There are many stories surrounding the birth of what many regard as the original BMW M5 - from bodyguards not being able to keep up with the principal, to skunkworks-style motorsport development programs. But what's a little less known is the history of the BMW 530 MLE (Motorsport Limited Edition) of the E12 generation of 5 Series, which was essentially a homologation version of a racecar competing in a South African race series.
That's right: the 530 MLE is a homologation special. It was developed by BMW's M Division at the time, which means it predates even the BMW M1 supercar. There were only 227 units ever produced across the lifespan of the E12, and BMW South Africa just managed to find one recently and has decided to restore it to its former glory. Powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six engine pushing 197 hp, it was strong enough to compete in that Modified Production race series.
Suffice to say this will be quite the undertaking for BMW South Africa, although they should understandably be quite proud as they have found a piece of history most were unaware of, allowing them to lay claim to the first-ever BMW M car. The M5 has come a long way since its humble beginnings - whether you regard those as the E12 or the E28 - growing in size and performance, but the essence of the M5 remains true regardless of the execution.