Fifteen starts, fifteen wins. Three seasons, three championships. It's the kind of success that the teams behind most new racing machines can only dream of. It's also exactly the record that greeted the E12 5 Series cars entered by BMW into South Africa's Modified Production Series in 1976.
There as here, of course, the car required homologating to validate its track triumphs. One hundred road-going examples were demanded, though BMW far-surpassed what was asked of it, with 110 'Type 1' and 117 'Type 2' cars rolling off the Rosslyn production line in 1976 and '77 respectively. The 530 MLE (Motorsport Limited Edition) had arrived.
Nearly a decade of chequered flags followed for the model, making it the most successful racing 5 Series in BMW history when it was eventually retired in 1985. Such dominance contributed to the success which the road car enjoyed, but was by no means solely responsible for it. The 530 MLE's six-cylinder engine was a factory-fettled version of the same unit found in the 3.0L, with outputs of 197hp and 204lb ft resulting in a 9.3-second 0-62 time and 130mph top speed.
Weight-saving measures included the use of aluminium and thin-gauge steel for the bodywork, hand-drilled panels and components, manual windows and no air conditioning. Available only in white with BMW Motorsport stripes, the car was also fitted with lightweight Mahle wheels beneath its flared arches, vented brakes, Bilstein shock absorbers and a boot-mounted battery.
Despite its pre-M M car status, the significance of the 530 MLE wasn't appreciated in its time, meaning that by the time BMW South Africa decided to restore an example to as-new condition, not a single as-used example could be tracked down. Following years of searching, the company finally found what it was looking in the shape of car #100, once owned by none other than 530 MLE racing team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie's himself.
Despite its beleaguered state, its matching engine and chassis numbers were enough to convince the team that they'd found their mark, and Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations got to work doing what - if his business is anything to go by - he does best. Now, with the help of several former employees who originally worked on the 530 project, he's turned back time, restoring the car to its former glory and unveiling to BMW enthusiasts world-wide. One final victory in the MLE's long-running battle against the clock.