BMW 530 MLE Unveiling South Africa
How does one define a legend? Is it perhaps a certain level of achievement that needs to be reached before legendary status can be granted? Or is there a correlation between immediate success and longevity of that success?
How about the progenitor of an entire performance division? The vehicle from which BMW’s M division would descend?
In South Africa, we wanted to race BMW’s, however, BMW didn’t have a racing division. A renowned racing driver by the name of Jochen Neerpasch was enlisted by BMW and soon after that two BMW E12 5 Series’ were prepared for racing. As racing regulations in those days stated, homologation vehicles needed to be created in order for a vehicle to qualify for racing and as such, 110 530 MLE Type 1 vehicles were produced in 1976 by BMW Motorsport as limited edition “homologation” vehicles.
Such was the success of the 530 MLE that 117 Type 2 MLE’s were produced at BMW Plant Rosslyn in 1977. Little did anybody know that this would be the spiritual successor to the original super saloon, the spectacular BMW M5.
Fast forward to 2018 where after years of searching, chassis number 770100 (unit 100) was found and acquired. Having been owned by 530 MLE racing team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie, the matching numbers MLE was in a serious state of disrepair after years of neglect.
Enlisting the help of BMW Group South Africa employees who assembled the original 530 MLE’s, Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations undertook the gargantuan task of restoring this homologation legend to its former glory in October 2018. A year later, the completed vehicle was unveiled at the end of the production line at BMW Plant Rosslyn to a group of factory employees and motoring media.
Accompanying the restored MLE were other vehicles significant to BMW in South Africa such as a 1969 BMW 2000 SA, a 1986 BMW 745i which featured the M88 motor for our market only, a 1986 BMW 333i which was our answer to the E30 M3 which was never sold on local soil, the last BMW 3 Series to have been produced at plant Rosslyn (number 1 191 604) and the very first BMW X3 to have been built at BMW Plant Rosslyn which now supplies Europe with BMW X3 units.
SO there you have it, the story of the forgotten BMW 530 MLE – arguably the most important motor vehicle in the history of BMW M.