E12 M535i
Production Data
Special Versions
Colors and Upholstery
Production Versions
4701: European-spec (LHD), 04/1980 through 05/1981
4702: European-spec (RHD), 07/1980 through 05/1981
4708: South African-spec (RHD), 02/1981 through 07/1981
4709: South-African-spec (RHD), 09/1981 through 12/1984
What makes the E12 M535i unique?
The E12 M535i is the only official BMW Motorsport-developed version of the E12 5 Series. It is the only E12 model powered by the 3.5-liter M30 inline-six from the E23 735i and E24 635CSi. It also has a BMW Motorsport-tuned chassis and several unique cosmetic items.
Where was the E12 M535i produced?
European-spec E12 M535i models were partially assembled on the normal 5 Series production line at Dingolfing then hand-finished at the BMW Motorsport facility on the Preussenstrasse in Munich. South African-spec versions were assembled in BMW's Rosslyn, South Africa factory from Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits supplied from Germany.
When was the E12 M535i introduced?
The E12 M535i was introduced at the 1979 Frankfurt motor show.
Was the E12 M535i the first 5 Series produced by BMW Motorsport?
Though the M535i was the first official 5 Series model with its own distinct "M" designation, BMW Motorsport GmbH had been quietly equipping 5 Series sedans with larger M30 motors and upgraded chassis components since 1974. Never formally part of the BMW model range, these early Motorsport E12s were converted from standard 525, 528 or 528i sedans shipped directly from the Dingolfing assembly line to the BMW Motorsport facility on the Preussenstrasse in Munich. Initially, they were fitted with 3.0-liter M30 inline-six from the larger E3 sedans and E9 coupes in either carburetted or fuel-injected form. Later, however, both the 3.2-liter and 3.4-liter versions of the fuel-injected M30 engine also became available. When equipped with these larger engines, the 5 Series sedans also received a shorter 3.45:1 rear axle ratio with limited slip differential, a revised exhaust system, Bilstein shocks, rear disc brakes, a reinforced rear axle and 195/70VR14 tires on 7x14-inch BBS cross-spoke alloy wheels with center caps bearing the BMW Motorpsort logo. Tri-color Motorsport stripes could be applied to the body as an option, and a BMW Motorsport three-spoke steering wheel and sport seats made by Recaro or Scheel were also offered. Because these special Motorsport E12s retained the VIN from the original donor vehicle, it is difficult to determine how many were produced, though several sources claim there were a total of 895 built from 1974 through 1980.
Why was the E12 M535i never officially sold in North America?
The E12 M535i was never officially sold in North America because the 3.5-liter M30 engine was not yet available with a catalyst and therefore could not meet U.S. emission control standards. Also, the addition of such equipment, as well as the various government-mandated safety items, would have reduced performance to essentially that of a North American-spec 528i.
Production Data
How many versions of the E12 M535i were developed?
Two versions of the E12 M535i were produced by BMW Motorsport GmbH exclusively for the European market, one in left-hand drive and another in right-hand drive. In addition, BMW of South Africa assembled its own right-hand drive version of the E12 M535i from German-supplied Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits. An updated M535i also existed as part of the "hybrid" E12/E28 range that was produced exclusively in South Africa between 1981 and 1984.
How many of each version were produced?
ECE (LHD): 960 produced from 04/1980 through 05/1981
ECE (RHD): 450 produced from 07/1980 through 05/1981
SA (RHD): 240 produced (assembled from CKD kits) from 02/1981 through 07/1981
SA (RHD)*: 1,416 produced (assembled from CKD kits) from 09/1981 through 12/1984
*Special E12/E28 hybrid model. See Speical Versions.
What kind of engine powers the E12 M535i?
The E12 M535i is powered by the early version of the M30 inline-six with a bore of 93.4mm and a stroke of 84.0mm for a total displacement of 3,453cc. This SOHC iron-block unit utilizes Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and produces 218 hp (DIN) at 5,200 rpm and 224 lb/ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. This engine was not offered with emission controls. Note: South African-spec models, though powered by essentially the same engine, are rated at 214 hp (DIN) and 229 lb/ft of torque.
What kind of gearboxes were available in the E12 M535i?
There were two different five-speed manual gearboxes fitted to the E12 M535i. All European-spec models were equipped with the Getrag close-ratio unit featuring a "dogleg" shift pattern and the following ratios: 3.72 (1), 2.40 (2), 1.77 (3), 1.26 (4), 1.00 (5). This same gearbox was also offered as an option on the South African-built model, though most were equipped with the more common Getrag overdrive manual transmission with the following ratios: 3.82 (1), 2.20 (2), 1.40 (3), 1.00 (4), .81 (5). Regardless of the gearbox option, all E12 M535i models were equipped with a 3.07:1 final drive and limited slip differential.
How is the E12 M535i's suspension different from that of the standard E12 5 Series?
The basic suspension design of the E12 M535i is similar to that of all E12 5 Series models, with MacPherson struts in front and a semi-trailing arm design in the rear. However, it has been tuned by BMW Motorsport and is therefore equipped with unique springs and Bilstein shocks. Steering is by recirculating ball, with engine-speed-sensitive power assist and an overall ratio of 16.9:1.
What kind of brakes does the E12 M535i have?
Every E12 M535i has four-wheel disc brakes. The vented front rotors measure 11-inches (280mm) in diameter and are no larger than those fitted to other six-cylinder E12 models. However, at 25mm in thickness, they are 3mm thicker than all other E12 rotors. The solid rear rotors measure 10.7-inches (272mm) in diameter and are identical to those used on other E12 models. ABS was not available.
What are the factory wheel and tire sizes for the E12 M535i?
All E12 M535i models are fitted with 195/70VR14 tires but there were two different wheel options. All European-spec models are equipped with 6.5x14-inch BBS cross-spoke alloys while South African-spec versions use a slightly wider 7x14-inch version of a similar design made by BBS/Mahle. The latter also feature unique center caps bearing the BMW Motorsport logo.
What distinguishes the exterior of the E12 M535i from that of a standard 5 Series?
The exterior of the E12 M535i can be identified by its unique body-color front airdam, black rubber rear spoiler and tri-color BMW Motorsport stripes on the side bodywork and front airdam. However, these items were technically listed as "special equipment" and could be omitted upon request in order to give the car the stealthy appearance of a standard 5 Series. In addition, the "M535i" grille and decklid badging could be deleted as well. However, the 14-inch cross-spoke alloy wheels were fitted to every M535i.
How is the exterior of the South African E12 M535i different from that of the German-built version?
The South African-spec M535i was not offered with the front airdam, rear spoiler or Motorsport stripes of the European-spec model. However, it was equipped with the "M535i" grille and decklid badging as well as a pair of large front foglights. It was also fitted with 7x14-inch BBS/Mahle cross-spoke alloy wheels featuring special center caps bearing the BMW Motorsport logo.
What distinguishes the interior of the E12 M535i from that of a standard 5 Series?
Though it shares its basic design and layout with that of the standard E12 5 Series, the interior of the E12 M535i contains two special features: Front sport seats made by Recaro covered in a unique corduroy fabric, leatherette or optional leather (ASS sport seats in black cloth with central Motorsport stripes were also available by special order) and a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel featuring the BMW Motorpsort logo, identical to the one used in the M1 sports car.
How is the interior of the South African E12 M535i different from that of the German-built version?
The interior of the South African-spec E12 M535i is essentially identical to that of the German-built version, though it is fitted with additional standard equipment including air conditioning, power windows and central locking.
What features were optional on the E12 M535i?
The lengthy option list for the E12 M535i consisted of fog lights (not available with the front and rear spoilers), headlight washer/wipers, passenger-side rearview mirror, leather upholstery (or leatherette at no extra charge), ASS sport seats with Motorsport stripes, passenger seat height adjustment, velour floor mats, fire extinguisher, rear headrests, green tinted glass, brown tinted glass, air conditioning (including green-tinted glass), manual sunroof, power sunroof, power windows (all around or front only), central locking, various audio systems and a power antenna. In addition, the front airdam, rear spoiler and Motorsport exterior stripes were listed as "special equipment," presumably at extra charge. Note: Right-hand drive models (both ECE and South African) included many of these optional items as standard equipment.
Special Versions
Were there any special versions of the E12 M535i?
There were no official factory special editions of the E12 M535i. However, an earlier "Motorsport Special Edition" E12 530 was produced as a homologation special by BMW South Africa in 1976, and this model can be considered a direct predecessor to the M535i. It is also worth noting that the M535i lived on in South Africa until 1984 as part of the updated E12 range that was assembled for the local market as an interim series until production of the E28 began there in 1985. These "4709" models incorporate some of the later E28 features.
What distinguishes the South African-built E12 530 Motorsport Limited Edition?
The Motorsport Limited Edition E12 530 was jointly developed by BMW of South Africa and BMW Motorsport GmbH in order to homologate the 3.0-liter 5 Series sedan for competition in the South African Modified Production class. The production of at least 100 road cars was required under the homologation rules, though 218 street-legal examples of the 530 Motorsport Limited Edition were ultimately produced during 1976 and 1977.

At the time, the largest non-catalyst engine available in a standard production E12 5 Series was the 2.8-liter inline-six. However, the 530 Motorsport Special Edition was equipped with a larger 3.0-liter M30 motor based on the unit from the E3 sedan and E9 coupe but fitted with twin Zenith carburetors, a special camshaft, lightened flywheel and an engine oil cooler. It was rated at 197 hp (DIN) at 6,000 rpm and 204 lb/ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. This was mated to the close-ratio Getrag five-speed manual gearbox featuring a "dogleg" shift pattern and a Borg-Warner limited slip differential. The chassis was upgraded with Bilstein shocks, stiffer springs and thicker anti-roll bars similar to those fitted to the special German-built E12 530 models offered by BMW Motorsport starting in 1974. In addition, the cars were equipped with four-wheel disc brakes and 195/70VR14 tires on BBS/Mahle cross-spoke alloy wheels.

The Motorsport Limited Edition 530 was offered in three paint colors: Ice White, Platinum metallic or Sapphire Blue metallic, all paired with tri-color Motorsport stripes. The body featured fender lip extensions as well as fiberglass front and rear spoilers. In order to reduce weight, several body panels were made of aluminum or thinner steel, the pedals and trunk hinges were drilled for further savings, plus thinner glass was used for all windows except the front windshield. Inside, these special 530s were fitted with Scheel sport seats covered in blue velour and equipped with a three-spoke sport steering wheel. Finally, the rear bench seat was mounted to a foam base in order to reduce weight even further.

NOTE: This model should not be confused with the later E12 530 Motorsport Edition of 1977-80, which was a standard production model for the South African market that featured the 3.0-liter M30 motor, as well as a limited slip differential, Bilstein shocks, Mahle magnesium wheels, Scheel sport seats and blacked-out exterior trim. However, it retained all the standard E12 bodywork and received none of the weight-reduction measures.
What distinguishes the later South African-assembled Model 4709 M535i from the other versions?
Though an E28-based successor to the original E12 M535i did not appear in German-built form until early 1985, an updated E12 M535i was introduced as part of the revised South African E12 5 Series range in the Fall of 1981. This special E12/E28 M535i "hybrid" (known internally as Model 4709) retained the older E12 bodywork and mechanicals, but updated the interior to include many components from the newer E28 5 Series (which was not produced in South Africa until 1985). Power was once again provided by the 3,453cc version of the M30 inline-six, rated at 214 hp (DIN) at 5,200 rpm and 229 lb/ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. This could be mated to either the overdrive or close-ratio version of the Getrag five-speed manual gearbox, both of which were paired exclusively with the taller 3.07:1 final drive and limited slip differential. The chassis also carried over form the existing E12 M535i.

Like the earlier South African-produced E12 M535i, this later version was not equipped with any special M-designed spoilers or trim. However, it was once again fitted with large front foglights, as well as "M535i" grille and decklid badges. Unique to the Model 4709 M535i, however, were metric-sized 165mm x 390mm alloy wheels (as used on some non-M variations of the German-built E28) carrying 200/60VR390 Michelin TRX tires.

The interior featured the newer E28-style dashboard and instrument cluster , as well as a new check control panel above the rear-view mirror, Though the door panels were also updated to a style similar to that of the E28, they initially continued to include the older-style E12 armrests incorporating pull-up door release handles. Later cars received the correct E28 armrest and independent door release handles. Recaro front seats were again standard but they were now generally covered in a hounds-toot pattern cloth with leatherette side trim. while the early-style M steering wheel and plain leather shift knob without the shift pattern on top also carried over from the earlier M535i. Standard equipment included air conditioning, power windows (front and rear), power mirrors, central locking, rear headrests, check control, and a radio/cassette audio system with four speakers. A power steel sunroof was optional.

BMW South Africa assembled 1,416 examples of the Model 4709 E12 M535i between September of 1981 and December of 1984. It was then replaced by a true E28-based successor to the E12 M535i in January of 1985.
Color and Upholstery Selections

The following chart lists all regularly available paint colors for the E12 M535i.

Topaz Brown metallic 013 4708
Ruby Red metallic 018 4708, 4709
Fjord Blue metallic 037 4708, 4709
Arctic Blue metallic 045 4701, 4702
Henna Red 052 4701, 4702
Ocean Blue 054 4701, 4702
Anthracite Grey metallic 055 4708
Tunis Beige metallic 056 4709
Island Green metallic 057 4709
Aqua metallic 058 4709
Polaris metallic 060 4701, 4702, 4708, 4709
Reseda Green metallic 075 4701, 4702, 4708, 4709
Black 086 4701, 4702
Graphite metallic 087 4701, 4702
Biscay Blue 140 4701, 4702
Cedar Green 141 4701, 4702
Sepia Brown 142 4701, 4702
Cashmere metallic 143 4701, 4702, 4708
Alpine White 146 4701, 4702
Safari Beige 147 4701, 4702
Sapphire Blue metallic 149 4701, 4702, 4709
Ascot Grey metallic 151 4701, 4702
Cypress Green metallic 152 4701, 4702
Olive Green metallic 153 4701, 4702
Brazil Brown metallic 154 4701, 4702, 4708, 4709
Chestnut Red metallic 157 4701, 4702
Opal Green metallic 171 4709
Safari Beige 314 4708, 4709
Ice White 346 4708, 4709
Henna Red 413 4709

The following chart lists all regularly available upholsteries for the German-built E12 M535i.
NOTE: South African-produced models are equipped with specific materials that are unique to those models.

Light Grey corduroy 0035
Nylon Brown corduroy 0036
Marine Blue corduroy 0037
Black corduroy 0038
Fern Green corduroy 0070
Black leatherette 0005
Marine Blue leatherette 0006
Nylon Brown leatherette 0007
Light Grey leatherette 0008
Fern Green leatherette 0048
Black leather 0113
Fern Green leather 0114
Marine Blue leather 0115
Nylon Brown leather 0116
Light Grey leather 0117
Black cloth with M tri-color central stripe Included with optional ASS seats