BMW’s flagship four seat V8 coupe, beautifully restored, with sunroof, and extremely rare.
1957 BMW 503 Coupe with Sunroof
s/n 69159, eng. no. 30177
Wine Red with Biscuit Leather Interior
BMW automobile production originally began under licensed manufacturing for a variety of other cars. And while early BMWs were merely a glimpse of what would evolve to become a premier luxury-performance brand, many remarkable sports cars like the Mille Miglia winning 328 would surprise the world with performance and elegance revealed in the combined production of the 503 and 507.
Enticed by Austrian importer Max Hoffman and BMW sales manager Haans Grewenig, BMW became convinced that premier GT and sports cars would appeal to wealthy North American clientele. Though competition was stiff, Hoffman envisioned a growing market of affluent performance GT enthusiasts building in the states. Though initially conceived with modest price tags, the 503 arrived substantially over budget even though many of the mechanical components had already been developed for the 501 and 502 luxury sedans. Simply stated, BMW's proud over-engineering and demanding internal requirements for excellence would not be compromised. Even the hand-crafted aluminum body, built at BMW Karrosserieentwurf, was assembled at great cost, including a cast alloy dashboard, itself a work of art.
Delivered to production at enormous internal expense from 1956-1959, the 503 offered features and performance that competed handily with contemporary offerings. But the costly 503, produced alongside the 507, was constructed to such exacting standards it nearly forced BMW into bankruptcy. Although a fiscal challenge for BMW, the 503 would generate important brand equity for BMW, but sales were less than expected, a result, while challenging at the time, that has since become woven into the rarity of these cars. Built with the finest mechanical components, the overhead valve 3.2 liter V8 aluminum block engine, upgraded with twin carburetors and improved lubrication via chain-driven oil pump, delivered 140 hp in a light and nimble package. And while performance was impressive for the time, the remarkable feature of the 503 was the undeniably beautiful handmade aluminum coachwork, penned by designer Albrecht von Goertz, who concurrently designed the celebrated 507 roadster.
Available in both coupe and convertible variants, the chassis was developed using a ladder frame derived from the 502. Steering and suspension from the 502 were also utilized with some improvements incorporated to the front suspension system. The gearbox and drum brakes were further derived from the 502 with front disc brakes becoming available in 1957, courtesy of John Surtees who had suggested this change for both the 507 and the 503, both of which Surtees owned. Offered with power windows, the same hydraulic unit that powers the electric convertible top and side windows, also powers the windows in the coupe.
While the 507 today has soared to millions of dollars in value, among enthusiasts, the 503 offers many similar attributes including superb leather interior, coachbuilt alloy bodywork, and touring performance with the added pleasure of luggage space and room for rear seat passengers. Further still, the 503 presents as a stunning value, a tenth of the cost of a comparably restored 507.
This 503 is one of 274 Coupes produced during the three-year production. Offered for sale in 2013 as a “barn find”, the car presented as a solid example, partially disassembled fifteen years prior to being offered for sale in Domont, Val-d’Oise, France. Currently fitted with a sunroof and front disc brakes, the fender line evokes the 507, sweeping rearward to a tightly tailored rear end offering ample space for touring event luggage and accessories. Having been recently comprehensively restored to a high standard, the car has received recent mechanical service in preparation for consignment.
Today this BMW 503 presents as a captivating and beautifully restored example finished in deep red with elegant biscuit leather interior. The paint is glossy and smooth, flowing gracefully over the alloy body panels. The fine body details, delicate features, and exquisite surface transitions are beautifully finished. The doors, hood, and trunk gaps are excellent, opening and closing smoothly, with jambs and underside surfaces showing excellent finish consistent with the exterior quality. The front and rear bumpers, headlight bezels, and other chrome features offer captivating reflections and glints of jewel-like detail without interrupting the stunning Goertz design. The headlights, lenses, glass, and trim are finished to a very high standard with excellent fit. The distinctive BMW emblems are the only indications that viewers are not gazing at one of the finest Italian designs. Indeed, upon the debut at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show, even Battista “Pinin” Farina pronounced the 503 as the prettiest car in the entire show.
The sporty ventilated wheels are correctly finished in silver with small hubcaps bearing the embossed BMW logo. A set of period correct Michelin tires add to the sporting presence. The distinctive BMW split grille is polished to a high luster with precision fit to the openings and correct polish to the vertical trim. The hood is finished with a delicate central chrome trim spear, once again holding a fine line of elegance and purity in the design. The pillarless coupe roofline must rank among the best-looking canopies ever constructed on a long wheelbase platform.
The interior is beautifully presented with rich, taut biscuit leather, offering an elegant color and contrast to the red finish that commands any viewer's attention. The leather is beautifully textured, stitched, and tailored with exceptional quality including lightly tufted pleats, excellent piping, leather wrapped armrests, and smooth seating contours. Overall, the interior is elegantly trimmed throughout with no evidence of wear to the leather surfaces. The correctly trimmed and border-piped low pile carpeting is in excellent condition, showing only mild evidence of use confined to the driver’s footwell. The dashboard sports an elegant array of vividly restored gauges with crisp lettering and bright numeric indication. Further details include a Becker Mexico radio, leather covered dashboard, and a gorgeous four-spoke ivory white steering emulating, as their logo does, the high-speed prop spin marking BMW’s aviation heritage. The stunning and elegant interior continues to the trunk lining and finishes in the trunk compartment which offers ample room for luggage along with a full-sized matching spare wheel. Here too, one can admire the attention to detail given to the underside trunk finish and inner side panels.
Under the hood, the BMW V8 engine is correctly detailed utilizing original accessories and properly finished hardware. The engine number, 30177, is consistent with numeric engine sequences reflective of factory installation. Both the engine and engine compartment have been restored and detailed to a high standard including the silver painted engine and accessories, cast iron exhaust manifolds, correctly finished twin carburetors with stamped metal air cleaners, factory labels, correct wiring, and proper hardware. The engine presents very well even under show-level scrutiny as both cosmetic and operational diligence is evident with just a few hints of modest post-restoration use. A set of tools resides in a dedicated BMW storage box. Inspection of the undercarriage further validates the quality of the restoration applied with care and once again, attention to factory specifications.
In addition to the visual condition, this BMW 503 offers both mechanical refinement and operational confidence. The car starts and runs smoothly, benefiting from recent service to the fuel system and fuel tank. The delicately muffled V8 engine is brisk and responsive moving through all four speeds. The comfortable seating position offers expansive visibility and easy to reach controls further enhanced by the pillarless design and sunroof. Driving this BMW 503 it is easy to see how these cars delighted the few but fortunate owners who purchased them new despite the considerable financial losses BMW experienced lavishing the very best in quality which nearly resulted in their demise. This beautiful BMW 503 is accompanied by an original BMW 503 owner’s manual, BMW service books, and chassis diagram.
Rare in number and recognized by discerning connoisseurs as the elegant partner to the BMW 507 roadster, the 503 remains today as a superb example of automotive beauty and sophisticated elegance. Representing the dawn of the BMW legacy in North America and eventually the world, this beautiful example serves as a reminder to the initial uncompromising excellence that BMW offered in their GT cars. Beautifully restored, sunroof equipped, and one of 274 built, this alloy bodied BMW 503 is sure to delight enthusiasts for years to come.
Please note this vehicle is sold duty paid in the USA on an English V5 ownership document in the name of the consignor.
The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.
Fantasy Junction • 510-653-7555 • 1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608