John Surtees’ BMW 507 Could be Yours—For The Right Price

Rare cars command high prices at auction. This particular BMW 507 is not only rare, it has a provenance that is almost impossible to beat.

Motor-racing in general and Formula 1 racing in particular in the 1950s and 1960s was tremendously exciting and devastatingly dangerous; you could expect that one to three F1 drivers—sometimes more—would not survive the season. That makes winning the Formula 1 world championship all the more impressive. Even more impressive, if thats possible, is a Formula 1 driver winning the F1 world championship after previously winning seven motorcycle world championships. The only person to do it was John Surtees, who recently passed away at age 83.

While this is a sad time for Surtees family and friends and the racing community, it presents an opportunity for someone to acquire perhaps the most valuable BMW 507 in the world, not counting Elvis Presley’s 507, which is now owned by BMW.

At Hockenheim in 1957, Surtees eyed a BMW 507 being driven by BMW engineering director Alexander von Falkenhausen. In Surtees’ words, as reported by Bonhams auction house, “I came back thinking that’s rather nice.”

When Count Agusta, team principal for the MV Agusta team Surtees raced for asked John what he would like as a present in appreciation of his championship success, Surtees thought, “Oh, I really would like one of those new BMWs.” The price was a little steep even for Count Agusta, so they went halves on it—and that’s how Surtees got his 507.

Surtees worked with BMW and Dunlop to develop his car into a proper fast sports car, and he kept it for the rest of his life. He drove the 507 quite a bit, often over the Brenner Pass on frequent trips from England to Italy. At first he was dissatisfied with the car’s performance, but BMW worked some magic on it to bring it up to Surtees’ satisfaction. He also agreed to do some brake testing for BMW and Dunlop, which is why the car now has disc brakes on all four corners.

When he arrived at Ferrari in 1962 in the 507, Enzo Ferrari decreed that none of his drivers could be seen in a German car, so the Commendatore bought him a Ferrari road car—and them promptly deducted the cost of the car from Surtees’ paycheck. How times have changed, eh?

If you can find another one-owner BMW 507, original except for BMW’s tuning and disk-brake modification, you should buy it. But we’re guessing that you might have a hard time finding one, especially one that was owned by a world-champion driver. So it might be prudent to register with Bonhams for their July Goodwood Festival of Speed auction in England. Oh, and bring between $2,800,000 and $3,000,000, because that’s what Bonhams thinks it will go for.—Scott Blazey 

[Photos courtesy of Bonhams.]

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