Just over a year ago we reported that BMW South Africa had embarked on restoring a 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) and now, after a year of painstaking restoration, BMW SA unveiled the track-inspired BMW 530 MLE at the “Home of BMW Legends”, BMW Group Plant Rosslyn.
This classic project car was a limited edition “homologation” special developed specially by BMW Motorsport for South Africa and has been shown to four BMW Group South Africa employees who were on hand to build the original more than four decades ago.
Powering this gem is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine boasting figures such as 147 kW, 277 Nm, a 208 km/h top speed and a 0 to 100 km/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.
The long road back to recognition*
When BMW South Africa wanted to go racing in the mid-1970s, the company 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 South Africa.
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 three years. The BMW 530 MLE was the most successful racing BMW 5 Series in history when it was retired in 1985.
To qualify for entry, however, BMW South Africa had to sell 100 road-going versions of this first generation BMW 5 Series, known as the 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE), to the public. Developed by BMW Motorsport as a limited edition “homologation” model for South Africa, 110 units of the Type 1 were produced in 1976, while 117 versions of the Type 2 rolled off the production line at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn 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.
Car number 100
After years of searching, BMW South Africa in 2018 acquired one of the only BMW 530 MLEs known to have endured beyond its 70s heyday. Car number 100 came 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.
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.
South Africa enjoys a long history of rare and storied BMW special editions. In 1973, BMW Group Plant Rosslyn was the very 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 methodically restored by BMW South Africa in later years, including the cult classic BMW 333i.
*taken verbatim from BMW South Africa press release