After a year of painstaking restoration, BMW South Africa has unveiled its latest restoration project – the track-inspired BMW 530 MLE; a limited edition “homologation” special developed specially by BMW Motorsport for South Africa.
The priceless 530 MLE now returns to the “Home of BMW Legends” at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn.
The story of the 530 MLE dates back to the mid-1970s when BMW South Africa wanted to go racing. 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.
But, to qualify for entry, BMW South Africa had to sell 100 road-going versions of the E12, 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 Rosslyn in 1977.
The 530 MLE was fitted with a factory tweaked version of the 3.0-litre engine found in the (E12) 530 production model that produced 197 hp and 277 Nm of torque. The 530 MLE was capable of sprinting from 0 – 100km/h in 9.3 seconds and had a top speed of 208km/h. Not brisk by today’s standards but note this was a four-door sedan from the mid-seventies.
The 530 MLE proved to be an early step of BMW’s foray into track-oriented cars for the road.
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 BMWs have been methodically restored in later years, including the cult classic, Africa-only (E30 – affectionately called Gusheshe) BMW 333i.
The 530 MLE was restored by Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations.