Road And Race BMW 530 MLE Variants Were Reunited At The Legendary Kyalami Grand Prix Race Track
Fast sedans are commonplace these days, with practically every auto manufacturer on the planet having at least one quick family-friendly sedan on offer. Yet that wasn’t always the case and BMW was instrumental in the creation of this segment.
Most people will immediately point to the 1979 M535i (the first M-badged BMW) as the OG sports sedan but three years earlier the South Africa-only 530 MLE was already testing the waters. This model was developed as a homologation special to compete in the flagship Modified Production Series in South Africa, just 227 road-going 530 MLE’s were built along with two racing variants.
Equipped with a tuned 197hp 3.0-liter inline-six (the most powerful 5 Series of the time), the MLE could sprint to 62mph in 9.3-seconds and top out at 130mph. Other unique changes saw weight-reduction measures that included bodywork and pedals drilled by hand, manual windows, no air conditioning and Mahle wheels.
The two race variants, meanwhile, went on to dominate the Modified Production Series and took 15 wins in as many starts in 1976 as well as securing three back-to-back championships, making the MLE the most successful racing 5 Series in the company’s history. The racing car you see in these pictures is the sole survivor from those heady racing days, having been recently restored by specialists EVO2, its twin sadly succumbed to the rigors of racing long ago.
Not many of the road cars have made it through the past four decades either, and BMW South Africa took some time to find the perfect candidate to restore. This car is number 100 of the 227 built and once belonged to the 530 MLE’s team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie. Its engine and chassis numbers are a matching set.
It was in poor shape when it was discovered but after a nut and bolt restoration—with the input of BMW employees who assembled the original vehicles—the road-going 530 MLE was brought back to its original glory just in time to join its racing stablemate at the 2019 BMW M Festival held at the Kyalami racing circuit in October. These two rare vehicles were once again back in their natural habitat and it’s great to see such an important part of BMW’s heritage out on display for a new generation of motoring fans to enjoy.
Images courtesy of BMW