The first M car. I hail from South Africa and enjoy reading your magazine when it presents itself on our newsagents’ shelves. I love older BMWs but I am I fond of various other marques, too. I own a few classic Bavarian models and derive great pleasure from working on and restoring all of them, including a 1991 BMW 850Ci E31, a 1967 1602, a 1969 2002, a 1976 BMW 530MLE E12 and my daily-driver, an E90 BMW 335i.
I read the article Ultimate Driving Machines and must offer some information that pushes the Ml from its position as the first M-car to second. Although it’s generally thought that the Ml – which was launched in 1978 – was the original M-car, there is another model that beats it to wearing an ‘M’ badge by almost two years.
The South African BMW M530 or MLE (Motorsport Limited Edition) was one of the first road- going BMW vehicles that was stamped M and included a host of performance items as standard rather than as options. It was developed by the ‘M’ department of BMW Germany and Schnitzer.
The hot E12 5 Series was instigated at the request of BMW AG, the firm’s South African agent that used to contest the local Production Saloon racing series.
One car was designed and fettled in Germany and then flown to South Africa to be copied and used as the template for the 530MLE. In total, 105 road going versions were built – mostly by hand and all identical – at the Rosslyn plant, and they were quickly snapped up.
This allowed the new model to compete in the tin-top racing series, having met the homologation requirement for 100 cars to be sold locally for a vehicle to be eligible.
Currently there are about 12 cars known to survive, of which only four are thought to be in running condition – mine being number 21.1 gave it a 111L nut-and-bolt restoration two years ago, since when it has been featured in several magazines.
You can find out more on the internet at the E12 Registry’s website firstfives.org, where the cars’ history and specifications are outlined in greater detail. Please keep up the good work and informative articles across the various car marques.
Luis Malhou Vanderbijlpark, South Africa.