BMW resurrects legendary 530 MLE

07 February 2019 - 15:27 By Motor News Reporter
Car number 100 of South Africa-only homologation special built at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn to be subjected to full restoration. Picture: SUPPLIED
Car number 100 of South Africa-only homologation special built at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn to be subjected to full restoration. Picture: SUPPLIED

One of the last of the original motorsport-inspired BMW 5 Series models has been unearthed in SA.

BMW SA will restore a 530 MLE, unveiled by some of the very men who built the original more than 42 years ago, to its former glory.

The history of the 530 MLE dates back to the mid-1970s when BMW SA wanted to go racing and sought out famous racing driver and head of BMW Motorsport Jochen Neerpasch. Shortly thereafter, two of the first generation BMW 5 Series (E12) race cars were prepared to compete in the flagship Modified Production Series in SA.

The BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) rolled up to the starting line in the Modified Production Series in 1976. Fifteen wins from 15 consecutive starts followed, and BMW stamped its authority on the racing series with three championship titles in as many years. The BMW 530 MLE was the most successful racing BMW 5 Series in history when it was retired in 1985.

To qualify for motor-racing entry, however, BMW SA had to sell 100 road-going versions of this first-generation BMW 5 Series to the public. Developed by BMW Motorsport as a limited edition homologation model for SA, 110 units of the Type 1 were produced in 1976, while 117 versions of the Type 2 rolled off BMW’s Rosslyn line in 1977.

The six-cylinder engine was a factory-tweaked version of the same motor found in the 3.0l, boasting figures such as 147kW, 277Nm, a 208km/h top speed and a 0–100km/h sprint time of 9.3 seconds. It proved to be an early step of BMW’s ventures into track-oriented cars for the road.

After years of searching, BMW SA recently acquired one of the only BMW 530 MLEs known to have endured beyond its ‘70s heydays. Car number 100 comes with a particular pedigree — it was owned by race driver and the racing 530 MLE’s team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie, and its engine and chassis numbers are a matching set.

Now, with the input of BMW SA employees who assembled the original vehicles, the 530 MLE will be restored to its glory. Unique in the world, the Rosslyn-produced vehicles saw weight-reduction measures that included bodywork and pedals drilled by hand, manual windows with no air conditioning, and Mahle wheels.

SA enjoys a long history of rare and storied BMW special editions. In 1973, Rosslyn was the first BMW plant established outside of Germany and several models were specially built for the local market until 1990.

A growing list of these have been meticulously restored by BMW SA in later years, including the cult classic BMW 333i and the 325i “Gusheshe”.

The restoration of the 1976 BMW 530 MLE, which is the latest to join this legendary list, will be led by Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations.