The BMW 503 was a larger and more conservative looking car than the 507, a luxury grand tourer next to the two-seater sports car, but still with the V8 under its bonnet. In coupe form (it was also available as a convertible) the 503 shared the spotlight with the 507 at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Or at least it tried to: not much gets close to a 507 for looks now, and it didn’t then, which is why the 503 was destined to live in the sportscar’s shadow. The 503 had one great fan in 1955 however: it is said that Pinin Farina declared it to be the most beautiful car in the show.
Despite the wildly different styles of the twin BMWs, the cars were born of the same father – the designer Count Albrecht von Goertz – and were based on the 502 saloon with its all-alloy 140bhp 3.2-litre V8 engine. The 507 sports used a short wheelbase chassis, the 503 GT the standard length in order to provide 2+2 accommodation.
The count – an industrial designer who had worked with Raymond Loewy at Studebaker – was commissioned by BMW to design both prototypes. It was a leap of faith because he had never designed an entire car before. First time lucky or what? He did, of course, go on to design more great cars, including the forerunner of the Toyota 2000GT.