BMW South Africa To Restore 530 MLE, AKA The World’s First Unofficial M Car

After years of searching, BMW South Africa has recently bought of the very few remaining 530 MLEs in order to restore it back to its former glory.

Not many know the story of the BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE), a South Africa-exclusive homologation special of the E12 5-Series. The 530 MLE was created in order for BMW to qualify for entry in South Africa’s Modified Production racing Series with a pair of E12 5-Series race cars.

Developed by BMW Motorsport, the 530 MLE was produced in 110 examples in Type 1 specification in 1976 and 117 examples in Type 2 spec in 1977, making it the first true (but unofficial) M car to enter production, beating the M1 by 2 years. BMW South Africa was so overwhelmed by the demand for the 530 MLE that they decided to build an additional batch of cars to satisfy more customers.

Power came from a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that was modified from the factory to produce 197hp (200PS/147kW) and 204lb-ft (277Nm) of torque. BMW claimed a 0-62mph (100km/h) in 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 129mph (208km/h).

This very special version of the E12 5-Series was produced at BMW’s Rosslyn factory in South Africa with a unique specification that included parts of the body made out of aluminum and light gauge steel to save weight. They went as far as drilling holes in the bootlid hinges and other panels, as well as the driver’s pedals, while the rear bench lost its steel frame.

All cars were finished in white, featuring a low front spoiler, a rear wing and wider fenders, while the wheels were lightweight Mahle items. The exterior was completed with the classic BMW Motorsport stripes running across the length of the car.

BMW South Africa bought chassis number 770100, the 100th car out of the production run. The company even brought employees who assembled the original cars for their input in the restoration process.

The specific car belonged to race driver and the racing 530 MLE’s team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie and is a numbers-matching example. The company will share the progress of the restoration on its social media channels with the #BMW530MLE, in case you want to check it out.


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