Add to Technorati Favorites!

BMW M history

BMW M535i E12

You are here: Home >> BMW M history >> BMW M535i E12

Introduced in 1979 at the Frankfurt motor show, the BMW M535i E12 was the only model from the E12 range developed by M Gmbh. Besides an improved chassis and some aerodynamic trims, the most important upgrade was the engine.  The 3.5-liter M30 inline-six was taken from the E23 735i and E24 635CSi models.

1979-1981 BMW M535i E12 Sedan
Fuel type
160kW | 215HP
Top Speed
222km/h | 138mph

Fuel Consumption (l/100km | mpg)
19.3 | 12.1


Source for technical specifications: Wikipedia.

BMW M535i E12 production plants

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. 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.

The engine of the BMW M535i E12

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.


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). South African-spec model retained the more common overdrive Getrag transmission with the following ratios: 3.82 (1), 2.20 (2), 1.40 (3), 1.00 (4), .81 (5). All E12 M535i models were equipped with a 3.07:1 rear end with limited slip differential.


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.


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.

Wheels and tyres

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.


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.

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.


Though it shares its basic design and layout with that of the standard E12 5 Series, the interior of the E12 M535i contains twospecial features: Front sport seats made by Recaro in corduroy, leatherette or optional leather (or available ASS sport seats in black cloth with the Motorsport stripes) and a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel featuring the BMW Motorpsort logo, identical to the one used in the M1 sports car.

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.

Optional equipment

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 stripes were listed as "special equipment," presumably at no extra charge. Note: Right-hand drive models (both ECE and South African) included many of these optional items as standard equipment.

Special versions

There were no official factory special editions of the E12 M535i. However, the M535i was not the first E12 model developed by BMW Motorsport GmbH. Through a special program offered soon after E12 production began, 5 Series sedans could be fitted by BMW Motorsport GmbH with the larger 3.0-liter and (later) 3.2-liter M30 inline-6 engines from the upmarket 6 Series and 7 Series models . Along with the "Motorsport Special Edition" E12 530 model, produced as a homologation special exclusively by BMW South Africa, these BMW Motorsport-built 5 Series were the unofficial predecessors to the E12 M535i. It is also worth noting that the M535i was included as part of the updated E12 range that was produced in South Africa prior to the introduction of the true E28 M535i in 1985.

When fitted 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 available. It is thought that around 900 of these special E12 5 Series models were produced by BMW Motorsport over seven years.

Production numbers

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.

  • ECE (LHD): 960 built from 4/80 thru 5/81
  • ECE (RHD): 450 built from 7/80 thru 6/81
  • SA (RHD): 240 assembled from CKD kits from 2/81 thru 7/81
  • SA (RHD): 1,416 assembled from CKD kits from 9/81 thru 5/84*

  • *Special E12/E28 hybrid model.


back to BMW M history | back to BMW M cars | back to BMW cars