1976 BMW 530M

Father of BMW M restored

Strange as it may seem, when I received the invitation to the unveiling of a painstakingly restored track-inspired BMW 530M, little did I realise that it was to meet a pristinely refettled version of the car known to me and many others as the father of the M5, never mind it in essence being the forbear to all BMW M saloons.  

I remember full well when BMW unleashed the BMW 530M – M for Motorsport Limited Edition – to the South African market in 1976. 530M soon proved an instant cult hit on the street, but it also brought about a thrilling era on track.

The locally developed and built machine was made with one intention in mind – to win the South African Saloon Car Championship, which it went on to do in dominant style as the likes of Eddie Keizan, Paddy Driver, Robbie Smith, Alain Lavoioierre and others thrilled us on the racetracks around the country.  

It’s a great story that stretches back to the early 1970s, when the newly formed BMW South Africa wanted to prove its road cars on the racetrack. It plotted to build a car that would be unbeatable on both road and track and it was decided to build a very special version of the then newly-launched first 5-series to do just that.

However, to qualify to race the car, BMW South Africa first had first sell at least 100 road-going versions to the public. So to satisfy race regulations and to develop the ‘homologation special’, BMW South Africa Motorsport called in M guru and then Head of BMW Motorsport, Jochen Neerpasch and 530M was born.

The recipe was simple –shoehorn a factory-tweaked 147kW 277Nm, 3-litre straight six into a lightened 5 series body. Even the pedals were drilled by hand, while 530M had manual windows, no air conditioner and special Mahle lightweight wheels added to the Superleggera effect. 

The result was spectacular – 530M wast tested at an unheard of 9.3 second 0–100km/h sprint time of and a 208km/h top speed. Built and sold in South Africa only, 110 Type 1 units were produced in 1976, while 117  Type 2 versions rolled off the line in 1977 and they were soon all snapped up. 

On track meanwhile, 530M went on to prove unstoppable in the SA Modified Production Series, debuting in 1976 and racing to fifteen wins from 15 starts in its maiden season, followed by three championship titles in three years to make it the most successful racing BMW 5 Series in history when it was finally retired in 1978.

Roll on 40 years to 2018 and BMW South Africa bought back one of the few 530Ms known to have endured beyond its 70s heyday. Car number 100 also came with a particular pedigree – it was owned by 530M race team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie, complete with matching engine and chassis with numbers. 

Now the car has now been completely restored by four BMW employees, all of whom who had a hand in building the original 530Ms over 40 years ago. Overseen by Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations the four, William Mokwape, Walter Mahlangu, Jacob Matabane and Cassie Calaca proudly grinned as the stunning restored machine was unveiled this week.

“Legendary BMWs such as this 530M and other South Africa-only specials like 325iS, 328iS and the M1-powered 745i all rolled off the assembly line at this plant more than 30 years ago and all of them and others had an integral part in local motor racing,” BMW SA boss Tim Abbott pointed out. “These cars were all locally developed forebears to BMW M and all contributed to that M growing to become the most powerful motoring letter in the world.”

BMW Group’s Plant Rosslyn was the first BMW factory established outside of Germany in 1973 where several models were specially built for the local market until 1990. The restored 530M now joins a growing list of iconic BMWs methodically restored by BMW South Africa in recognition of BMW’s special local history – bravo BMW South Africa! – Mario Lupini