Generations Timeline, Specs and Pictures
After WWII, BMW tried to make its move and return to the automotive industry.
And its first model for a limousine was a big car that almost buried the brand.
The BMW 501 could be served as a lesson for trials and errors. The BMW was finally cleared to build cars, stepping up from motorcycles and mini-vehicles such as the Isetta. The company engineers dig up for former good vehicles in the library and pulled out a chassis and the engine from the pre-war model 326 and tried to make a car. The result was a heavy, baroque design, vehicle. It had the name 501 and the nickname Baroque-Angel.
The 501 was intended to be used by the new upper-class managers from Germany. The direct competitor was Mercedes-Benz. The long, flared wheel arches and the rear-hinged doors provided excellent access to the comfortable rear seats. It had a strange technical solution for the gearbox that was mounted further away from the engine. The torque was sent to that via a short drive-shaft and from there on to the rear wheels.
The price was lower than the main competitor, the Mercedes-Benz 220, but the car was ready to be delivered only in late 1952. The delay of the delivery put the BMW in a difficult financial situation. To gain the lost ground, the Munich based company installed a V8 engine under the hood in 1954 for the 502 model, which was more of a 501 version than a new model. Both cars had poor sales despite the technical quality. The price to develop the vehicles and the new V8 engine was high.