Driving a low-slung V8 powered projectile usually brings with it a degree of pre-occupation. Typical concerns pacing around the grey matter include: crikey, should it be that running hot, I hope it’s going to get there. Golly, it’s got some poke, but will it stay on the road through this corner. And it’s drunk how much juice? Throw fibreglass into the constituent mix and these paranoid mutterings can get much louder.
The BMW 507 though, brings a new and increasingly common mental niggle – that of its cold hard value in pounds, shillings and pence. I can’t quote an exact figure, because I haven’t asked and I really don’t want to know. If I bin this in a cacophony of tyre-smoke, bent metal and smashed glass, then they’ll just have to scrap me for any salvageable organs. Whatever the figure is it’s probably got five or even six menacing zeroes clinging to its coat-tails…
The weather is ideal – cool but dry if overcast – for the roof to remain stowed and flaccid, the 3168cc V8 to be given the full Size Nine without it getting hot and bothered, and for the sat-nav not to suck the last ounce of voltage from the olde worlde electrics. Even the roads are being co-operative. Fast, entertainingly swoopy and traffic-free.
Designed by Albrecht Graf Goertz, a fellow incorrectly attributed to more classics than he actually designed, personal expectations for the 507 were not exactly soaring high. Disappointment threatened on the horizon. Any collectors’ classic saddled with the clichéd ‘i-word’, regardless of price tag, has the ability to rain on your anticipations. So one with a tiny production run – just 251 were built – surely it has at least one skeleton lurking in its closet?
Intended to capitalise on the wealthy US market, at the request of BMW’s US agent Max Hoffman, the 507 was based on a shortened 502 chassis that had been developed under Alex von Falkenhausen. Utilising double wishbone front suspension and a live axle located by semi-trailing arms and Panhard rod, all four corners were suspended via torsion bars and kept in check by telescopic dampers. Its big problem – quite literally – was its full-fat DM 26,500 price, which made it dearer than a Mercedes 300SL. (In the UK, it was launched at £4201 or double Jaguar XK money).
Yes, it looks fantastic. A sharply tailored blend of grey metallic curves, contrasting deep oxblood leather, ivory Bakelite and shiny silver accents; the slinky well-proportioned 507 easily seduces your vision. It’s also beautifully screwed together which only adds to the tantalising experience. This 1957 machine may be a child of the rock ’n’ roll era, but it is an exercise in understated style and chrome-plated restraint reclining over gloriously functional Rudge wheels. Transatlantic bee-bop-a-lula brash not included. Oh and there’s also plenty of leg and shoulder room too, which for cars of this era is not always a given.
‘But,’ asks the pessimistic internal inquisitor, ‘How does the BMW 507 actually drive…?’
The noise from the 150bhp V8 is rich and mellow, and as the revs rise – reaching for the 5750-6000rpm redline on the deco VDO tacho – the engine gets more strident, the pitch more focused. Today, the Becker Mexico radio will remain undisturbed. Selecting any of the four cogs with the mushroom-topped gearlever, reveals a shock to anyone used to BMW’s newer offspring – a lever which cuts across the gate and engages cleanly without the usual graunch ’n’ grumble.
Available with a choice of axle ratio, its top speed is roughly in the area of 127-138mph, reeling off the 0-62mph sprint in 11.5 seconds. It’s not quick in the 2016 sense, but its bountiful performance completely captivates the driver. It rides well and those Avon 185R16 radials provide plenty of grip. The servo-assisted finned drums, need a good stamp in the guts but they work when called upon – a rare occurrence on this quiet Bavarian route. The semi-circular rack and pinion steering offers plenty of accuracy, information and linearity from lock to lock – although when driven with gusto through corners it does tease the biceps as it loads up. Body control is also kept well in check.
The sum of which all adds up to a 1950s machine which is able to dispatch winding roads and modern traffic with glee and a glorious blood-curling V8 howl. It silences any nagging doubts completely. Well, apart from the temptation to play with the rear. It is worth a few bob, don’t you know…
As the miles fly past, there is one final query – how should you categorise the BMW 507? It certainly has all the talent and performance of a sports car, but it is also a very able high-speed cruiser – it is practically a show-off at being able to cover distances with little trauma. Rough edges and a hint of tooth-chipping masochism? Nope, on both counts. So perhaps it’s best to describe it as a sporting grand tourer; one which for the life of me, I can’t understand why loaded types did not to buy in their droves.