Burning Love: Elvis & BMW

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Elvis Presley loved his cars like no other pop star. It’s well known that he was partial to American-made models since the dawn of Detroit’s golden age. But Elvis also fell hard for the BMW 507 when he was stationed overseas in the late 1950s.

Elvis was already a big star before he was drafted. Everything he did made news back then. His fans had marked March 24, 1958, the day he was inducted into the U.S. Army, as “Black Monday.” No doubt Elvis was probably the best-known private our armed forces ever had. For a G.I., Elvis had it relatively easy, being allowed to live off base, study karate, and have the keys to a classy ride that he could use when he was off duty.

BMW made only 254 507s, that were mostly sold to celebrities and royalty. Created by designer Albrecht Graf Goertz, this model in its heyday was dubbed “the Dream from the River Isar,” referring to the location of BMW’s car manufacturing plant along the riverfront in Munich.

Checkmate-v1_Elvis-3When Elvis wanted a car, he didn’t care how much it cost; he liked how it looked. Visitors to the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum at his Graceland Mansion in Memphis can see the fruits of his fancy. Among the vehicles in his collection are his Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a 1975 Dino Ferrari, a 1956 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, the red MG from Blue Hawaii, and his favorite motorized toys, including a go-cart, a dune buggy, motorized three-wheelers and a pedal car.

RETURN TO SENDER
Not included in his collection is the gleaming white BMW 507 he acquired in December 1958, because it turned out that he’d only leased it and couldn’t bring the stunning sports car back home from West Germany once his stint in the Army was over. Clearly, Elvis enjoyed driving that car, perfectly embodying BMW’s motto at the time, “sheer driving pleasure.”

ALL SHOOK UP
On December 21, 1958, in a media-hyped ceremony held at the BMW Glockler dealership, Elvis formally took the keys to a “feather white” BMW 507 from a popular local TV personality, a former beauty queen named Uschi Siebert. Actually, it was a used car—its previous driver was Hans Stuck, a car-racing pro who’d driven the vehicle in several European hill-climb competitions. Elvis didn’t mind that Stuck had broken the car in first. The dealer modified it with a lightweight, 150-hp, 3.2-liter V8 engine so Elvis could tool around town.

As such, the price was reportedly about $3,750, a more reasonable price tag compared to what it would have cost brand new, $7,160.

LOVE LETTERS
In August 1959, Elvis reportedly traded in his white BMW 507 for a red one. The story goes that there were too many female fans flocking to his Army post using lipstick to write their names and phone numbers on his white BMW which was parked on the street. Instead of trading the car in, he had it painted red so it would hide the marks of their affection.

BMW Group Classic acquired Elvis’ original 507 (serial number 70079) after it was found stored in a pumpkin warehouse an hour south of San Francisco. A full restoration was planned after it was shown at a special exhibition last summer at BMW Welt, the automaker’s celebrated museum in Munich.

“This type of project is any car restorer’s dream,” said Ulrich Knieps, head of BMW Group Classic. “The fact that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s BMW 507 has found its way back to the BMW Museum is in itself remarkable. To have the opportunity to restore this historic vehicle ourselves is a particularly pleasurable responsibility for us to take on.”

BMW 507

Elvis’ red BMW 507

SUSPICIOUS MINDS
According to Elvis lore, he supposedly gave a white BMW 507 to Ursula Andress, his Swiss costar in the 1963 film, Fun in Acapulco, after shooting was completed at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles (Elvis never actually shot a scene in Mexico because Colonel Parker was worried about security there). Other reports said that Elvis was about to be reunited with his future bride Priscilla, who was moving back to America, and he didn’t want to give the tabloids any more cause for headlines. The press had already sizzled with rumors about a hot romance on the set with Andress, who’d made a big splash in the previous year’s James Bond movie, Dr. No. Elvis reportedly told his entourage never to leave him alone in Ursula’s company.

IT’S NOW OR NEVER
Though the rumor was never officially substantiated that Elvis did indeed give Andress a BMW, she reportedly told friends that Elvis offered to give her one of his Cadillacs but she declined, telling him that if he wanted to give her a car, a BMW 507 was preferred.

Elvis gave another BMW as a Christmas gift to his manager Colonel Parker, a red bubble-shaped microcar called the Isetta.

There are many rumors and theories about Elvis and his BMWs. Did he own one or two 507s? We know that chassis 70079 is being restored at the BMW Museum and chassis 70192, which was Andress’ BMW, was sold at auction in 2011 for $1,072,500, leaving the ending to this story to your own imagination.

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Competition BMW of Smithtown

Checkmate Magazine appeals to the competitive side of the BMW driver who views life as a journey, not a destination. Someone who defines success not by winning or losing, but by how one responds to both. Checkmate is the first of its kind, a publication written exclusively for consumers by an automotive dealership.

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