BMW has announced it is preparing to fully restore a 1957 507 roadster purchased by rock star Elvis Presley when he served in the United States Army in Germany. Wearing chassis number 70079, the 507 is in rough shape but it appears to be largely rust-free because it has been stored indoors for several decades.
The 507 has led a fascinating life. Mere days after it rolled off the assembly line, the convertible was displayed at the 1957 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show where BMW invited potential customers to take it for a spin. It was not sold by the time the event closed its doors so it was transferred to BMW’s press fleet, and it was later pictured on the cover of German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport to illustrate an article where it was pitted in a comparison test against the mighty Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
The 507 cost 26,500 German marks in 1957, a sum that equates to approximately €340,000 (roughly $457,000 / £268,000) today. Sales were understandably slow so BMW commissioned former Auto Union driver Hans Stuck to enter chassis number 70079 in the ADAC-sponsored Schauinsland-Rennen race in order to demonstrate its potential. Working as a brand ambassador of sorts, Stuck was also asked to show the car to potential clients like Elvis and the King of Belgium.
Story has it Elvis first saw the 507 at the Montlhéry track located south of Paris, France, in 1958 and leased the car in Frankfurt for $3,750 in December of that year. Worn out from the time it had spent in BMW’s press fleet, the roadster had been fitted with a new four-speed manual transmission, a new windshield and a rebuilt 3.2-liter 150-horsepower V8 engine.
Interestingly, Elvis had a paint shop spray his white 507 in Porsche Red because he was tired of women using lipstick to write their phone number and address on the side of it.
Elvis did not take the 507 with him when he went back home after finishing his overseas service in 1960 but the U.S. Army reportedly shipped the car to him. What happened immediately after it arrived in the ‘States remains a mystery, but it was purchased by a man named Tommy Charles from a Chrysler dealer in New York in 1962.
Charles took the 507 back to Alabama and fitted it with a V8 engine sourced from either Ford or Chevrolet, a Borg-Warner transmission and a General Motors rear axle. The car was entered in local drag racing events, which we imagine must have been a sight to behold.
Chassis number 70079 turned up for sale in Arizona in 1968. A California-based engineer named Jack Castor trekked out to the Grand Canyon State and purchased the 507 in order to restore it back to its former glory, but it wound up sitting in a warehouse next to other decrepit high-dollar classics for decades on end.
Castor had the 507 shipped from his home in California to BMW’s headquarters in Munich, Germany, earlier this month. The car will be displayed as part of a special exhibit in the BMW museum called “Lost & Found” until August 10th, and it will subsequently be given a complete restoration by BMW’s Classic department that is expected to take up to two years.
Photos courtesy of Auto, Motor und Sport.