Iconic BMW MLE is (almost) ready to rumble again

By Pritesh Ruthun Time of article published Jul 18, 2019

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Johannesburg - A few months ago, we reported on an ambitious project that's been undertaken by BMW South Africa, to restore a vintage 5 Series to its former glory.

The 5’er in question is a rare SA-only built BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE), which is now at an advanced stage of restoration. In April this year, the revival of the classic car began. The car was stripped down from its rusty condition, cleaned and received its first coat of paintwork. A number of new and old parts were laid out, waiting to be assembled into the car.

Earlier this month, the car was re-painted in its original Chamonix White metallic paint, and last Friday the body shell was mounted on to the suspension of the car. The bare engine was also started for the first time after more than 20 years by Tim Abbott, chief executive of BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, and William Mokwape, a retired former employee of BMW Group Plant Rosslyn, who built the car in 1976. The engine will soon be installed into the vehicle.

Why this car?

After years of searching, BMW South Africa acquired one of the only BMW 530 MLEs known to have endured beyond its 1970s heyday. Car number 100, which came with a particular pedigree, 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. In December 2018, BMW South Africa embarked on a journey, in its classic car expedition, to restore this model.

The restoration process includes input from BMW Group South Africa employees who assembled the original vehicles. 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 custom Mahle wheels.

When BMW South Africa wanted to go racing in the mid-1970s, 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 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.

To qualify for entry, however, BMW South Africa had to sell 100 road-going versions of this first-generation BMW 5 Series, known as the 530 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 BMW Group Plant Rosslyn, in 1977.

The six-cylinder engine was a factory tweaked version of the motor found in the 3.0L, boasting figures such as 147kW, 277Nm, a 208km/h top speed and a 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.3 seconds.

The fully restored BMW 530 MLE is scheduled to be unveiled in the last quarter of this year. You can follow #BMW530MLE on social media to see the progress of the restoration.


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