The E12 is a desirable classic 45 years later, and it’s the car that made BMW a true legend.
So, here’s a rundown of what made the first 5 Series so special. And it’s not just the fact that it was the first BMW to have its turn signal stalks on the left side, since they probably weren’t used back then, either.
After BMW got back on its feet thanks to the money made on the New Class cars, it was time to step up their game for the seventies. What started out in 1970 as the wild Bertone 2200 ti Garmisch concept was turned into a production vehicle by BMW design boss Paul Bracq, only to hit the streets in 1972 with a four-cylinder engine producing a modest 90 horsepower. BMW switched to a three-digit naming format for the first 5 Series, and a year after the 518, the 525 arrived with a 150 horsepower straight-six. The Bavarians were now on the right track.
Solex carburetors were slowly replaced by mechanical fuel injection, a facelift in 1976 added a ‘power bulge’ to the hood and wider taillights to the rear, while just two years before the end, BMW introduced the M535i. This was the predecessor of the M5, featuring a 3.5 liter engine from the E24 635CSi, a sporty body kit and Recaro seats, a close-ratio gearbox with a limited-slip differential, larger brakes, plus the steering wheel out of a BMW M1. Talk about cool!
BMW claims it sold “almost 700,000 E12s” between 1972 and 1981, and that’s correct as far as German production goes, which stopped after 699,094 units. Yet in South Africa, BMW’s first foreign factory, another 23,100 were built up until 1984, for the local market only. The rest of the world had the E28 by then.
The rear-mounted fuel filler door was gone for good.
We’ll keep you up to speed on the all-new BMW 5 Series Sedan, which will be launched in South Africa in March 2017.