BMW recommenced car production in 1952 with the introduction of the 501 luxury saloon. The 501 had been announced in 1951 and first appeared with a development of the company’s pre-war six-cylinder engine before gaining a much needed performance boost, in the form of a 2.6-litre V8, in 1954. Designed by Alfred Böning, this new power unit had been inspired by American V8’s but was constructed (the first of its kind) of aluminium alloy rather than cast iron. Towards the end of 1955 a 3.2-litre version was introduced and the big saloon’s model designation changed to ‘502’.
BMW was encouraged by Austrian-born entrepreneur Max Hoffman, at that time the US importer of various European makes, who knew just the man to style the car: Count Albrecht von Goertz, an independent industrial designer who had worked for the legendary Raymond Loewy on the latter’s trend-setting Studebakers. Designer of everything from fountain pens to furniture, Goertz had never before styled an entire car and would not work for BMW again until the 1980’s, by which time he had produced another classic automobile: the Datsun 240Z.
Goertz was commissioned to produce two different designs, both of which debuted in prototype form at the Frankfurt Auto Show towards the end of 1955. The more conservative of the two – the 503 – retained the 502 saloon’s 2,834mm wheelbase chassis, suspension and centrally mounted, column-change gearbox, while the 507 was built on a much shorter wheelbase, which necessitated attaching the gearbox directly to the engine. (The Series II 503 – introduced in 1957 – used the 507-type engine/transmission arrangement complete with floor-mounted change). As installed in the alloy-bodied 503, the 3.2-litre V8 produced 140bhp, which was good enough for a top speed of 118mph (190km/h). With its long bonnet, 2+2 seating and generously sized boot, the 503 looked every inch the elegant Grand Routier. Even Pinin Farina was impressed, declaring it to be the most beautiful car in the show. Had the 507 not debuted at the same time, it would no doubt have also been the most memorable.
This wonderful 503 Mark II coupe was restored approximately 10 years ago and is described to be in an overall excellent condition. Presented with its original interior which is showing a lovely patina and featuring the Becker Mexico radio and factory fitted sunroof. Recently the clutch has been overhauled, the front axle rebuilt and the engine serviced. Fitted with a 5-speed gearbox this wonderfully rare 503 is ready to be enjoyed by its next custodian.