Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: In 1958 Elvis Presley leased a used BMW 507, who was it that “used it” before him?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re right.
Elvis Aaron Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24, 1958, serving as a private at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas. While at the time he was the Army’s most famous draftee, Presley claimed that he wasn’t seeking any special treatment, saying that ‘the Army can do anything it wants with me.’ It wasn’t false modesty either, as he turned down the offer to serve in the Special Services, where he could have spent his military time entertaining troops.
Following his training at Fort Hood, Presley was deployed to the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. Other soldiers in his division described him as a competent soldier, and one who didn’t use his fame to gain favor. That doesn’t mean he was exactly like everybody else. His fame had brought Presley sizable wealth and this allowed him to donate his Army pay to charity, and buy TVs for the base.
Presley also bought himself some toys while stationed in Germany. A man who appreciated a fine automobile, Elvis none the less first bought a Volkswagen to use during his time off at the base. That car was given to his karate instructor when Presely became enamored with another German marque, that being BMW. In December of 1958 he leased a used 507 roadster that had an interesting heritage. The car had originally been a BMW presser, and was shown at the Frankfurt International Auto Show. It also had seen some track time, piloted by a notable driver.
Elvis first car in Germany was an old Volkswagen which he eventually gave to his German karate instructor, Jurgen Seydel. On December 21 1958, Elvis leased a BMW 507 from BMW Glöckler. The car was a ‘used’ one and Elvis knew this, formerly driven by racing ace Hans Stuck. Elvis was assured by Mr Glöckler that ‘the car was very well run in by Mr Stuck’. Stuck had raced the car in several sports car events, but the engine was modified for Elvis to use on a daily basis. (So the car was quite special).
The price seemed very reasonable – the equivalent of $3,750 USD, instead of $7,160 for a brand new one. Not understanding the contract written in German Elvis thought he was buying the car.
But no, he later learned it was only on lease and had to be returned when he left Germany. So BMW used the promotional value of Elvis driving their car, while Elvis had to pay for it.
Elvis had originally wanted a Porsche Spider, probably due to his being a James Dean fan and this is what Dean had (And died in).
However this was impossible to get immediately so Elvis took an interest in the BMW 507. Probably the reason he opted for the ‘used’ car was it’s immediate availability.
Elvis was handed the keys to the car on December 21, 1958 in a ‘ceremony’ in the presence of Uschi Siebert, a former Miss Hessen and then a well known TV personality. A dozen photographers and journalists documented the scene. When he actually took possession of the car is unclear but it would have been in the days following after a service and registration change. The number plate on the car that was Elvis’ was A-1499 (‘1958 US Forces In Germany’). The car was plated ‘F-04071’ before Elvis took delivery.
Elvis returned to the U.S. in August of 1960, having received an Honorable Discharge with the rank of Sargent. When he went into the Army Presley thought his career was at its end. Instead, his tour of duty was only a hiatus, and in fact a huge publicity coup. Not only did he get to drive some cool cars while there, but it was in Germany during his deployment that he also met a young woman named Pricilla Beaulieu whom he would marry little more than seven years later.
Supposedly Elvis was so frustrated with other women writing their names and attestations of love in lipstick on the white paint of the Stuck car that had it painted red. That would show them! I wonder if Pricilla held any sway in that decision. The car suffered more ignominy as well, following Elvis to the states where its BMW V8 was yanked and replaced with a Chevy mill for the car to be used on the drag strip. It moldered for years after that, but was restored to its former glory by BMW in 2014.