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Car and Driver: Elvis Presley’s BMW 507, Completely Restored, to Swivel Its Hips at Pebble Beach

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BMW-507-PLACEMENT

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When the BMW 507 Elvis Presley drove in Germany during his deployment there as a U.S. soldier was uncovered in 2014, it was a big deal. Mix together the beautiful 507’s ultra-limited 254-car production run in the 1950s and, well, Elvis, and you have classic-car gold. After having made its way through multiple owners and losing its original engine and transmission somewhere along the way, the 507 found its way into the collection of a Californian, Jack Castor, who, with help, discovered its very famous one-time owner. He sold it on to BMW Classic two years ago, and the car was displayed in its as-found condition—rough, to say the least—in Germany for a short time before BMW embarked on a total restoration that will be showed off at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

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The restoration itself was a challenge, as the car was in pretty sorry shape when BMW Classic got its hands on it. Chassis no. 7079’s absent engine was replaced by a “new” aluminum 3.2-liter V-8 made up of original and reproduction parts, and the aluminum body and steel chassis were stripped down and refinished using 1950s-era techniques. The frame needed to be repaired—it had been cut away in places to fit a Chevy engine—and an all-new black-and-white interior incorporating 3D-printed replica trim and a new dashboard casting was fitted.

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More intriguing than the restoration is the car’s incredible history. As if it were possible to gild The King’s ownership of the 507, Elvis wasn’t the only famous man to cross paths with BMW 507, chassis no. 7079. When new, the BMW was used by racing driver Hans Stuck throughout 1958, competing in—and winning—many hillclimbs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Stuck also drove the 507 to the Frankfurt, London, and Turin auto shows for display, and the car even nabbed a role in a Bavarian film (Hula-Hopp Conny) before being retired from racing and show duty and ending up in a Frankfurt dealership—where the 23-year-old Presley bought it.

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BMW 507

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Elvis used the car to commute to and from the U.S. Army base in Friedberg, Germany, and by BMW Classic’s account, the rock star greatly enjoyed the car. Proving that Elvis’s problems are not like yours or ours, he had the BMW’s original white paint swapped for a shade of red to deter throngs of adoring women from writing love notes in lipstick all over the 507’s body. Not long after, he moved back to the U.S. in 1960 and off-loaded the BMW on a Chrysler dealer in New York, where it was sold for $4500 to a radio DJ. This is where the BMW’s history begins to align with that of many a used rear-drive sports car in America: Its original engine and transmission were swapped for a “Chevrolet engine.” That questionable move preceded a short racing career in Alabama and Florida, before the BMW was again sold in 1963, eventually making its way to California where Jack Castor bought it in 1968.

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Before BMW bought the car back in 2014, it had been stored in a pumpkin warehouse, wearing a flaking red paint job and sporting ropes tied around the front end to hold the hood shut. Smitten lipstick notes had not been smeared across its aluminum bodywork in decades, but the discovery ended years of speculation that Elvis’s 507 had been lost to time. Now restored to its original glory, with a 150-hp V-8, center-lock wheels, and even a Becker Mexico radio, we’d be tempted to smooch the BMW’s Feather White paint—but we’ll be content with checking the car out in person at Pebble Beach.

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BMW-507-REEL

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