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.
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.
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.
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.