A look back at the BMW 503 Coupe (1956 – 1959)
The 1950s were a tricky time for BMW; in many ways the brand was fighting for its very survival. Amongst the overall difficulties for the company, the 503 was a shining light in the upmarket sporting car market. Sadly, the obvious quality was ultimately to be underappreciated.
Sitting top of the BMW range, just above a wide range of similarly luxury cars, the 503 looked truly glorious. Designed by Count Albrecht Goertz, who was later heavily involved in the Datsun 240Z project – amongst many others. It was marketed alongside the buxom 501 and 502 saloons, using the same running gear as the 502 (V8 engine included).
There may have been similarities with its running mates under the bonnet, but stylistically the 503 was in a class of its own. It was a stunningly beautiful machine, long and angular, the cabriolet featured protruding headlights and a taller, more elegant version of the BMW kidney grille.
It was lighter than the 501 and 502 and the V8 had been tuned up to produce 140bhp, making it fast and enjoyable to drive. That said, all this speed and elegance didn’t come cheap and ultimately the 503 never found many buyers. Looks wise, it may have been years ahead of its time, but ultimately the BMW 503 was an expensive folly that almost bankrupted the company.
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