Thanks to Carl Fisher, Miami is a city with roots in the automotive industry. In the early 1900s, the manufacturing baron from Indiana (where he opened the first US car dealership) used his fortune to transform the swampy southern Florida town into a vacation paradise for his friends, who would drive down from the north along the new Dixie Highway. Fisher passed away in 1939, just as Miami’s enticing Art Deco architecture began to glitter in the never-ending sunshine. Art Deco paved the way to Mid-Century Modern, which in South Florida is epitomized by Morris Lapidus’ grand Fontainbleau Hotel and BMW’s iconic 507 roadster.
Over the past decade, Art Basel has transformed the Art Deco capital into a major contemporary art hub and undoubtedly inspired the recent openings of dedicated institutions, like the Perez Art Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Art Basel (and the myriad satellite fairs comprising Miami Art Week) is by far the city’s biggest annual draw, attracting art collectors, dealers, curators and luxury brands—like BMW—from around the world to attend a dizzying array of parties and exhibitions. Getting around town during the festivities is an adventure on its own, as streets become more like Uber parking lots.
It’s most ideal when you can have the top down in a convertible perfect for the setting, which, for a week like this, is the iconic 1957 BMW 507 roadster. BMW is the fair’s longtime automotive sponsor, and this year they exhibited two works from their prestigious Art Car collection, including the 1989 BMW M3 by Michael Jagamara Nelson and Roy Lichtenstein’s 1977 BMW 320i. The company also announced its Art Journey award for emerging artists in partnership with the fair.
Yet, what makes BMW’s 507 model best suited for the week when the art world descends on Miami is its thriving collector status and storied history, which fetch the classic car an average value of $1.7 million dollars (according to Hagerty Valuation Tools). The 507 represents a departure in form from the BMW production history. The American importer of European cars, Max Hoffman, influenced the company to transform the 501 saloon into a roadster that could compete with the Mercedes-Benz 300SLs of the era. However, the complex production costs drove the 507’s price up to $9,000—a massive sum at the time, and the company dropped its plan to build 5,000 cars and ultimately built only 252 models, including one acquired by Elvis Presley.
We found a rare 507 model in the safe hands of BMW collector Dirk de Groen, who has a collection of 12 BMWs spanning several eras in the leafy Miami suburb of Coral Gables. The 507 has a top speed of 120 mph and musters a keen sense of power even on the quiet neighborhood roads that De Groen chose for our test drive. His newly restored, creamy white model shows off its lush curves and distinctive sculptural body. He plans to show it at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in the spring, where car collectors gather in Florida, on a smaller scale, but same spirit as Art Basel.
For the 507’s soundtrack, we chose Solange’s “Lovers in the Parking Lot.” The 2013 video was filmed at a Houston flea market and features a cameo by Bun B. Solange, a vocal patron of the arts, explores her personal flair and sense of identity. She was also a staple on the scene of this year’s fair, and her DJ sets at various parties delighted the crowds in attendance. “Lovers in the Parking Lot” has the staying power and a message that merits an artistic journey in the forever-fly 507.
Images by David Graver