London

8 September 2014

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Lot 115

1959 BMW 503 Cabriolet Series II

  • Chassis no. 69382

Sold for £196,000


140 bhp, 3,168 cc OHV alloy block-and-head V-8 engine with dual Zenith carburettors, four-speed manual column-shift transmission, independent front suspension via upper and lower A-arms, live axle rear suspension with torsion bars, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,835 mm

  • One of only 139 Cabriolets built
  • One of the most desirable post-war BMWs
  • A beautiful restoration with correct features


Like its rival Mercedes-Benz, BMW found itself in a tough post-war situation and needed to introduce a new model to gain the public’s attention. The 501 and its successor, the 502, were successful in achieving this, but the pre-war six-cylinder engine was dated, and it was time for a higher-specification model. Highly influential in BMW’s decision to market a V-8 was notable U.S. importer Max Hoffman, who used his talent for persuasion and the size of his distribution network to convince BMW that a luxury sports car for the top 10 per cent could be sold in sufficient quantity. Engineering expertise came from the talented Fritz Fiedler, who launched his career at Horch, and styling was provided by Albrecht von Goertz. When the elegant BMW 503 was finished, it debuted at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The Bertone-bodied cabriolet’s official production began in the summer of 1956. The BMW 503 Cabriolet is notable as the first German automobile to have an electrically operated power top. The 503 also touts welded tubular frame construction, aluminium panels, an alloy V-8 engine, and very high-quality appointments, which all made the car very expensive to build, and production of the Cabriolet was thus limited to a mere 139 units.

The Cabriolet Series II offered here has been beautifully restored in red with a dark blue leather upholstery interior and complementary carpeting, and its wonderfully authentic appearance is accentuated by the presence of original identification tags under the bonnet, including the original body tag. The engine shows some signs of use, but under the bonnet is clean and well-presented overall, in keeping with the rest of the car. The interior features a Becker Mexico radio, which is a desirable accessory for open-top drives in one of the most stylish German grand tourers of its era. Correct polished wheels are fitted to the car, with a full spare and tyre under the trunk mat, and a matching fabric boot is provided for the folded convertible top on sunny days.

This is a splendid example of one of the rarest and most desirable BMWs of its time.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more