Elvis Presley is well-known for his Cadillac addiction, but he drove many other types of cars too. He owned at least three Mercedes-Benz 600s, Rolls-Royces, Lincolns, Continental Mark II, Ferrari Dino, and several Stutz Blackhawks – one of which is the last car he drove. But, he only owned one type of BMW, a 507 roadster.
Designed by Albrecht Goertz, the 507 is rare. Only 245 were built between 1955 and 1959. Elvis’ BMW 507 was acquired while he was serving with the U.S. Army in Germany. It was originally painted Feather White, but given not many soldiers were driving ridiculously expensive BMWs, the girls easily spotted him and covered it with red kisses. Elvis had it re-painted red to hide the sultry smudges. The car with chassis number 70079 featured a 150 horsepower aluminum V8 engine, center-locking rims, black-and-white interior, and Becker Mexico radio.
After Elvis dispensed with the car and returned to The States, it disappeared for nearly 50 years, and in the process, became the holy grail of BMW 507s. After two years of restoration work at the BMW Group Classic center in Germany, it is back to original condition. It will be exhibited on Aug. 21 at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California.
“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 of those involved,” said Ulrich Knieps, Head of BMW Group Classic. “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.”
Apparently, the car was shipped home from Germany and traded with a Chrysler dealer in New York. It was sold to radio moderator Tommy Charles in 1960 and was taken to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. The BMW engine was replaced with a Chevrolet engine for racing. To install the new powertrain, the front frame was cut. By 1962, Charles won a race with the car in Daytona Beach, Florida and entered it in other contests.
After its racing career, the car ended up in California where it was purchased by space engineer Jack Castor in 1968. After using the car regularly, it was put in storage with a planned restoration that never occurred. In 2006, an article in Bimmer Magazine about the missing car caught the attention of Castor and he identified the car as being in his collection.
By then, the car was not in good shape. Besides the different engine and transmission, there was no instrument panel and rust was having a good munch at the floor. After much discussion, the car was handed over to the BMW Classic Center in 2014 for restoration. The restorers used original parts when possible, but also sourced factory-correct replacement parts. For example, the original seat frames were recovered in original-spec upholstery. No better hands could have undertaken this restoration.
Inherently rare or not, any Elvis-owned car must be handled with absolute care. And there’s no question this irreplaceable BMW 507, which stayed out of view for decades, has been restored to exacting standards. It’s better than the last time Elvis drove it. It will be a joy to see it sitting on the lawn at Pebble Beach later this month.
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