BMW 503 owned by motorsport legend John Surtees heads to auction

An incredibly rare BMW 503, owned by the late John Surtees, will take centre stage at the Bonhams Goodwood SpeedWeek auction.

Surtees is remarkable for being the only person to have won both Formula One and Motorcycle Grand Prix world championships. 

His ownership elevates what is already a desirable model to a truly unique collectors item.

John Surtees BMW 503

Competing in motorcycle racing as a teenager, John Surtees would move to Grand Prix events in 1952. In 1955 he accepted a factory ride for Norton, before switching to MV Augusta for 1956. 

Surtees would go on to win the 350cc Grand Prix world championship three times, and the top-class 500cc title an incredible four times. He also took victory at the Isle of Man TT. 

He swapped to racing on four wheels in 1960, and was recruited by Ferrari’s Formula One team in 1963. The following season would see him claim the World Drivers’ Championship with the Italian team, cementing his ability on both two and four wheels. 

After retiring from racing in 1972, Surtees remained active in the racing world until his death at the age of 83 in 2017. The previous year had seen him awarded a CBE for his services to motorsport.

John Surtees BMW 503

Introduced in 1956, BMW intended the 503 to attract American buyers to the brand. This followed the success of Mercedes-Benz models like the 300SL on the other side of the Atlantic. 

Related to the 502 saloon, the 503 was offered in both coupe and convertible body styles. This meant keeping the same 3.2-litre V8 engine, but with mechanical tweaks taking output to 140hp. 

Made only for three years, a grand total of 413 examples of the 503 were built. This included 138 convertibles, with just three created in a right-hand drive layout.

John Surtees BMW 503

This particular 1957 model was ordered for Mrs Aldington of the family-owned AFN Ltd. At the time, AFN acted as the UK importer for BMW cars, and would later be responsible for Porsche, too. 

John Surtees purchased the 503 in 1987, when AFN Ltd was sold to Porsche. Having been left in a workshop for a number of years, the BMW was in relatively good condition. 

However, this did not stop Surtees from employing the skills of leading BMW experts to undertake a thorough restoration of the 503. The attention to detail ensured that even features like the hydraulically folding soft-top roof operated as they should.

John Surtees BMW 503

Surtees continued to use the BMW 503 as his personal car, with the V5C document still showing his name. A comprehensive history folder details the work that was undertaken whilst the car was in Surtees’ ownership. 

Given the rarity of right-hand drive 503s to begin with, the famous former keeper only adds to the expected sale price. Bonhams has suggested that this special BMW should achieve between £220,000 and £260,000 when the hammer falls. 

For comparison, a 1957 BMW 507 from the Surtees estate was sold by Bonhams in 2018. It set a new auction world record for BMWs, reaching an incredible £3.8 million.

The Goodwood SpeedWeek sale will take place on Saturday, 17th October with a wealth of impressive classics also up for grabs.

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