3D Printing

Elvis Presley’s BMW brought back to the future

BMW has turned to the magic of 3D printing to restore Elvis Presley’s BMW 507 to its former glory after it was found in a state of disrepair in a pumpkin farm.

This is a car that had a rich history even before The King took the wheel. It started life as a race car, which the great Hans Stuck drove on track. It starred at the Frankfurt Motor Show and then went into active service as a media test car. Presley was drafted in to the US military and sent to Germany at the height of his fame, so he could afford the finer things in life.

White car kept getting ‘vandalized’

It was white when Presley took delivery, but he had it repainted red for a very specific reason. Women were constantly writing their phone number on the car in lipstick, so by painting it red he wouldn’t need to polish it all the time.

Life wasn’t so kind to the 507 in its later years. It was traded again and again and even fitted with a Chevy V8, a move that would make today’s classic BMW enthusiasts cry. In perfect, original condition, these highly-prized cars change hands for millions of dollars at the specialist auctions. If Presley’s car had been perfectly maintained, rather than restored, it could have been a record breaker.

Elvis Presley's BMW 507 after it was rescued from a vegetable factory

It ended up hidden away in a vegetable factory, awaiting restoration. BMW Group Classic rescued the car from purgatory and struck a deal with the owner that it would be perfectly restored. 3D printing was an integral part of the process.

Some nights in the museum

Before it went to the BMW Group Classic Workshop, the 507 spent some time in the BMW Museum in Munich with the sign: “Elvis BMW 507: Lost and Found”.

The company stripped the original car back to the bare shell and built the car back up. Original parts for this car are thin on the ground now, though, and BMW had a secret weapon it could call upon.

The company embraced additive manufacturing a long time ago and was recently named as a partner when HP launched its Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printer. So with the help of one of the most advanced 3D printers on the market and a 3D scanner, it could simply scan the original parts from another car and make brand new ones.

Elvis Presley's BMW 507 after a two-year restoration

This took two years

This two-year project combined this modern approach to restoration with traditional manufacturing and panel beating, as the team could not and would not simply print every part. It hasn’t specified exactly which parts were 3D printed, although the window winders and windscreen wipers did get a mention.

The team at BMW Classic Group took the opportunity to print and manufacture a number of spares for this increasingly rare classic that has become a sporting icon, too.

Elvis Presley's BMW 507 after the restoration

A recreation rather than a simple restoration

This particular restoration was a pure labor of love for the BMW engineers and with a dilapidated car to start with they didn’t have to consider preserving the original car. So the end result is a visually stunning machine, recreated rather than simply repaired, that looks like it just rolled off the production line.

3D printing played a relatively small part in bringing this historic 507 back from the dead. But now if Elvis Presley really is alive and well in some far flung corner of the world, there’s a good chance his old car is in better condition than he is.