The 501 was no competition for the 340, although - at least in the first version - it was technically similar. In this case its aim was too much in the direction of the luxury class. In the development, it distanced itself further and further away, particularly in the case of the eight-cylinder engine, by the way, considering the size of the series, it was the world's first aluminium V8. Its engine control also exhibited a speciality. Although this had only one bottom-mounted camshaft, the rocker-shaft was mounted onto very long steel bolts, the same material and approx. the same length as the push-rods. The result was: Despite the aluminium cylinder block, there was only a very small change in the valve-play at varying temperatures.
It was fittingly nicknamed the 'Baroque Angel', whereby probably, the generous shape was meant. After all, who has ever seen a saloon car where the front mudguards reach all the way back to the rear doors? What then happened, simply had to happen: When it appeared, the specialist magazines praised it for being the first West-German BMW after the war, indeed, as far the sales were concerned, it was a flop and without an immediate successor. To make things worse, there was the matter of production costs. Because the car could not be produced efficiently, each car that was produced, cost BMW an estimated 5.000 German marks.
This wasn't being fair to the car at all. Sure, a body that was supported by a carrier-frame was definitely not the state of the art. Also having a gearbox that was separated from the engine meant higher effort in the assembly. The carrier-frame was thus, also the reason, why torsion bar springs were used both front and rear. At least, through the additional wishbone, a perfectly guided rigid axle was achieved. On top of that, the front wishbones had needle-bearings and the steering was rack and pinion type, even if it was still the curved shape.
Somehow, everything about this car was different, sometimes antiquated, sometimes modern. Belonging to the latter category, were the hanging pedals, at that time by no means usual, which, like almost everything in this car operated light and smoothly. The clutch was of course, also hydraulically operated. Typical for the 501/502, was the peculiarly arranged four-spoke steering wheel, which can easily be seen from the outside. If one were to watch someone working the wheel to get around a bend, one would think that the steering was indirect, which it wasn't, unfortunately it also didn't keep any road influences from the driver.
Oh yes, in the first models, one could then also experience the driver using the steering column gearshift. The gearbox wasn't always that quiet either, it did however, make place for the middle passengers legs by being mounted under the front seat. The V8-engine was highly praised for its elasticity and smooth running. It had already been available with less performance in the 501, which also had the large rear windscreen of the 502. Quite typical was a further peculiarity of the decision makers at BMW: The car was never given an automatic transmission, not really beneficial, considering that the cars were to be sold on the US market. 04/15