The E12 530 MLE (South African Motorsport Limited Edition homologation special).

The first time BMW Motorsport had ever created an official Motorsport special from a production vehicle and maybe the only 5 series factory special specifically developed for racing. Produced in right hand drive for the South African market.

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E12 533i Motorsport

The prototype for the first full M-tuned production car from BMW. Up to this point, BMW Motorsport would produce hotter versions of the E12 5 series by special request for company VIPs and executives as well as select customers. These vehicles weren’t official models that could be purchased from a dealership and had standard (non-Motorsport) VINs. Only about 200 of the E12 533i were produced and the car served as a prototype for the first BMW Motorsport product that was available to the public (M1 aside) and based on an existing production vehicle. Very rare and very hard to find today.

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E12 M535i

The first official production vehicle tuned by BMW Motorsport. The M535i was the hottest 5 series that one could buy at the time and the granddaddy of the M5, which wouldn’t appear until the next generation of 5 series (E28). The M535i had BMW’s 3.5 litre M90 engine (basically an M88 block with a SOHC head) and produced 218 hp, good for a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds. Again, remember the context and that this was 1981. Interior appointments included the steering from the BMW M1, Recaro corduroy seats, a short-ratio dogleg gearbox and optional motorsports stripes. Based on rarity alone, I’d take one of these over an E28 M5.

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Other early BMW Motorsport products included the more well-known E9 3.0 CSL (aka the “Batmobile”), the E10 2002 Turbo (or “obruT”) and of course the E26 M1.

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