1956 BMW 502 Cabriolet

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BMW introduced their 501 model in April 1951 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It brought with it solid engineering and luxurious appointments, and was priced at over 15,000 DM, making it very much an elite automobile. Peter Szymanowski, one-time head of BMW design, was credited with the car’s styling. The design preserved traditional BMW cues, including the double-kidney grille and flared fenders. The 501, as well as the 502, was nicknamed the ‘Baroque Angel,’ for their flowing, curvaceous appearance.

Powering the Model 501 was a straight-six OHV engine that was mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. It was given an all-new platform, double A-arm front suspension, and a rear live axle with torsion bar springs in both the front and rear.

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In 1954, BMW introduced a derivation of the 501 saloon, the Model 502. It was Germany’s first post-war V8 powered car. The engine displaced 2.6 liters with an aluminum alloy block and an available 100 horsepower. At the time, it was said to be Germany’s fastest production sedan, with a top speed of 100 mph. Along with improved performance, the BMW 502 was fitted with elegant interior fittings. Standard features included fog lamps and individual front seats. Body styles included a coupe, two-door and four-door cabriolet, and a saloon. The coupe and cabriolet bodies were built by Baur, as BMW production facilities had been compromised by the war. The relationship between Baur and BMW extended back to the 1930s; Baur had been building convertibles for BMW since that time.

The BMW 502 Cabriolet bodystyle was introduced for 1956, and 57 examples of the two-door cabriolets were produced by Baur. These cars were sold through the BMW dealer network and built to order. The list price was DM 21,900; delivery times could take up to six months.

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This particular example is a Two-Door Cabriolet with coachwork by Baur. It is one of only two such cars known to be in the United States. The car has been given a restoration since new. It was manufactured on June 2, 1956 and delivered to the firm of Siemens & Halske, AG, in Munich for executive use. It is not known when the car was brought to Canada, but by 1973 it was registered by Dr. Franklin Lam, an Ottawa dentist.

In 2010, Dr. Lam had the idle vehicle towed away. The tow truck driver, Michael Higgins, purchased the car with the intention of restoring it. The project proved too great to complete, so he elected to sell the car. On June 6, 2001, the current owners acquired the car.

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The new owners had the car shipped to Europe for restoration. It was given a Topaz Blue metallic finish (code 364) and a beige leather interior.

The owners took delivery of the refurbished 502 on May 2, 2013. Since the work was completed, the car has competed in several events that have been sponsored by the BMW Vintage & Classic Car Club of America, such as a 1000-mile tour in northern Germany in September 2013 and a 1,000-mile road rally through the Colorado Rockies. The 502 has also been entered in several concours d ‘elegance events, where it has won Best in Class and Peoples’ Choice awards.

The car rides on Michelin radial tires and is powered by a 3.2-liter V8 engine (the original 2.6-liter engine (number 11849) was replaced in favor of the more powerful 3.2-liter unit). The front drum brakes have been exchanged for power-assisted disc brakes.

The main breed of BMW vehicles that ruled the road from 1951 until 1964 were the 500 series. Maybe not the most glamorous of models, these heavy and efficient machines were sturdy and efficient for middle class buyers. They were nick-named the Baroque Angels (Barockengel) due to their baroque-like features and curves.
They carried a more uprated version of the pre-war 2.0 litre six-cylinder engine until 1954 when this was updated by a 2.6 litre V8.

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It wasn’t until 1955 when the 502 was introduced which came with either a new big bore 3.2 litre V8 or an uprated 2.6 litre V8. The V8 remained the same, but with a enlarged six-cylinder at 2.1 litres.

1957 brought along the 502 3.2 litre ‘Super’. The 501 reached its production end time in 1961, though the six-cylinder kept their original names and continued to be sold.

At the time in 1959, both servo and front disc brakes were optional, but became standard on the 3.2 Super, and a year later, on the standard 3.2. The 3.2 became the 3200L and the 3200 Super or 3200S became the new name for 3.2 super.

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Made and produced in Germany, the V8 with 160bhp joined the ranks of the fastest engines in the world at the time.

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