BMWs from the 1950’s and early 1960’s are rare. Before the company experienced the much needed commercial success of the New Class sedans and coupes, which of course led to more recognizable models like the 2002 and 3.0CS, the automaker survived by producing luxury cars with the 501 and its various derivatives serving as the mainstay. Sold in a number of different forms from 1952 until 1965, total production for BMW’s of this period, including both six and eight cylinder models versions of the 501, 502, 2600L, 3200CS, 503 and 507, has been estimated to be roughly 23,000, at the same time when manufacturers like Chevrolet and Ford were selling over 1,000,000 cars a year.
Certain models that fall under the Baroque Angel classification are even more rare, with fewer than 1,000 made of select models, while seeing any BMW powered by the company’s fascinating all-aluminum pushrod V8—let alone three—is a memorable and special occasion in its own right. With this in mind, imagine our excitement when we ran across an array of brief Craigslist ads for three different examples, all in various states of dormancy for sale near Sin City. If the postwar stuff isn’t your style, there is also a 2002 Baur Cabriolet and what could be an Alpina E21 323i that are also up for grabs, while a number of other interesting cars lurk in the background. Each one looks like a serious undertaking as far as projects go, but we’re sure we could make the hypothetical case to save them, provided rust hasn’t completely compromised the underpinnings.
One that seems to have decent potential for being brought back to life is the white on blue 1955 502. The seller is asking $15,200 for it, and it looks like the greenhouse once wore a Webasto sunroof. The underside isn’t pictured and general details are tough to gather from the photos, but there is no major body damage in sight, and things seem complete inside and out. White on blue is a classic BMW color combination that looks good on a number of models including this 502, although condition of everything in sight is on the rough side with replacement and rebuilding likely necessary.
The view of the engine bay isn’t the best either, but the air cleaner and alternator design and positioning seem to indicate the presence of a BMW overhead valve V8, while paint on nearby surfaces suggests the original color may have been something other than white. The 502 and its derivatives, which include the 2.6L, 2600 Luxus, 2600L, 3.2, 3.2 Super, 3200L and 3200S were made from 1954 until 1963, with just under 7,000 units resulting. The seller doesn’t identify which specific 502 model this is, and although displacement could be either 2.6 or 3.2 liters, the shape of the air cleaner suggests the the engine is an early version of the former, perhaps the only variation which used a single Solex 32 PAAJ carburetor. The undercarriage is the big mystery, and will likely determine whether or not the car is restorable.
Although appearances are quite similar in terms of styling, the second 502 is advertised as a 1961 model year, and instead of the wide open Wesbasto roof, features a more conventional sunroof. The asking price is also $15,200, and exterior condition looks about the same as the white one with a straight body and tired paint, while trim, lighting and other bits appear generally complete with the exception of the driver’s side kidney grille. The cloth interior also looks quite a bit more serviceable than the blue upholstery of the other earlier car, while the dash and switchgear seem to be in good order as well.
The engine bay shot of this one allows for a better viewing angle, with the all-aluminum V8 on full display. Much of the equipment looks unchanged from how it was when it left the factory, but, like the rest of the lot, running condition is not advised. The seller doesn’t identify the exact version of this 502 either, but the single carb setup atop the intake manifold wears what looks like the Zenith-style air cleaner.
Last up is the most interesting and perhaps the most valuable of the bunch, the 1963 BMW 3200CS. One of these in good, running condition typically fetches an easy $100,000, but the ask for this one is is $35,200, likely thanks to what could be extensive rust. The 3200CS succeeded the previous V8-powered and Albrecht von Goertz styled 503, and was made from January of 1962 until 1965. Production came to an end after just 603 were built, but attractive Bertone styling that would come to define BMW’s big coupes for the next two generations and the signature Hoffmeister kink both debuted on these special and rare cars.
The one on offer here looks like it may have originally been a color other than white, and has a rough body with lots of rust, and fender arches that have vanished in a few areas. Trim and bumpers also appearing missing, and it looks like the rear end was cut up at some point in the past so larger rectangular tail lights could be fitted. There are no photos of the underside, but its condition will likely decide whether this 3200CS gets restored, or is used in the restoration of another.
One encouraging area, however, is the engine bay. Beneath the large but correct air cleaner assembly sits what is presumably yet another BMW pushrod V8. The 3.2-liter version used in the 3200CS was the most powerful of the series, and developed 160 hp at 5,600 rpm and 181 pound-feet of torque when new, courtesy of twin Zenith 36 NDIX downdraft carbs. Again, whether or not this one can turn over, let alone run is not addressed, but much of the equipment in the engine bay looks correct and unchanged from stock.
The 3200CS was the last of the postwar luxury V8 BMWs made, and the last model to use BMW’s innovative overhead valve V8. This one is quite rough, but seems worthy of further investigation with such low original production numbers, and what is hopefully the original V8, four-speed drivetrain intact. As of this writing, Hagerty places value of a Condition #1 3200CS at $136,000, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, a condition #4 example is said to be worth $41,600.
[Photos via Craigslist.]