Last year, BMW South Africa promised that it would restore the track-inspired 530 MLE, aka the first (unofficial) M car, and boy have they delivered on that promise!
Beating the M1 supercar to the market by two years, the 530 MLE was developed by the German carmaker’s South African arm in 1976 to go racing and so two 5 Series (E12) race cars were built to compete in the Modified Production Series. The MLE (Motorsport Limited Edition) was born and it won its first 15 races and brought home three championship titles in three years before retiring in 1985. However, to first qualify for the Modified Production Series, BMW South Africa had to sell 100 road-going versions but thanks to a healthy demand from the market, it made 110 units of the Type 1 in 1976 and 117 of the Type 2 in 1977. The homologation special had a carbureted, 3.0-litre straight-six making 197 horses and 277Nm of torque and it could do 0-100kph in 9.3 seconds and had a top speed of 208kph.
Those performance figures may not be fast by today’s standards but 40 years ago it made the MLE the hottest 5 Series in the world. And it sure looked hot thanks to a full body kit (including fender flares and a spoiler) and available only in white paint with BMW Motorsport stripes. It rode on lightweight Mahle wheels and featured vented brakes and Bilstein shocks.
With so few built, finding an example to restore proved a challenge - but one was eventually found – and it just happened to be chassis number 770100. Rotting away in the possession of former team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie, it took Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations and his craftspeople a year to bring car number 100 back to life.
Once it was completed, it was presented before four of BMW’s engineers - William Mokwape, Walter Mahlangu, Jacob Matabane and Cassie Calaca - who worked on the original, and it looks so good that you can join them and us by weeping with joy.