Ads On Test: 1951 BMW 501

We test and evaluate this 1951 BMW 501 for sale

by Richard McCann |
We test and evaluate this 1951 BMW 501 for sale
This 1951 BMW 501 looks good value

A rare, high-impact classic at a reasonable price, this Baroque-Angel BMW is also in great condition, says Richard McCann

BMW’s flagship 501 was a rare and hugely expensive sight even in early post-War Germany, so it’s an exotic and luxurious way to travel in 2022. This example looks and drives much as it would have done more than 70 years ago and is sure to draw an audience wherever it goes. It’s also cheaper than you might expect such an exotic car to be.

That feeling of opulence and quality is still in evidence from behind the wheel. Despite a complicated linkage, the four-speed column gear change is precise and the clutch is light. Steering is direct and nicely-weighted, the chassis communicative and the brakes are correctly set up and perfectly adequate, doing their work without judder, pulling or squealing. The ride is well-damped too. Performance from the rebuilt 2.0-litre ‘six’ is lusty, propelling the car down the road smoothly and quickly enough to keep up well enough with modern traffic. It does so without threatening to overheat either.

The burgundy paintwork presents well with a deep lustre; in some lights the bonnet shows as a slightly different shade and we noted slight cracking to paint on the off-side rear door shut and shrinkage on the offside edge of the bonnet. Panel gaps are good, doors close with a quality ‘thunk’ and the original brightwork is still in beautiful lightly-patinated condition. The original bonnet badge has lost a small area of enamel. Simple original wheel disc trims show some marks and light dents, and the front passenger door release mechanism is sticky, needing a firm action to open it. Fresh-looking Avon Tourist crossply tyres are fitted all round.

Much money has clearly been lavished inside, with period-correct but new-looking tweed upholstery. Door cards, front carpets and headlining are in good order with correct fittings but there is some wear to the carpets in the rear and a couple of knobs are missing on the period Blaupunkt radio. The dash is charmingly original with its art-deco instruments. The original headlining-mounted clock and mother-of-pearl-effect passenger grab handle, often missing on 501s, are present. The ivory-coloured steering wheel is original so the next owner will need to decide if the slight trim ring rust surrounding the ‘Baroque Angel’ motif and small crack should be left as patina, or require refinishing.

As well as MoT certificates from the past three decades, the service history includes many invoices from BMW specialists TT Workshop totalling more than £7500, mostly for engine work.

We noticed a slight exhaust manifold gasket blow, although we are told that this will have been attended to by the time this report appears. Otherwise the compact-looking motor and ancillaries are very well presented and reveal no other areas of concern when checking fluids, belts, hoses and wiring. The manual-choked carburettor allows easy starting and smooth running with the engine showing good charging and oil pressure. The car ran cool during test, and the current MoT certificate includes no advisories.

This BMW 501 is one of four cars for sale tested in this issue of Classic Cars, including this 1976 Porsche 911.

Engine 1971cc inline six-cylinder, ohv, carburettor Power 72bhp @ 4400rpm 0-60mph 26.5sec Top speed 84mph Fuel consumption 27mpg Length 4730mm Width 1780mm

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