1956/57 BMW 503 3.2-Litre Coupé
Chassis no. 69084
Engine no. 30085
'It was evident that the factory had yet another classic in its own time as they had with the 328 two decades earlier. The wholly individual coupé or convertible was a true follower of the 328 traditions ... one of the very few non-Italian body designs to be assured of classic status from the 'fifties ...' - Sloniger and Von Fersen, 'German High Performance Cars, 1894-1965.'
At the end of WW2, BMW was in a much worse state than Mercedes-
Benz in Stuttgart because one of its major plants the old Dixi works at Eisenach in Saxony - was within the Russian Zone and would soon be cut off from the West behind the 'Iron Curtain'. Nevertheless, manufacture of what would later be called 'EMW' cars recommenced at Eisench under Russian control almost as soon as hostilities ceased. BMW's Munich factory though, had been badly damaged by Allied bombing and for the next few years a much-reduced workforce struggled on producing household utensils, agricultural machinery, bicycles and railway brake sets. It would be 1948 before deliveries of BMW motorcycles restarted and another four years before the first true BMW car of the post-war era emerged.
BMW recommenced car production in 1952 with the introduction of the 501 luxury saloon, a strange choice for an impoverished country still recovering from the ravages of war. 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 V8s but was constructed 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'.
Clearly, this new state-of-the-art V8 had considerable potential as a sports car engine. Sales Director Hanns Grewenig had been pressing for a V8-engined sports car for some time but it was not until Mercedes-Benz introduced the 300SL that the project was given the green light. 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 1980s, 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.
BMW high-performance, V8-engined cars of the 1950s attracted a small but discerning clientele, including some very well known names from the motor sporting world. Expensive and exclusive, the 503 was built both as a closed coupé and a convertible, only 206 of the former and 138 of the latter being delivered between 1956 and 1960.
This 503 coupé comes with BMW Classic certificate confirming matching chassis/engine numbers and stating that it was delivered new to Zürich, Switzerland by the Swiss importer Motag on 26th November 1956. The car was finished in blue metallic and first registered on 15th January 1957. Its second owner was Mr Roland Hirt, who purchased the car from Garage Auto-Bole in Lausanne. The BMW was then registered 'VD-53786'. In 1965 Mr Hirt's mechanic had an accident, damaging the front of the car. Mr Hirt decided to have the BMW repaired and the front modified to look like the Maserati 3500GT Vignale he owned. He sent the 503 to the famous carrossier, Ghia-Aigle, whose manager at that time was Mr Seydoux. The car was repainted in green metallic in the process.
In 1976 Mr Hirt sold the car to a Swiss gentleman (name unknown) and in May of that year it was sold again, on this occasion to the well known collector, dealer and author, Rob de la Rive Box. He sold it one month later to Mr Gordy Tracy in Austin, Texas. The car is documented in the 1993 book by Rob de la Rive Box 'Darf es ein Ferrari sein' (on page 25). Rob de la Rive Box assumed the front had been modified by Carrosserie Hermann Graber but the car's owner contacted Mr Hirt who confirmed that the repair, modification and repainting in green metallic was done by Carrosserie Ghia-Aigle.
While the 503 was in USA, it was repainted in the BMW Papyrus White livery it retains today. In November 1992 the car was sold by Alan Sampson of 'Fine Rides', Houston, Texas to Mr Hans Enzler of Gstaad, Switzerland, though Mr Enzler pulled out of the deal when he learned that the coachwork modifications were by Ghia-Aigle and not Graber.
In January 1995 Mr Juri Wenzel of Munich, Germany bought the BMW from 'Fine Rides' and imported it into Germany in March of that year. Mr Wenzel kept the car in his garage for over a decade before selling it in 2008 to the current owner in Switzerland. In 2009 the engine, brakes and ancillaries were serviced by a Swiss specialist (see invoice on file for CHF 8,502). We are advised by the vendor that the car is mechanically sound (the engine is running) but that it nevertheless requires comprehensive restoration throughout.
This is a unique BMW 503 with fully documented history and unique frontal coachwork. The car comes with Swiss registration papers as well as a State of Texas Certificate of Title.
Das von BMW-Classic ausgestellte Zertifikat, bestätigt die Auslieferung im November 1956 an den BMW-Händler 'Motag', in Zürich, sowie 'Matching Numbers' von Chassis und Motor. Den am 15. Januar 1957 erstmals zugelassenen 503, erwarb ein gewisser Roland Hirt, von 'Auto-Bole' in Lausanne. Nach einem Unfall wurde die renommierte Karosseriefirma Ghia-Aigle beauftragt, die Schnauze des Wagens im Stil des Maserati 3500 Vignale zu modifizieren. Ausserdem wurde die Lackierung von 'Blau Metallic' in 'Grün Metallic' geändert. Hierzu liegen verschiedene Belge vor. Nach einem weiteren Besitzerwechsel ging der 503 1976 an den Sammler, Händler und Autor 'Rob de la Rive Box', in dessen Buch, 'Darf es ein Ferrari sein', der BMW auf Seite 25 Erwähnung findet. Nur einen Monat später nach Austin, Texas verkauft, wurde der BMW in 'Papyrus Weiss' umlackiert, die Farbe die er heute trägt. Im November 1995 dann, ging der Wagen nach Deutschland, an einen gewissen Juri Wenzel, der ihn 2008 an den gegenwärtigen Besitzer veräusserte. 2009 wurden Motor, Anbauteile und Bremsen von einem Schweizer Spezialisten revidiert. Hierzu liegen Belege über CHF 8.502,00 vor. Der Verkäufer gibt an, dass der 'Motor läuft, aber dass das Fahrzeug insgesamt 'unrestauriert' ist. Der Wagen verfügt über Schweizer Papiere sowie einen Texas Title.
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