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Alloy Jigsaw Puzzle: 1955 BMW 503 Coupe

1955 BMW 503 Coupe

BMW is one of the top luxury car manufacturers today, but throughout the companies near 100 year existence they have nearly closed their doors on a number of occasions. Most of these near collapses were caused by wars, but in the late 1950’s they almost closed as a result of poor automobile sales. In 1955, they decided to try to move upmarket by building luxury cars for the American market, but this proved to be a costly decision. The cars that they built during this period were beautiful, but far too expensive for the times and nearly put the company out of business. Their poor sales numbers meant BMW didn’t build many of the 500 series, so the coupe and roadster variations being extremely rare and highly sought after today. We have had the pleasure of seeing a few 503s and 507s in person, but they were all in pristine restored condition, so you can imagine our intrigue when we came across this rough 1955 BMW 503 Coupe here on eBay with an opening bid of $1k and no reserve. It is currently sitting in a barn in Surrey UK.

BMW 503 in sections

This car isn’t just rough, it is missing a lot of components, all of its mechanical systems, and has even been cut apart. The seller states that someone has made a few cuts to the body, but what they should have said is that someone cut it into sections. Typically this wouldn’t be a massive issue, but this car makes extensive use of aluminum for the body structure. Like any metal, alloys can be welded back together, but it requires special equipment and a high level of know how. As long as the frame hasn’t been cut too, a skilled body shop should be able to put this car back together with few alignment issues. We have always wanted to learn how to work with alloys, but this wouldn’t be the kind of project to learn on.

BMW 503 Coupe Interior

Based on all the rust we see on the floors, we would assume the areas where the aluminum and steel meet were in very rough shape and perhaps was the reason it was sectioned. From what we can see, most of the floor looks salvageable, but will obviously need work. Hopefully the metal is still thick enough to be welded back together without any issues. The more we look at this body, the more dollar signs we see. Restoring a solid and complete 503 would be a costly and time consuming endeavor, so one can only imagine how expensive this project is going to be.

BMW 503 parts

On the upside, the seller still has most, if not all the chrome and some of the impossible to find parts. It is going to need a complete drivetrain and the majority of the interior replaced. There were only about 400 of these built, so parts could be hard to find. We would guess the next owners best chance of getting it back on the road will be to find a 501 or 502 parts car. That is if a car can find one with a complete interior and drivetrain without spending a massive amounts of money. Then again, anyone who can afford to tackle this kind of project can probably afford to buy a parts car as well.

1955 BMW 503 Project

As they say, anything is possible with enough time and money, but this project is going to need more than just time and money. It is going to require a high level of skill at tracking down parts and a fair amount of luck to find everything it needs. As much as we hate the thought of this not being returned to original condition, its best hope for seeing the road again may mean installing a few incorrect pieces. If this were the highly coveted 507, we have no doubt there would be a line of collectors waiting for a chance to buy it, but the 503 has yet to achieve the desirability of its sportier brother. That being said, we only see the value of this BMW going up, so this might be a great chance to buy one. So if this were your project, what direction would you take it? Would you perform a no expense spared restoration or would you go a more affordable route?


  1. jim s

    looking at this i think it will be used as parts for another 503 that needs help. surprised that it was not sold for scrap a long time ago when a 503 was just another car. nice find

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  2. Dolphin Member

    Too bad, this 503 looks like it’s been treated pretty unsympathetically, probably years ago when few people cared about old BMWs, even if it was a rare 503 coupe. BMW wasn’t remotely the company it is now when this 503 was new, and to many people a clapped-out 503 was not worth putting money into, especially since the company itself might not survive, which it almost didn’t.

    Maybe it’s already served as a parts car for other 503s and this is all that’s left. With only 412 ever made it will be a long search to find all the big and small components that are missing. The ebay listing is typically misleading—it’s just a bit over the top calling the doors, hood and trunk lid “in ‘as new’ condition”. I can see some corrosion from here.

    But in just the time I’ve been writing this it’s had 8 bids and is now at $3,550, so with no reserve it will sell, I hope to someone who can at least see that the remains get used properly to help other 503s survive if this one doesn’t get put back together. These really were very elegant and special hand-built cars, even if they weren’t as desirable as a 507. Here are some pics that make the point:


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  3. Jim-Bob

    If this pile of parts were mine I would be tempted to go a Frankenstein route. I would find a later BMW with similar dimensions and use it’s parts to make a running, driving car out of it. The sheetmetal would be beaten back into shape and leaded but not painted. No, I would have it clear powdercoated and go for a raw look. Then again, if it were mine I would probably try to sell it to someone more capable of bringing it back to it’s former glory. It is a rare car from 60 years ago, after all, and it deserves to be what it once was.

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    • Joe Howell

      How do lead up aluminum?

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      • Jim-Bob

        And that, my friend, is why I shouldn’t go anywhere near this car with tools.

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  4. Bryan Cohn

    I see only one use for this: LeMon’s. Regardless of what you pay and what you spend to make it a car again, Jay and his band of merry bandits will:
    A. Let you race
    B. Laugh their asses off
    C. Many not award many, if any penalty laps because exotic car
    D. You will have a ball and definitely make the highlight real.

    I agree that this car was probably looted for parts for other 500 series BMW’s and someone is buying the remains. What a shame as they are beautiful cars.

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  5. Tom S.

    The pity of it is that this would be such a beautiful car if complete.

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  6. Alan (Michigan)

    Sourcing the entirety of the mechanical bits would be an undertaking of the most arduous kind. I go along with the notion of wrapping this redone body around a more modern BMW drive-train and suspension, and being satisfied with it that way.

    Yes, more likely the buyer will be using it as a parts bin for a much more complete car.

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  7. Go Cart Mozart

    I am agreeing that it may not be worth the effort for a faithful restoration, but it would be really cool to wrap those body panels around something like an E30, with some creative welding. Make a heck of a rat rod! or else a roadster with a small plexi windscreen! The possibilities are endless!

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  8. Horse Radish

    Put it on E-bay and give everybody the same chance.

    This one pulled the auction before end after enticing bids offline.

    I hate that so, report to E-bay….DONE !

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  9. jochen ortmann

    oh man…
    Iam actually restoring my own BMW 503.
    And this car-in-parts is the thing i have searched for…
    i emailed the seller and hope to get the address of the person who bought this car….
    here is the facebook link to my own BMW 503 project.

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