For starters, it is really beautiful in the flesh. In 1956 it must have been stunning, unless it was parked next to a Gullwing. The proportions are ideal, the surfacing superb, and the details timelessly elegant. The engine starts well enough when cold (totally different when very hot) and the gearbox action instils confidence. There is no American-style V8 burble, just a technical, clean, Germanic engine note which never becomes intrusive. So far, so good. It doesn’t accelerate as well as one may expect, getting to 100 kph in about 12 seconds from standstill, and its top speed is around 200 kph, but I doubt many current owners have experienced that. Steering is heavy and vague, and while the car can be hustled along a mountain road, it requires skill and doesn’t flatter the driver. At least the suspension is supple and soaks up bumps pretty well. The controls are nicely weighted, but that only serves to emphasize other, more negative characteristics.
Stodgy, clumsy, not exactly conducive to spirited driving, the BMW 507 is not a driver’s car, but as a poseur’s car, a cruiser, a boulevardier, it is quite credible. Yeah, I know Hans Stuck raced one and won his class at a hillclimb in 1958, but Hans Stuck had won hillclimbs in the deadly V16 Auto Unions, and he could drive anything with wheels on it faster than anyone else. So his sole win means nothing for mere mortals.
But the appeal of a sports car lies not in the fact that an extremely gifted professional driver can drive it fast, but that any buyer can feel like a hero while driving it. And in that respect the 507 is definitely underwhelming. The wooden brakes (all but the last few cars had four Alfin drum brakes) need a proper shove to decelerate the car, and at speed the chassis feels average for the period. Granted, it’s safer for an inexperienced wheelman than a Gullwing, but also because the Mercedes arrives at corners more quickly plus it overwhelms the senses with the abundance of stimuli. In comparison the 507 appears almost anaesthetized, and, to me at least, boring. Yes, the look over the hood and fenders compensates that to a degree, but it’s much worse to drive than to look at. Apologies if I shatter someone’s dream, but that is my opinion. A Gullwing, on the other hand, is much more challenging to drive, especially to drive fast, actually dangerous, but once you get into a groove in it, it feels better than the outlandish looks suggest. Haters, hate me all you want. (to be continued).