INTRO: THE BIG DISCOVERY.
As every great story, ours begins with an exciting preface. The search for the BMW 507 Elvis has been nothing less than one exciting adventure that started off with a treasure hunt, driven and completed by one woman: Jackie Jouret, journalist at the Bimmer magazine. She has unearthed the long lost car and made its history accessible. In a guest contribution she shares her very personal story with us and hereby starts our website special!
It all comes down to the numbers.
"In writing automotive history, the first thing you need to do is establish the timeline. The second thing you need to do when writing on historically significant cars is to focus on the serial numbers.
As soon as I started to research the history of Elvis Presley's 507 for a short article (“The Back Page”) in Bimmer magazine’s December 2006 issue, I found a major discrepancy. The 507 bearing serial number 70192 was widely reported to have been the car that Elvis drove while stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army and had even been auctioned as such by Barrett-Jackson. But that conflicted with Dr Karlheinz Lange's definitive history of the 507, written for BMW Classic.
Although Lange didn’t specify which car had been driven by Elvis, he did identify the two cars driven by Hans Stuck by serial number: 70079 and 70145. Since Stuck had been racing 70145 throughout 1959, that car couldn't have been driven by Elvis that year. It could only be 70079, the car Stuck drove in 1958, before Elvis had arrived in Germany, not 70192.
I wrote The Back Page with that information, concluding with a request that anyone who knew the whereabouts of 70079 get in touch. A year or so later, I got a letter from Jack Castor, who owned 70079 but couldn’t verify the Elvis connection. He was sure, however, that it was the first ex-Stuck car, and that alone made it a significant 507.
The Holy Grail of BMW serial numbers.
A year or so later, I got a letter from Jack Castor, who owned 70079 but couldn’t verify the Elvis connection. He was sure, however, that it was the first ex-Stuck car, and that alone made it a significant 507.
Serendipitously, both the car and Jack were relatively close to Bimmer headquarters, only a few miles south of San Francisco. The car didn't run, but Jack invited me down to check it out and see the extensive documentation he’d amassed to establish its provenance. With photographer Helmut Werb, I drove down to Jack’s house in Half Moon Bay, with its garage full of exotic cars and motorcycles and its living room full of vintage bicycles, then the three of us made our way down the coast to the pumpkin warehouse where the 507 had been stored for more than a decade along with another 507, a few more BMWs and a vintage Alfa or two.
We took off the dusty cover, and there it was: the red 507, originally white, that had once been driven by the King of Rock and Roll, one of the most important cultural figures of the 20th century. Jack had tied its hood down with ropes, and it took a while to access its engine bay, but eventually we saw the stamping: 70079, the Holy Grail of BMW serial numbers.
A comeback worthy of the King.
Jack had intended to restore the car at some point, and all the parts he’d gathered to put it back to its original configuration were in boxes nearby. The 507 had undergone an unfortunate hot-rodding in the 1960s, soon after its arrival in the US, and Jack wanted to undo the modifications. He'd done an amazing amount of research on the car to determine what was original, even watching "Hula Hopp Connie," in which it appeared as a bit of odd product placement before it was sold to Private Presley.
I wish Jack had lived long enough to see its restoration completed, but in the absence of that I'm glad he got to bask in a bit of the limelight thrown off by Elvis' 507, once we'd established its provenance and published the story. After that, BMW was able to officially verify the car as having belonged to Elvis, and we eventually corrected the provenance of 70192, as well. That car was sent straight from the factory to New York in late 1958, while Elvis was in Germany. It had indeed been given by Elvis to Ursula Andress in 1963, but Elvis probably never drove it. Fortunately, its current owner is more interested in its ex-Ursula provenance than any Elvis connection.
As an automotive journalist, I feel lucky to have been involved with the "finding" of Elvis' 507, and I’m grateful that Jack Castor trusted me with the story of his car.
Elvis’ car was never really lost, of course. It was really just resting, awaiting a comeback worthy of The King."