Elvis Presley’s BMW 507 restored and on its way to Pebble Beach Concours
Already called the King of Rock and Roll when he left the limelight to complete his military service in Germany, Elvis Presley bought this BMW 507… drove it and then it disappeared.
LOST FOR ALMOST 50 years, this BMW 507 once raced by Hans Stuck and owned by the King of Rock and Roll has spent two years being restored and will now be shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance at the end of this month.
Restored by BMW Group Classic, this BMW 507 with the “chassis number 70079 will be on view for visitors to the popular classic car show exactly as it was when soldier Elvis Presley took delivery of the car on 20 December 1958: with paintwork finished in Feather White, the 150 hp V8 aluminium engine under the bonnet, centre-lock rims, black-and-white interior and a Becker Mexico radio”.
But, getting the vehicle back to showroom condition wasn’t easy. “Although the original body parts and other components were virtually all present and intact, the roadster had lost its engine and gearbox. The rear axle was a “replacement part” of unknown origin, rust was eating away the floor assembly, the seats were worn and there was no instrument panel,” BMW said.
The back story to this particular BMW 507 is like something from a detective story and even if Elvis hadn’t owned this 507, it would probably be the most sought after in the world.
See, before Elvis got his hands on this 1957 BMW 507 it had been at both the London and Turin Motor Shows, loaned out for press drives, driven and raced by Hans Stuck and a number of races in Germany, Australia and Switzerland. After every race the vehicle was serviced and maintained by BMW before arriving at a Frankfurt dealership in 1958. And that’s where Elvis spotted it.
The BMW 507 was already well regarded as a celebrity toy and this one had a tweaked engine and new gearbox when the King purchased it. “The young US soldier Presley was 23 at the time, and he came along and took it out on a test drive for a spin. The “King” was immediately impressed by it and decided to buy the car. Photos taken at the time show that export licence plates had already been fitted to the BMW 507. Later on it was given a registration from the US military that changed every year. This was part of the reason why subsequent identification of the vehicle proved to be complicated … The experts from the BMW Group Classic Archives were only absolutely certain about its provenance when they came across the insurance proposal from December 1958 which contained the chassis number 70079 alongside registration of the keeper of the vehicle as Elvis Aaron Presley.”
Painted in Feather White, the King’s BMW 507 was constantly being kissed and written on, in lipstick, by his fans. To combat this, the King had the car resprayed in Red. Presley sold the vehicle in 1960 once he was back in the US where it ended up being butchered for use on the race track. It’s BMW engine was replaced with a Chevy donk while other parts of the car were hacked out to get that and other stuff to fit.
Once it arrived with BMW Group Classic, much of the 507 had to be rebuilt from scratch.
“The instrument panel was newly cast on the basis of the original. 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 for the seats after all the rust had carefully been removed. A rubberised coconut mat was then drawn over the steel springs.
“Window winders and door handles were remanufactured in an advanced, modern 3D printing process based on the original dimensions. After producing a digital data set by three- dimensional scan of the original part, a facsimile was generated with the help of additive manufacturing and mirror finished afterwards. By contrast, the rubber seal for the tank cover was reproduced in a conventional manufacturing procedure. Since this component like many others in the BMW 507 had fallen prey to the ravages of time, a small series was produced.
“The engine for Elvis’ BMW 507 was completely rebuilt from spare parts. The 3.2 litre V8 engine was reconditioned precisely in conformity with the original specifications of the BMW 507, but it was not given an engine number on account of the unavoidable but otherwise unusual use of old and new components. The front frame carrier, which had been cut down at an early stage, also had to be reproduced in its original geometry and integrated in the floor assembly. The wooden nailing strip for fixing the soft top in place was also reproduced using materials and processing methods in keeping with the 1950s.”
Instead of keeping the 507 in the King’s lipstick red, it was restored to its original colour.
The man responsible for driving this restoration was collector Jack Nestor who discovered the 507 and its amazing past. However, Nestor dies in 2014 and so BMW said “The BMW 507 will be presented there [at Pebble Beach] for the first time not simply as the automobile of the “King”, but also as the legacy of Jack Castor and a masterpiece of BMW Group Classic”.