Back in 2016, BMW Group South Africa refurbished an M1 and an SA-only BMW 333i, before moving on to the legendary 325iS in 2018 (although this example of the Gusheshe was sadly soon thereafter involved in a crash). The latest vehicle set to receive a full restoration from the local arm of the Munich-based firm? None other than a 1976 BMW 530 MLE.
Of course, the 530 MLE (that’s Motorsport Limited Edition) was also exclusive to South Africa, built as a homologation special at Plant Rosslyn in Pretoria to allow the firm to go racing in the Modified Production Series.
After what it describes as “years of searching”, BMW SA explains it recently acquired “one of the only” 530 MLEs known to have survived. Car number 100 (with a serial number of 770100) was in fact was owned by driver and team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie, and comes with matching engine and chassis numbers.
Now, pleasingly with the input of some of the very BMW employees who assembled the original vehicles at Plant Rosslyn, this 530 MLE will be fully restored, with the process set to be led by Luis Malhou (who himself owns a meticulously restored example) of Custom Restorations.
So, some specs. Under the bonnet, you’ll find a 3,0-litre six-cylinder engine (essentially a tweaked version of the same unit found in the 3.0L) churning out 147 kW and 277 N.m, mated to a Getrag-sourced five-speed close-ratio dogleg gearbox. This allowed a top speed of 208 km/h and a claimed zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 9,3 seconds.
Rosslyn-produced vehicles enjoyed various weight-reduction measures, including bodywork and pedals drilled by hand, manual windows (sorry, no air-conditioning here, sir) and BBS Mahle wheels.
As BMW points out, when the firm wanted to go racing in the mid-1970s, it sought help from German racing driver and head of BMW Motorsport, Jochen Neerpasch. Soon thereafter, two E12-generation 5 Series race cars were prepared for the Modified Production Series here in South Africa. The 530 MLEs secured fifteen wins from as many consecutive starts, with BMW thus grabbing three championship titles in three years.
To qualify for entry into the series, BMW South Africa was required to sell 100 road-going versions of this first-generation 5 Series to the public. Interestingly, 110 units of the Type 1 were produced in 1976, while 117 versions of the Type 2 rolled off the production line the following year. And now one is being brought back to life.
Ryan has spent most of his career in online media, writing about everything from sport to politics and other forms of crime. But his true passion – reignited by a 1971 Austin Mini Mk3 still tucked lifeless in a dark corner of his garage – is of the automotive variety.