It took some time until we actually got the engine compartment open and identified the stamped chassis number: 70079, the Holy Grail among BMW numbers.”
The discovery supported the theory that the red 507 was indeed the same white car that Elvis drove around Germany.
Jouret liaised with BMW Group Classic which eventually bought the 507 from Castor, along with the spare parts he’d collected over the years. It was shipped back to Germany in 2014. After featuring at a special exhibition at the BMW Museum in Munich titled “Elvis’ BMW 507 – lost and found”, work then began on its restoration. Castor died a short time later.
The 507 was meticulously disassembled over two weeks and the paint stripped off the aluminium body in acid baths. Replacement parts not already sourced had to be remade, sometimes using original manufacturing methods. This presented an opportunity to make new parts for other surviving 507s.
The instrument panel was newly cast as per the original and the leather upholstery was created to precisely match the pattern shown in old photographs and catalogues. When the seats were reconstructed, it proved possible to use the original steel subframe after all the rust had carefully been removed.
The Chevy V8 was replaced with the correct BMW 3.2-litre V8 and a fresh coat of the original “featherwhite” duco was applied with the same methods used in the late 50s.
BMW Group Classic boss Ulrich Knieps says he’s proud to see the restoration completed with Castor in mind.
“The opportunity to bring back the BMW 507 owned by the King of rock’n’roll to us here in Munich for purposes of restoration in accordance with the wishes of the previous owner, Jack Castor, was a dream come true for all those involved.
“This was an exceptionally fascinating project. The outcome is not simply a source of great pride to us. Jack would undoubtedly have been delighted by the outcome.”
During its 1955 to 1959 run, BMW only built 254 507s, which can fetch up to $2.5 million. This would most likely attract well beyond that. However, this restoration isn’t one for the money; it’s for the show, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California later this month where it will be a bigger hit than It’s Now or Never.