The three letter MLE suffix on a BMW badge is almost lost in the modern rhetoric but if you’re trudging back through BMW South Africa’s lineage to put a date and place to the first M Car, the 530 MLE is considered – under some caveats – to be the genesis that predates the M5. With misty-eyed nostalgia BMW South Africa has taken the time to reflect and restore the legend of the BMW 530 MLE.
It’s the 1970s. Cars like the BMW M1 are still a few years away but South African motorsport is thriving on an international scale, especially at the newly built Kyalami circuit. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday is a mantra employed by all manufacturers and that couldn’t be closer to the truth with the E12 530 MLE which was devised under TGSA’s favourite law, homologation. That word is responsible for everything cool in the transition between road and track.
The 530 MLE (Motorsport Limited Edition) was built at Rosslyn and never existed outside of South Africa’s borders. Purpose-built for Modified Production Racing, the 530 MLE reimagined the 3.0-litre straight six engine with 147kW and 277Nm. 0-100kph in 9.3 seconds meant it wasn’t much slower than a Ferrari 308, which would only arrive in the 1980s. The gearbox was a 5-speed dogleg while weight was drilled out in every conceivable place, including the hinges for the boot and the pedals. It was a special car without resorting to full Batmobile aero. In fact, in form and function the 530 MLE was more in the vein of BMW South Africa’s other homologated model, the 745i.
That said, the car did carry some unique aesthetic treatment to differentiate it from a regular 5er. These include BBS wheels, fatter bumpers, thinner glass and the M Division livery which was white with thin red and blue stripes, identical to the one worn by the new M4 DTM.
Fifteen wins from as many starts along with three championships has earned its place in BMW South Africa’s museum, which includes the M1 and 333i. This example carries some serious provenance and is rumoured to be one of the very few survivors from the 227 homologated models. This is chassis number 770100 – the last three numbers meaning it’s the 100th one built which belonged to driver and the racing 530 MLE’s team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie who is synonymous with BMW’s production car racing including the 325is EVO II.
The restoration of this priceless Type 1 BMW 530 MLE is in the care of Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations, assisted by a team of guys who worked on the original 530 MLE. If that doesn’t get your classic car bones twitching, we’re afraid you might be of the AWD, twin turbo charged, dual clutch era… Andrew Leopold