Bonhams is thrilled to announce that it will offer the rare, one-owner 1957 BMW 507 Roadster (£2,000,000 – 2,200,000) directly from the estate of the late John Surtees CBE, at the Festival of Speed Sale on 13 July at Goodwood.
At the time that he acquired the car as new in 1957, John was the reigning 500cc Motorcycle World Champion, having won the title in 1956 riding for Count Domenico Agusta’s MV Agusta factory team. A few months later, at Hockenheim, ‘Il Grande John’ — as the Italian racing fans had nicknamed him — spotted the elegantly understated 507 being used by BMW engineering director Alexander von Falkenhausen. He instantly fell in love with it.
“He saw me looking at it, and said to try it, Surtees recalled. “I came back thinking ‘that’s rather nice’. Back in Italy, when Count Agusta told John Surtees that he would like to buy him a present to reward his World Championship success, John would tell how ‘the light bulb came on’.
“I thought ‘Ooh, I really would like one of those new BMWs’,” said Surtees. “So I mentioned the 507. Inevitably, the old Count’s response was ‘What’s the price?’ and when I told him it was more than £3,000, he winced. “We finally did a deal and went fifty-fifty. I went back to von Falkenhausen, did a little development work for BMW and got the car in what the factory described as silver-grey, but which is more a lovely subtle silver-blue.”
John Surtees went on to win three more 500cc World Championship titles with MV Agusta (1958-1960) adding to the original 1956 crown and three consecutive 350cc World titles, 1958 to 1960. He then famously made the transition from two wheels to four, driving in Formula 1 from 1960 to 1972 and winning the Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship wth Ferrari in 1964. Meanwhile he kept the much-loved BMW 507 until he died on 10 March 2017.
He used this graceful grand touring car extensively, often driving over the Brenner and Simplon passes on his way between England and Italy. Early on in his ownership he contacted BMW to comment that his car didn’t feel quite as good as the one he had first tried, finding that it wasn’t going up the hills as quickly as he would like yet was going down the other side far too fast. BMW “breathed upon” his car’s V8 engine, enhancing its power and torque, and invited him to carry out brake testing in Birmingham with Dunlop, who duly fitted his car with four-wheel disk brakes. It was a great improvement.
When he signed for Ferrari in late 1962 Surtees arrived at the Maranello factory in his beloved BMW, whereupon Enzo Ferrari declared that drivers could not possibly have a German car while racing for his team. He must have a Ferrari instead! Surtees’ glee was short-lived: “When I got my first pay check I found The Old Man had had the price of the new car deducted from my fee!”
This is not only a beautiful example of BMW’s most elegant and refined sports car from the 1950s. It is very much ‘the John Surtees BMW 507’, a one-owner beauty being offered for the first time at public auction, direct from the estate of one of the world’s most revered and successful sportsmen — an eight-time World Champion, no less.