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#Kyalami9Hour: An A to Z guide

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Restoration of a forgotten icon: the SA-only built BMW 530 MLE

2019-07-15 15:00
bmw 530 mle

Image: BMW

The restoration of the SA-only built BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) is now at an advanced stage. In April this year, the revival process of the legendary 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 neatly laid out waiting to be assembled into various parts of the car.

At the beginning of July 2019, car number 100 was painted to its original Chamonix White metallic paint. Friday, 12 July saw another milestone of the restoration being reached – the body shell mounted onto the suspension of the car.

READ: BMW 530 MLE restoration underway

bmw 530 mle

 BMW CEO Tim Abbott and Mr William Mokwape, a retired former employee of BMW Group Plant Rosslyn who built the car in 1976.  Image: BMW SA

The bare engine was also started for the first time after more than 20 years by Mr Tim Abbott, CEO of BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, and Mr 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.

The restoration journey

After years of searching, BMW South Africa acquired one of the only BMW 530 MLEs known to have endured beyond its 70s 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.

READ: SA's BMW 530 MLE - revival of the original

In December 2018, BMW South Africa embarked on an exciting journey in its classic car expedition to restore this lauded model. The restoration process included the input of BMW Group South Africa employees who assembled the original vehicles.

bmw 530 mle

                                                      Image: BMW SA

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 Mahle wheels.

Forgotten beginnings

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 flagship 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.

bmw 530 mle

                                                       Image: BMW SA

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 same 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. It proved to be an early step of BMW Motorsport’s ventures into track oriented cars for the road.

bmw 530 mle

                                                     Image: BMW SA

A place where legends were born – BMW Group Plant Rosslyn.

South Africa enjoys a long history of rare and storied BMW special editions. In 1973, BMW Group Plant Rosslyn was the very first BMW plant established outside of Germany and several models were specially built for the local market until 1990.

A growing list of these have been meticulously restored by BMW South Africa in later years, including the cult classic BMW 333i and BMW 325iS. The restoration of the 1976 BMW 530 MLE, is led by Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations. 

bmw 530 mle

                                                    Image: BMW SA

The restored BMW 530 MLE is scheduled to be unveiled in the last quarter of this year (2019).

Follow #BMW530MLE on social media to see the progress of the restoration.

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