A damaged BMW 503


There is a lot of talk lately about the new BMW grills. An evolution of its most identifying element, which acquires a larger size in each new model. In fact, some joke that it will soon reach the entire hood.

Jokes aside, the truth is that BMW's design team has a reason for these overly bombastic designs: the Chinese market. Yes, the same one that all the big European brands have looked at for a long time, especially those with high-end models.

And it is that economic logic prevails, ruling that the only way to cover the future with guarantees is to build cars adapted to the taste of new Asian consumers. Consumers who, because of their upstart in the social pyramid, seek products to represent their new status.

Products, normally, marked by the ostentatious and excessive. Something that has been noticed for years in the designs of brands such as Mercedes, Bentley or BMW.

All of them with interests in the emerging market of the Chinese business elite. However, this is not the first time that some of these brands seek to expand in markets far from their home countries. In fact, the history of the BMW 503 is just this, being the attempt by the German brand to enter the North American high-end market. Of course, with little success since very few units were manufactured. This one you see - in need of a restoration - is one of them.


If you are passionate about Porsche, surely the history of the BMW 503 is familiar to you. Why? Well, because it is based on the cooperation between an importer from the East Coast and the factory in Germany, seeking create a model that occupies a certain niche in the North American market. In the case of Porsche this occurred with the appearance of the Speedster version of the 356, going to satisfy the needs of amateur pilots with weekend fads. In the case of BMW with the 503, they aspired to fill a very different gap.

And it is that, by the mid-50s, two people related to BMW realized a sales opportunity. An opportunity based on the fact that, within the powerful American market, there was a space to fill with an elegant GT. Solution? A new car based on the concept of the BMW 501, but with an updated design and improved technology. All of this offered in coupe and convertible versions. Thus the things, the project of the BMW 503 had already been born.

The people whose heads hatched the plan were Hans grewening y Max hoffman. The first was the head of sales at BMW. The second neither more nor less than the legendary importer who was behind the birth of the Porsche Speedster, the Mercedes 300SL o the priceso bmw 507. A guru when it comes to reading the needs of the American market for European vehicles. Yes indeed, with the BMW 503 he really missed the mark, since from 1956 to 1959 only about 413 units were produced.


Mounted on a newly designed chassis thought by engineer Fritz Fiedler, and dressed by Albrecht Goertz, the BMW 503 was inspired by the GT luxuries of the time to offer a blend of power and comfort. Something that was supported by a successful design that still continues being one of the most interesting lines in the history of BMW. In addition, the set was motorized with a 8-liter V3 derived from the one mounted by the 2, which increased power to 302CV thanks to two carburettors and a higher compression ratio.

A mechanics perfectly adjusted to the market segment where the BMW 503 wanted to reign. Something that was reinforced with technical advances in the service of comfort, such as being one of the first European convertibles with an electrically operated hood. However, the truth is that all this careful design cost a large investment, which made the BMW 503 a much more expensive model than initially thought.

Outcome? It was not competitive. In fact, sales were so low that the BMW 503 was at a loss for the Bavarian brand.

Something that left the Germans chastened, who did not dare with a similar model until 1962, with the presentation of the 3200CS designed by Bertone. However, the BMW 503 has come down to our days as a curious beauty prized by collectors. That is why this sinister unit aroused so much attention auctioned by Artcurial in the past Rétromobile Paris. Immobilized since an accident in 1976, has now found a new owner who is considering an ambitious restoration project. However, it is worth it. Of course.

What do you think?

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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