5 months ago
Over the course of his distinguished career, John Surtees was the fastest man on two, and four, wheels.
The only person to have won world racing championships with both motorcycles and cars, Surtees won a combined seven motorcycle championships (350cc and 500cc) between 1956 and 1960, and he won the Formula One World Championship in 1964.
Known at times as “Son of the Wind,” “John the Great,” “Big John,” and “Fearless John,” Surtees is most closely associated with Ferrari as that’s what he was driving when he won his F1 championship in ’64.
That said, there’s another classic marque – BMW – with ties to Surtees’ heart that had nothing to do with his pro career.
As the story goes, Count Domenico Augusta told Surtees he wanted to give him a prize for winning his first 500cc motorcycle championship in 1956. Surtees, who’d been thinking about the new model that BMW engineering director Alexander von Falkenhausen had shown him at a recent race, brought up the 507.
Then, when he mentioned the price was more than £3,000, the Count started feeling a little less generous and offered to split the cost of a ’57 BMW 507 roadster with Surtees fifty-fifty. Surtees accepted and the car you see here, which is selling at the Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on July 13, belonged to him.
Once delivered to Surtees, the silver-blue roadster was driven back and forth between Germany and Italy as well as to England. It was during one of these trips that he noticed his car was a bit slower and had difficulty braking compared to the model von Falkenhausen had shown him.
After contacting his friend, it was agreed that Surtees’ 507 would be outfitted with a trial set of four-wheel disc brakes and get some improvements on its V8 engine. The result was a model that could now go 10-15 miles per hour faster to top out around 140 MPH and stop on a dime, er, 10-pence piece.
Following the improvements, Surtees continued to drive the 507 until the 1960s, when he joined up with Ferarri’s racing team. For obvious reasons, Enzo Ferrari wasn’t a big fan of his star driver using a BMW in his personal life and asked him to make a change.
As Surtees told it prior to his death last year, Ferrari’s exact words were, “German car, not possible.” The two of them then reached a deal where Surtees would treat his BMW to an extended stay in a garage in exchange for a receiving a Ferrari.
Just like it sounds, a free Ferrari ended up being too good to be true. “Delivery of one was agreed and I thought ‘Ooh, this is good’ – but when I got my first paycheck I found The Old Man had had the price of the new car deducted from my fee,” Surtees said.
He eventually was able to get back behind the wheel of the special 507 – one of only 252 that were ever made – and used it as his personal car for most of the next six decades.
Now being offered by Bonhams under the direction of the Surtees family, the 507 is expected to fetch anywhere from $2.7 – $3.3 million when it crosses the block on Friday the 13th.
For more info on the special single-owner car or the sale, cruise over to Bonhams.