1956 BMW 502

Cabriolet

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1956
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Lot number 
    255
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

Estimate:
$300,000 - $350,000

  • One of 57 examples produced by Karosserie Baur
  • Meticulously restored by marque specialists
  • Finished in Topaz Blue Metallic over beige leather
  • Exhibited at 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
  • Accompanied by BMW Group Classic Certificate of Authenticity
  • Offered along with its rebuilt original engine

BMW aficionados will recognize the 502 as a special model in the German marque’s pantheon. Derived from the 501 saloon—the first automobile manufactured and sold by BMW after World War II—it was a significant step in the evolution of BMW’s reputation for luxury and performance.

The 502 was introduced in 1954, making it post-war Germany’s first V-8-powered car. Its 2.6-liter aluminum alloy-block engine was capable of producing 100 horsepower. It was said to be Germany’s fastest production sedan, and with an open-road speed of 100 mph it could easily outpace its Mercedes-Benz competitors. Beyond improved performance, the 502 distinguished itself with elegant interior fittings and an exterior ornamented with additional chrome trim. Standard features on the car included fog lamps and individual front seats. The 502 was available in saloon, coupe, and two-door and four-door cabriolet versions. It took style and power to a higher level, foreshadowing contemporary BMW attributes.

BMW entrusted Baur, a respected Stuttgart Karosserie, to produce the cabriolet and coupe bodies, as BMW production facilities had been compromised by the war. Baur had been building BMW convertibles since the 1930s and was well acquainted with BMW’s high standards. From the time the 502 cabriolet was introduced for 1956, 57 two-door cabriolets were produced by Baur. The cars were sold through the BMW dealer network and built to order. Buyers had to be affluent—the list price was DM 21,900—as well as patient, since delivery could take upwards of six months. The combination of price and patience made ownership of a 502 an exclusive investment.

The rare BMW 502 Baur two-door cabriolet offered here is one of only two such cars known to be in the United States. It has been completely restored and stands in remarkable condition. This example was manufactured on 2 June 1956, and delivered to the firm of Siemens & Halske, AG, in Munich for executive use. While no records are available to account for the car’s migration to Canada, it is known that it was last registered in 1973 by Dr. Franklin Lam, an Ottawa dentist. The 502 sat quietly until 2010, when Dr. Lam elected to have the idle vehicle towed away. Tow truck driver Michael Higgins bought the car with the intention of restoring it. Mr. Higgins soon recognized the enormity of the undertaking and chose to sell the car.

A partnership of new owners purchased chassis 59094, and immediately shipped the 502 back to Europe for restoration by two extremely experienced and well-respected BMW experts: Erwin Brummer of Brummer Repair (located near Munich) for the mechanical and electrical aspects of the car, and the Matejcek firm in Pilsen, Czech Republic, for the body work, convertible top, upholstery, carpeting, and interior accents.

Accompanying testimony from this period indicate that the owners made regular trips abroad during the two-year restoration to review the work. Since the car required an entire refinish, and the owners had no desire to replicate the 502’s unexceptional original Cortina Grey exterior and blue leather interior, they paid a visit to the Archives Department at BMW Group Classic to determine the original color choices available to 502 Baur buyers. They thusly learned from the archivist that purchasers could request any color they wanted, and the current owners found that any period-correct color would meet authenticity criteria.

To ensure the 502’s adherence to BMW standards, they stayed with the proper color spectrum and chose a radiant Topaz Blue metallic (code 364) over a sophisticated beige leather interior. The owners also made critical mechanical upgrades: The original 2.6-liter engine (number 11849) was replaced with a more powerful 3.2-liter V-8 engine and the front drum brakes were exchanged for power-assisted disc brakes for safety. Both changes conform to specifications for later-model 502 cabriolets.

Since completion of this chassis’ extensive restoration in May 2013, this 502 has competed in several events sponsored by the BMW Classic Car Club of America, such as a 1,000-mile tour in northern Germany in September 2013 and later 1,000-mile road rallies through the Colorado Rockies and Southern California. The 502 has also since been entered in several concours d’elegance events, where it has won several Best in Class and Peoples’ Choice awards. An accompanying Certificate of Authenticity issued by BMW Group Classic confirms the attested originality of this chassis.

Presently fitted with a set of period-style Michelin radial tires and fully lined manual top, this 502 has been rarely used and exhibited by the present owner since purchase in 2015. The original engine has also been retained and restored by Erwin Brummer, and is to be offered with the chassis, along with several concours trophies. An owner’s manual, tool kit, jack, and spare tire also accompany this fine, bespoke cabriolet. This is an uncommon 502 ideal for an individual with an appreciation for the timeless elegance of a vintage BMW.To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/mo20.