Auctions and Brokerage
Confirmed by correspondence that accompanies the sale as having been built during January 1957, this glamorous BMW 503 Coupe is a 3.2-litre V-8 example retaining the prior steering column-mounted shift lever for the four-speed manual gearbox. As one of BMW’s premier late-1950s models, the 503 was highly equipped from the factory, as expected, with special options, including a very rare single sideways-mounted jump seat at the rear. In fact, this example is one of only two known BMW 503s equipped with this rear-seat configuration. Attesting to its unspoiled originality and authenticity, the interior is believed to remain factory-original, the factory-assigned body-number stamping remains on the hood, and the vehicle’s wheels are date-coded “11/56.”
According to its engaging history, this 503 Coupe accompanied a German international student who was enrolled at Northwestern University to the outskirts of Chicago; and when the student eventually returned to Germany, the car was left behind there. It was eventually acquired by Frederick Reese, a resident of Woodstock, Illinois, just northwest of Chicago, who worked as a tool and die maker with General Motors. Mr. Reese embarked on a refurbishment of the car himself while retaining the majority of its factory-original components. The document file accompanying the car at auction contains correspondence between him and BMW in Germany. Following his retirement during the late 1980s, Mr. Reese offered the 503 for sale and relocated to Florida.
Upon seeing the advertisement for the 503, the subsequent owner flew with his wife from Colorado to Chicago, braving record cold conditions to view and purchase the very rare BMW. According to notes contained within the car’s file, Mr. Reese had dismantled the car and refurbished it in his basement, and many of the patterns he made during the restoration process accompanied the car when he sold it. In the opinion of the next owner, Mr. Reese performed excellent work on the car and was only unable to fabricate then-unobtainable items such as some of the vehicle’s rubber gaskets. Following acquisition, the 503 remained an important part of the new owner’s significant and very well-curated classic BMW collection, where it clearly benefitted from fastidious care and proper storage before being acquired by its current owner. During the approximate 25 years of previous single-family ownership, the 503 was enjoyed, with the vehicle described as being very pleasant to drive. Accordingly, it was driven during that time to BMW Car Club of America events, concours, and shows, where the very rare and elegant 503 Coupe marked a definite attraction everywhere it appeared.
In preparation for its sale, the 503 has received a fresh service and it is offered complete with a rare owner’s manual as well as the aforementioned history file containing service records and correspondence with the factory. Beautifully styled, extremely rare, and clearly well cared for, this matching-numbers 1957 BMW 503 Coupe remains a wonderful example of one of the world’s most significant postwar design statements.
The Glamorous BMW 503
Based upon BMW’s first postwar automobile model, the “Baroque Angel” 501, the 502 debuted BMW’s new V-8 engine for 1954, providing the base for Count Albrecht Goertz to create two new sporting V-8 designs. The sleek, modernistic 503 retained the 502’s chassis, suspension, and centrally mounted gearbox, while the open 507 carried a shorter wheelbase.
For 1957, the 503 was updated with displacement and output increasing to 3.2 litres and 140 hp, allowing top speeds approaching 120 mph. The 507-type engine and transmission arrangement was now utilized with floor-mounted gearchange; however, some transition cars retained a column-mounted gear lever. Lofty costs and pricing held production to just 413 examples, which included 273 coupes and 139 cabriolets.