The Rock ‘n Roll King of the Road is back
A rightfully glittering comeback is now following one of the most spectacular classic-car discoveries of recent times in the resurfacing of the BMW 507 that was driven by the fairly popular (okay, extremely popular) Elvis Presley, who some of you may know to be the “King of Rock’n’Roll,” while he was doing his military service in Germany. After that, it disappeared for nearly 50 years and was believed to have been lost before returning to the limelight in 2014.
“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 those involved,” commented Ulrich Knieps, head of BMW Group Classic.
The condition of the two-seater really was a cause for concern. 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. However, the fascination of a rare and beguilingly beautiful automobile outweighed all the inadequacies and deficiencies, augmented by the memory of Presley and his greatest hits. The project was managed by BMW Group Classic that ultimately succeeded in restoring the automobile.
After almost two years of exacting restoration work, BMW Group Classic is presenting the roadster for the first time in a public arena. Restored to its original condition, it will be exhibited on August 21, 2016 at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California. It shall be presented exactly as it was when soldier Presley took delivery of the car on December 20, 1958: with paintwork finished in Feather White, the 150-horsepower V8 aluminum engine under the bonnet, center-lock rims, black-and-white interior and a Becker Mexico radio.
All ownership and authenticity puzzles have been solved by the experts at the BMW Group Classic Archives and American journalist Jackie Jouret. In 2006, during the course of her work, she uncovered an essential detail. Various sources highlighted the fact that the BMW 507 delivered to Presley in Germany was not a brand new automobile but had previously been used by racing driver Hans Stuck. Between May and August 1958, the racing driver known as the “Hillclimb Champion” won a number of hillclimbs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland – in a white BMW 507 with chassis number 70079 and registration plate M–JX 800.
Presley used the BMW 507 to drive between his home in Bad Nauheim and the US Army Base in Friedberg. The paintwork of the roadster was frequently daubed with messages of love by his adoring female fans, painted in lipstick. These signs of adoration were by no means unusual for a rock star but they were an embarrassment to Presley as a young US soldier. A new livery in Red for the vehicle solved the problem.
In March 1960, Presley ended his military service in Germany. Back on American highways, he abandoned the sheer driving pleasure of an open-top BMW when he traded in the red roadster bearing chassis number 70079 to a Chrysler dealer in New York. The dealer in turn sold the car to radio moderator Tommy Charles. Charles took the automobile to his hometown of Birmingham in the state of Alabama where a very successful racing career began. Charles won a race in Daytona Beach, Florida with the radically modified red roadster and he lined up on the starting grid in several more competitions before selling the vehicle in the course of 1963.
Two more changes of ownership followed and the BMW 507 then went to California. Space engineer Jack Castor acquired the car in 1968 and used it occasionally as a runabout for everyday use before deciding to put the car into storage for a subsequent restoration. Castor was a passionate collector of historic bicycles and over the years he also amassed an impressive collection of classic automobiles in Half Moon Bay to the south of San Francisco. He got involved with several classic car clubs and delved into the history of the vehicles he had acquired. He wanted nothing more than the restoration of the time-bleached BMW 507 of “The King” until his death in 2014.
The BMW 507 was shipped to Germany in the spring of 2014 in a container, together with an impressive amount of spare parts collected by Castor. The first stop in Munich was the BMW Museum where the roadster was presented to an admiring audience in the special exhibition “Elvis’ BMW 507 – lost and found.” Work then began on restoration in the workshop of BMW Group Classic.
The BMW 507 makes a comeback – it’s just like the car Hans Stuck drove, the one Elvis purchased, and this is the way Jack Castor wanted it. The BMW 507, with chassis number 70079, will be presented 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.