<b>1957 BMW 503 Cabriolet</b><br />Chassis no. 69090<br />Engine no. 30088
Lot 90
Multiple award-winning example
Exquisite restoration by Scott Grundfor
1957 BMW 503 Cabriolet
Coachwork by Bertone
Sold for US$ 583,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
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1957 BMW 503 Cabriolet
Coachwork by Bertone

Chassis no. 69090
Engine no. 30088

3,168cc OHV All-Alloy V8 Engine
2 Zenith Carburetors
140bhp at 4,800rpm
4-Speed Manual Transmission
Front Independent Suspension – Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Drum Brakes

*Remained with original family until 2013
*Multiple Concours award-winner at prestigious events
*Believed to be one of just 13 503 Cabriolets for the US Market
*Retains matching numbers engine
*Exquisite restoration by Scott Grundfor Company


THE BMW 503

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, BMW recommenced car production in 1952 with the introduction of the 501 luxury saloon, a bullish 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-liter V8, in 1954. Designed by Alfred Böning, this new power unit had been inspired by American V8s but was constructed entirely of aluminum rather than cast iron. Towards the end of 1955 a 3.2-liter 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.

Goertz was commissioned to produce two different designs, a Coupe and a Cabriolet, both of which debuted in prototype form at the 1955 Frankfurt Auto Show. 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. Bertone was appointed to manufacture the handcrafted aluminum Cabriolet bodies, and the 503 Cabriolet became the first German Cabriolet with electrically operated top and windows.

BMW high-performance, V8-engined cars of the 1950s attracted a wealthy, discerning clientele, including some very well-known names from the motor sport world. Expensive and exclusive, 503s were built to an extremely high quality, and only 206 Coupes and 129 Cabriolets were produced between 1956 and 1960.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

According to its BMW Classic Certificate, this 503 was completed on December 20th, 1956 and delivered to Hoffman Motors in New York on January 14th, 1957, one of just 13 503 Cabriolets believed to have been originally delivered to the United States. Painted Japanrot (Japan Red) with a handsome tan interior, this Cabriolet was additionally optioned with a desirable Becker Mexico radio and automatic antenna- a perfect specification for its young first owner. This rare BMW was given to Mr. Geoffrey Mavis as a high school graduation gift from his father, and the luxurious BMW would stay in his family until 2013! As the story goes, Mr. Mavis brought the 503 Cabriolet with him to the Polytechnic State University after high school, and here entered the car in the 1959 Poly Royal Concours d'Elegance, winning 1st in class.

In 2013, this 503 was purchased from Mr. Mavis' son by the consignor, who planned to thoroughly restore the coach built BMW to its original splendor. Renowned restoration specialists Scott Grundfor Company was entrusted with restoration, and according to the accompanying restoration file, over $600,000 was spent to painstakingly restore this rare sports car. All mechanical aspects of this car were addressed, including rebuilding the original numbers-matching engine, suspension components, transmission, and braking systems. Cosmetically, the bodywork was refined to ensure excellent panel gaps, and the brightwork was re-plated and re-polished throughout. In lieu of the original Japanrot paintwork, an elegant, BMW period-correct Charcoal Grey Metallic has been used, accented beautifully by the brightwork and dark grey convertible top. The car sits on period appropriate Rudge-type knock-off wheels clad in striking whitewall tires. The interior has been similarly restored, with light brown leather interior, neatly contrasted by piping in charcoal grey.

On its completion in 2016, this stunning 503 appeared in several important concours events, where it won multiple awards. After being invited to appear at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, this cabriolet was shown at the Santa Fe Concorso, where it won Best in Class and Best of Show-Elegance awards. This past spring, the rare BMW was shown at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, where it was awarded Best in Class in the BMW 501-507 section. Most recently, the Bertone Cabriolet came home with a Pinehurst Award from the Pinehurst Concours d'Elegance against stiff competition.

Offered with an owner's manual and its original jack and tool kit, this elegant and rare 503 Cabriolet could be the finest example in existence. The next steward of this rare BMW will be able to enjoy this car at concours events and on touring roads alike.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note, there were only thirteen 503 Cabriolets built for the U.S. Market, and not 13,503 units as stated in the catalog.
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