Published on October 13th, 2019 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


BMW South Africa restores its first BMW M model

South Africa is known for its big BMW following and it has been assembling BMW’s for the region and also some ASEAN nations for many years now. Recently, the factory took on a year of “painful” restoration and they documented the whole process and made it into a story to be shared with the rest of the automotive world.

The BMW South Africa subsidiary unveiled a restoration project for a BMW 530 MLE circuit-oriented model, at the “Home of BMW Legends” at the Rosslyn plant on the day on Tuesday, October 8th.

The People Behind The Car

The car was restored by a team of people, BMW employees, who made such cars over 40 years ago: Luis Malhou, William Mokwape, Walter Mahlangu, Jacob Matabane and Cassie Calaca.

The Race Series

The BMW Motorsport division built this model in a very limited edition and it was in fact initially an approved car just for the local racing series.

When BMW’s South African subsidiary decided to compete in the mid-1970s, the company sought out a famous racing driver, who later became BMW Motorsport’s head – Jochen Neerpasch. Shortly thereafter, two BMW 5 Series (E12) units were set to compete in the Modified Production Series in the end-of-the-country country.

The BMW 530 MLE appeared on the starting grid in 1976. There were 15 victories following 15 consecutive starts, and BMW installed its winning stamp on this series of races with three titles won in three years. The BMW 530 MLE was the most successful BMW 5 Series racing in history until it was retired in 1985.

However, in order to qualify for this competition, BMW had to have the car on sale in the South African market. Therefore, it had to sell to the public at least 100 units which would need approval for for circulation and use on public roads. Thus, at the Rosslyn plant, exclusively for the South African market only, in 1976, 110 units of the 530 MLE Type 1 units were built and in 1977 another 117 Type 2 vehicles were built and all found happy owners.

The Engine Power

Under the hood was a petrol engine with six cylinders of 3.0 liters and had been slightly tuned to produce 200 hp and 277 Nm of torque. The acceleration time from 0-100 km/h was a then impressive 9.3 seconds and it had a maximum speed of 208km/h.

From a 5 Series E21, this 530 MLE could be identified as a rather special car as it was designed to reduce its weight. So it had fiberglass bumpers, a few aluminum body panels, slim windows, Mahle wheels , thicker stabilizer bars and stiffer springs for suspension. In the passenger compartment there were sports seats, a three-spoke steering wheel, perforated pedals and manually operated windows.

The Restored Unit

After years of searching, BMW sales in South Africa recently purchased the only 530 MLE it is known to have survived after the 1970s and even if it was not in the best condition, it was the car with the number 100 and the chassis number 770100.

BHP petrol

For the occasion of the restoration, BMW found and brought back those employees who 42 years ago were in charge of the production of the car.

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