JOHN SURTEES was one of Britain’s most successful Formula One drivers and motorcycle racers and now super-fans with deep pockets can bid for his incredibly rare BMW 507 sports car — owned from new by the race ace.
The talented racer, who passed away last March, was the 1964 F1 world champion, having previously notched up no less than four 500cc motorcycle world championships.
The king of speed bought the bahn-storming BMW in 1957, for just £3,000, two years before the king of rock n’ roll, Elvis Presley, bought one. Now the 40,000 mile, two-seat roadster is to be sold — for a staggering £2m.
It was when racing on two wheels that Surtees first fell for the BMW sports car. After winning the 1956 title, racing for MV-Agusta, the British champion took a 507 for a test drive, after spotting a car owned by Alexander von Falkenhausen, BMW’s engineering director.
Shortly after, Count Domenico Agusta told Surtees he wanted to reward his world championship success with a gift. Surtees recalled: “The light bulb came on and I thought, ‘Ooh – I would like one of those new BMWs.’ So I mentioned the 507.
“Inevitably, the old Count’s response was ‘What’s the price?’ and when I told him it was over £3,000 [more than £52,000 in today’s money, after inflation], he winced. We finally did a deal, went 50:50… and I went back to von Falkenhausen, did a little development work for BMW and got the car.”
Launched in 1956, the 507 was conceived to fill a gap in the market between affordable sports cars, like the MGA and Triumph TR2 and TR3, and more expensive cars such as the Mercedes 300SL.
It featured a 3.2-litre V8 engine, four-speed manual gearbox and had a top speed of more than 120mph.
Surtees took delivery of his new BMW 507 roadster in 1957. The two-seater was ordered with an optional factory-fitted, detachable hardtop roof, but was otherwise standard.
Legend has it that shortly after taking delivery of the car, Surtees contacted BMW and suggested that his car didn’t feel quite as good as the first model he’d taken on a test drive.
The German car maker is said to have fine-tuned the V8 engine and fitted disc brakes to better manage the car’s – and driver’s – turn of speed.
Also once owned by Elvis Presley, an estimated 200 of the 507 roadsters are thought to remain on the road, making it one of the rarest cars in the world. One previously sold in America for $2.4m – and experts believe that the Surtees-owned car will be more sought-after.
Surtees’ 507 will be sold at the Bonhams Festival of Speed auction, held at Goodwood, East Sussex, on July 13.