|1956 to 1959|
|Manufacturer||Bayerische Motoren Werke AG|
|Production||May 1956 – March 1959 |
|Designer||Albrecht von Goertz|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door 2+2 seater coupe |
2-door 2+2 seater cabriolet
|Engine||3,168 cc (193 cu in) BMW OHV V8|
|Wheelbase||2,835 mm (111.6 in)|
|Length||4,750 mm (187 in)|
|Width||1,710 mm (67 in)|
|Height||1,440 mm (57 in)|
|Curb weight||1,500 kg (3,300 lb) approximately|
BMW 503 Built: Munich, West Germany, from 1956 to 1959
At the close of the Second World War, BMW found themselves in a desperate situation. Not only had their factories been badly damaged by bombing during the hostilities, but the main Eisenach and Berlin factories were behind the Iron Curtain, with no likelihood of BMW ever being able to recommence car or motorcycle production in these locations.
None of the pre-war '320' type of cars were ever made again (these had come from Eisenach, where all production tooling was hidden away), and therefore it was not until 1951 that the true postwar BMW, the 501 , appeared. This was based on a massive box-section and tubular chassis frame, with torsion bar independent front suspension and torsion bar springing to the live rear axle.
The 501 went into production with an updated derivative of the 1930s 1971cc six-cylinder engine, but the 502 model, which had the same basic chassis, suspensions, and bulbous four-door bodyshell, had a brand-new 2.6-litre pushrod vee-8 engine, and went on sale in 1954. With this car launched, with motorcycles selling well, and even with bubblecars adding to the activity, BMW could, at least, consider sporting cars again. At the
Frankfurt motor show in 1955 (ready to go into production in 1956), BMW showed two such cars, the 503 and the 507.
BMW 503 Cabriolet side view
The 503 was a coupe or cabriolet style on the same chassis as was used by the latest 502 saloon car, so it was obviously possible for 2+2 seating to be supplied. The 502,s vee-8 engine, in the meantime, had been enlarged to 3.2-litres, so naturally this was the unit chosen for the Type 503 model. On the early cars the four-speed gearbox was separated from the engine, and a steering column gear change was provided, but from Autumn 1957 the box was mounted in unit with the engine and a floorchange was standardised.
The chassis was heavy and the roadholding somewhat ponderous, but there was no lack of performance, even though the 140bhp engine was matched to an unladen weight of more than 33001b. The 503's styling was by a German-American Count, Albrecht Goertz (who also takes credit for the 507, but seems to have no other well. known cars to his credit), and the car was available either with a smart fixed-head coupe style, or as cabriolet.
It was an expensive car, and never sold well. Production was discontinued at the end of 1959 (when BMW were in financial trouble) after only 412 cars had been sold.
Engine and transmission: Eight-cylinders, in 90-degree vee-formation, with pushrodoperated overhead valve cylinder heads. Bore, stroke and capacity 82 x 75mm., 3168cc. Maximum power 140bhp (net) at 4800rpm.; maximum torque 1631b.ft. at 2000rpm. Four-speed manual gearbox, early cars separate, but from late 1957 in unit with engine. Hypoid bevel final drive.
Chassis: Front engine, rear drive. Separate steel chassis frame, with box-section sidemembers. Independent front suspension by longitudinal torsion bars and wishbones. Bevel gear steering. Suspension of rear live axle by longitudinal torsion bars, radius arms, and A-bracket. Front and rear drum brakes.
Bodywork: Coachbuilt, with metal framing and light-alloy skin panels, in two-door 2+2 seater coupe or cabriolet styles, by Goertz. Length 15ft. 7in.; .width 5ft. 7.3in.; height 4ft. 8.7in. Unladen weight 33101b.
Performance: (Manufacturer's Claim) Maximum speed 118mph. Typical fuel consumption 19mpg.
A 1956 BMW 503 Cabriolet with Portuguese plates was driven by the George C. Scott character in the 1971 movie The Last Run.
1957 BMW 503 in The Last Run, Movie, from 1971