There are a handful of usual suspects when conversation turns - as it inevitably does around here - to the most classically beautiful cars ever made. The Jaguar E-Type, Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Toyota 2000GT, Ferrari 250 GTO and lesser-spotted Maserati A6 GCS Berlinetta all springing to mind. Often among that number, but frequently overlooked, is this: the BMW 507.
Maybe it's because 'BMW' and 'beautiful' haven't been words we've associated for a good few years now, or perhaps because 507 sounds more like a name you'd find on the boot of a bedragled Peugeot than a timeless roadster. Either way, as you'll hopefully agree, it is no doubt deserving of a place on the list.
The story of its designer, Albrecht von Goertz, is a tale of the American Dream made reality. Born in Germany in 1914, he originally attempted to become a banker but, finding that ladder a harder one to climb than he'd hoped, emigrated to the United States in 1936. Having initially earned a living working at a car wash, it was a job at a factory manufacturing aircraft engines which set him on the path to legendary status.
Using experience gleaned there, he soon opened his own business modifying Fords, before going on to build a Mercury-based vehicle of his own design, confidently dubbed the Paragon. His automotive career was temporarily halted in 1940 by a small dispute between his fatherland and the rest of the world but, having served for five years in the US army, he was about to experience a remarkably lucky strike.
Whilst out driving the Paragon, he bumped into Raymond Loewy, a man who just happened to be in the process of becoming one of the most prolific industrial designers of all time. Loewy took a specific interest in Goertz, guiding him first through design school and then into a job at Studebaker, from which he left in 1953 to found his own design firm. Just two years later, and fewer than twenty since he left Germany, the Goertz-designed BMW 507 debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
The 507 was the result of a suggestion by famed automobile importer Max Hoffman - who's also credited with pivotal roles in the creation of the 300SL and 356 Speedster. Intended to offer European styling in a US-friendly package it boasted an all-aluminium 3.2-litre V8 and aluminium body a panels, for a total weight of 1,280kg. As a result its 150hp was enough to see 62mph in 11 seconds and a top speed of 125mph, but performance wasn't it's primary attribute. It's beautiful design and eye-watering cost - it was more than double the price of a Corvette - made it unimaginably cool. From John Surtees to Ursula Andress and Elvis to the Aga Khan, anyone who was anyone had to have a 507.
Unfortunately for BMW, not that many people could count themselves as 'someone' and the 507 was a sales disaster. Compared to Mercedes' similarly-positioned 300SL, fewer than one tenth as many 507s were sold and ultimately only 252 examples of what was originally intended as a mass-production model were ever made. Back then it nearly bankrupted the company, but today it means that the 507 continues to be a fantastically rare and wildly expensive machine.
This week's Showpiece even more so; it isn't simply any old celebrity's 507. No, this example was once owned by Goertz himself, who purchased it in June 1971. He had the engine replaced personally, and it has since undergone a seemingly extensive restoration, meaning that it's in excellent condition for its next owner when it goes under the hammer on December 1st with an estimate of £2.1m. They may not be a famous star, but they'll certainly have bought their way into one of the most glamourous owners club there's ever been.
(All images courtesy of Bonhams)