1957 BMW 507 “Elvis Presley”

BMW 507 #70079 left BMW’s Munich factory on September 13, 1957, painted Feather White with black leather interior. Options included a Becker Mexico radio, Rudge knock-off wheels, removable hardtop and the lighted "D" over its rear bumper signifying German registration. BMW sent the car straight from the factory to the Frankfurt auto show - but not to BMW's show display. It stayed outside the hall, demonstrating the 507’s performance. After the debut it continued in that role, driven by Hans Stuck, Sr. in various demonstrations, and by journalists for reviews. Known as “Hillclimb Champion” Stuck had won a slew of hill climbs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland while driving a white BMW 507 with chassis number 70079. Stuck raced it in a few hill climbs in 1958 as well, winning the GT class three times between May and September.

On December 12, 1958 507 #70079 was delivered to Autohaus Wirth in Frankfurt. Eight days later, U.S. Army PFC Elvis Presley took it for a test drive, which he clearly enjoyed enough to buy. Because Elvis was stationed with the Army in Frankfurt, 70079 was registered under Armed Forces plates for 1958 and 1959. Famously, sometime in 1959 70079 received a coat of red paint to try and cover up the lipstick marks left by female fans while the car was parked around Elvis’ Bad Nauheim barrack. Presley was discharged from the U.S. Army on March 2, 1960. He and the 507 returned to the U.S. though there’s no record of whether Elvis himself imported it.

For over 50 years classic auto collectors and BMW enthusiasts have been searching for evidence that the car still existed; indeed for many years it was basically written off. Finally, after an intensive investigation by BMW themselves and a magazine devoted to the marque, it was finally found in Half Moon Bay, a small enclave on the California coast near San Francisco. The 507 had been purchased in 1968 by Jack Castor, an aerospace engineer about Elvis' age who had dreamed of owning a 507 since seeing one while working a summer job in Munich - at almost the exact same time that Presley was driving around Frankfurt in the very same car. Unbelievably, Castor was not aware of the exalted history residing between its wheels. A classic car enthusiast, besides the Elvis roadster his hoard included a Ferrari 250 GT California and a very rare Apollo sports car from the early 1960s.

However, when Castor bought it 70079 was barely recognizable, as in 1966 it had become the property of an Alabama DJ with no sense of history and very little taste. The car had endured many indignities, including having a Chevy 327 V8 stuck under the hood and garish, tuck-and-roll upholstery in the interior. Castor drove it for about five or six years as-is, then put it aside with the intention of returning it to all-original condition. To that end Jack and his brother Tom bought 507 #70089. It was discovered later that 70089 had actually raced against 70079 when both were new. They gathered up as many other necessary parts as they could find for the restoration, and Jack documented their efforts extensively. He’d put together a massive file on the car but despite his extensive research, including leads from sources in both Germany and the U.S., Castor had not established an Elvis connection with any certainty, and even after he did have a good idea of the car’s true historical record, Castor considered the Stuck racing provenance more important than any connection to Presley.

Eventually Jack agreed to sell the 507 directly to BMW Classic, only if they agreed to carry out the most original restoration possible, and retain the Hans Stuck heritage. Both parties wanted to make sure that 70079 didn’t disappear into private collections, never to be seen again except to be sold. It belonged with BMW, and ultimately BMW Classic agreed to restore both of Jack’s 507s, the ex-Stuck/Elvis 70079 and the ex-"Helm Glöckler" 70089. 70089 would return to Castor in California while 70079 remained on loan to BMW Classic, as a permanent display in the Museum and taken out for special events. No plans for any type of vintage racing have ever been discussed by BMW.

In the summer of 2014, a team from BMW Classic flew to San Francisco to gather up both cars and their attendant parts and load them on a plane to Munich. Upon arrival 70079 went straight to the BMW Museum, it was shown throughout the summer in unrestored condition. Both of the 507s had been moved into secure storage not long after their discovery, but by then they’d spent decades exposed to the foggy climate of the California coast. At least its bodywork was all there, if not the original interior or drivetrain. The originality of the metalwork, including the hood and doors, was established right down to the serial number. What hadn’t been thrown away by the crazy DJ was still original, a huge bonus in a car that had been through so much. The car’s original dashboard was missing, so BMW Classic cast a new one. A replacement for the missing V8 engine was built from scratch to produce 150 hp from 3.2 liters, just as it had in 1957.

Jack Castor passed away on November 4, 2014, at the age of 77. The car is being presented as the Elvis 507, which makes sense given that the Elvis connection certainly makes it the most significant of all 507s. For Castor, however, the car’s racing history with Hans Stuck was always more compelling, and he’d intended to restore it to its original condition as a factory demonstrator/racer. As per Jack's wishes, BMW Classic is indeed restoring the car to its original specification. Also as per his wishes the contract with BMW had been amended in September 2014 to transfer 70079 to BMW’s ownership upon Jack’s death, meaning 507 #70079 would remain in the public eye in perpetuity, enjoying a post-comeback career worthy of Elvis’ continued popularity.

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