It took the craftspeople involved a year of painstaking work to bring back the shine to chassis number 770100 but it was definitely worth it. BMW South Africa unveiled the pristine 530 MLE at the BMW Group Plant Rosslyn on October 8 and, as the photos can attest, the homologation special developed especially by BMW Motorsport for South Africa in 1976 now looks as good as new.
Restored by Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations, William Mokwape, Walter Mahlangu, Jacob Matabane and Cassie Calaca, the 530 MLE was unveiled in the presence of four BMW Group South Africa employees who were on hand to built the original more than four decades ago.
The story of the 530 MLE starts in the mid-1970s when BMW South Africa wanted to go racing and decided to build two 5 Series (E12) race cars to compete in the Modified Production Series in South Africa.
With input from BMW Motorsport boss Jochen Neerpasch, the BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) was born and started its first race in 1976. It went on to win its first 15 races and bagged three championship titles in three years. It retired in 1985 as the most successful racing BMW 5 Series in history.
To qualify for entry in the Modified Production Series, BMW South Africa needed to sell at least 100 road-going versions of this first generation BMW 5 Series race car. Due to strong market demand, it ended up making 110 units of the Type 1 in 1976 and 117 versions of the Type 2 in 1977.
Sold as the BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE), the homologation special featured a factory tweaked version of the same six-cylinder engine found in the regular 530. Rated at 147 kW (200 PS / 197 HP) and 277 Nm (204 lb-ft) of torque, the power plant enabled the 530 MLE to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 9.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 208 km/h (129 mph).
These numbers may not be impressive now, but they certainly were four decades ago. More importantly, the 530 MLE paved the way for BMW’s many ventures into track-oriented cars for the road. It featured weight-reduction measures including bodywork and pedals drilled by hand, aluminum body panels, manual windows with no air conditioning, rear bench seat frame removed, and Mahle wheels.