Professional racing drivers get to pilot some of the fastest, most technologically advanced cars ever made. So we’re always fascinated to find out what they drive when they’re not at work. And in the case of the legendary John Surtees, this was it.
Surtees, for those unfamiliar, was a racer in a class all his own. He won the motorcycle world championship with MV Agusta four times. He then switched from two wheels to four, winning the F1 championship with Ferrari in 1964.
It’d be like if Valentino Rossi switched to F1 and won the championship. Rossi’s toyed with that kind of switch (with Ferrari no less), but Surtees remains the only man to win the top titles on both two wheels and four.
In 1957, he had just won his first 500cc motorcycle championship when he saw BMW’s chief engineer Alexander von Falkenhausen driving a 507 at Hockenheim. Surtees was duly impressed, so when his employer Count Domenico Agusta asked him what he wanted as a prize, he immediately requested one of the Bavarian roadsters.
Agusta and Surtees ended up splitting the bill that topped £3,000. (That’d be nearly £69,000 in today’s money, or nearly $100,000 in equivalent US dollars.) Perhaps typical of a professional racing driver (or rider), he was somewhat underwhelmed by its performance as he drove it through the Alps, so he had BMW tune the engine for more power and torque, and had Dunlop fit new four-wheel disc brakes.
After signing with Ferrari, old man Enzo insisted Surtees drive one of his road cars instead – and deducted the cost from the driver’s paycheck. Surtees kept the Bimmer anyway – his entire life, in fact, until his passing barely more than a year ago. Now his estate is putting it up for auction. Bonhams will sell it off at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this coming July, resplendent in blueish silver over red and with unsurpassed provenance.