BMW has in South Africa found the car that can be seen as the progenitor of all BMW M models. After years of searching, one of the few remaining 530 MLE’s was bought there to restore to its former glory.
BMW M is the sporting department of BMW. Over the past few decades cars have come to life here as the M1, M3, M5, M635 CSi and M3 CSL. All models with faster engines, a modified chassis and aerodynamic adjustments. The first copies were homologation models – cars that were built for the street so BMW could race with it. The letter ‘M’ stands for Motorsport.
The first official BMW M was the M1, but this car probably never came without a barely known predecessor: the BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE). This was a South African exclusive homologation special of the E12 5 Series from the seventies. The 530 MLE was developed to qualify BMW for participating in the Modified Production Racing series in South Africa with a pair of E12 5 Series race cars.
Of the 530 MLE, developed by BMW Motorsport, 110 copies were produced in Type 1 specification in 1976 and one year later 117 copies in Type 2 specification. This made it the first real M-car that was taken into production. The letter M was not yet on the back, but already on the chassis plate.
Under the flap was not too strong 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, which was increased to 200 hp at the factory. The torque was 277 Newton meters. This accelerated the car from 0-100 km/h in 9.3 seconds. The top speed was 208 km/h.
This very special version of the E12 5 Series was produced at the BMW Rosslyn plant in South Africa with a unique specification. For example, parts of the body were made of aluminium and thin-walled steel. Holes were also drilled in the handles of the tailgate and other panels, as well as the pedals, were drilled through.
All cars were delivered in white, with a low front spoiler, a rear wing and wider mudguards and equipped with lightweight Mahle wheels. The exterior was fitted with classic BMW Motorsport stripes along the entire length of the car.
BMW South Africa bought chassis number 770100, the hundredth car that was produced. This car belonged to driver and race team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie. For the restoration, BMW hired employees who assembled the original cars at the time. The restoration can be followed via social media with the hashtag #BMW530MLE. On the picture below, you can see what the end result should be.