By kitting this top of the range E12 out with specialist equipment like a limited slip differential and dogleg sports gearbox, as well as a host of visual cues, BMW were giving more than a nod to the company’s track sucesses, having spent a decade building a formidable reputation with ‘those who knew’ by thrashing the likes of Mercedes and Ford on the worlds touring car circuits. They created a saloon car that looked, drove and felt like nothing else on the road.
Whilst the M1 would effectively prove a step too far, too soon, the unexpected success of the E12 M535i both with the critics and the public would show BMW the way forward like a beacon. The M brand had come of age.
Powered by the M30 engine – which had propelled the E9 CSLs to victory for a decade – rather than the M88 chosen for the E28 M5 – the M535i was reliable and sturdy, with plenty of instant power available from the newly expanded 3453 cc, mated to its M tuned chassis and assisted by its slipper and sports box.
Visually the E12 carried on where the 2002 turbo had left off – before the world oil crisis cruelly curtailed its reign – with low spoilers, sports alloy wheels, sports Recarro seats and other funky embelishments making sure nobody would be in any doubt what this car was all about. In 1981 – especially compared to the general multitude of dull Austin Maxis and Ford Cortinas on the road at the time – the E12 M535i looked more like the driver had taken a wrong turn after Druids only to find himself on the A22 near Croyden.
Today the E12 535i still feels as fresh and dramatic as it did in 1980. Lively and challenging, but equally rewarding and exciting, this first M saloon has all the raw ingredients needed to make a truly inspiring modern classic. For some reason the E12 M535i was overlooked for a generation, faring poorly next to its successor, the first ‘M5’.
Decades of low values have seen the majority of these fantastic cars wiped out – remember there were only 450 made in the first place – as ongoing repair and maintenance costs outstripped values, and owners became reluctant to invest in a car that it seemed nobody wanted. From its nadir around five years ago, the few remaining examples have been quietly rising in value, as enthusiasts and collectors woke up to find that here was an 80s icon that drove as good as it looked, had buckets of pedigree and heritage in addition to a well earned place in the history of BMW M – to say nothing of its rarity.
This particular E12 M535i is called ‘URN’ after is number plate (sold with the car, obviously). Famously restored when it was anything but fashionable to invest money in the model (much can be found about URN with a brief Google search) this is one of the few examples that have survived intact, and its ready to drive straight out of the showroom. We sold this car to its current owner a few years back. Actually, it happens that its been owned since then by one of our senior technicians’ dad – so you can imagine how rigorous the checks were, and how well its been cared for since. URN was chosen to represent the key role played by the E12 M535i, by BMW UK for their centenary celebrations at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, taking pride of place at the head of BMW’s own classic fleet at their Motorsport display or ///M Avenue.
URN is finished in the supremely classy Cashmere Bronze metallic paint and complemented by its beige (almost lemony in some lights) cloth Recarro interior. One of our favourite interiors, your attention is drawn to the classic period features inside the cabin – like the LED ‘sports’ clock set inside the heater fan adjuster, and the M1 style steering wheel, all of which adds to the excitement and period feel.
Having been stored inside and obsessively cared for, URN is in excellent condition. Recently inspected by our workshop team, the new owner will draw extensive peace of mind from the results of that inspection. ‘A lovely thing, great condition, mechanically very sound’ is how URN was described by our technical guru Stuart Draper – but then what would you expect from a car with such excellent provenance. Of course URN will be ready for collection having been fully serviced, freshly MOT’d and prepped to our usual high standards, as befits such a lovely machine.
If you are hoping to bag a fantastic piece of BMW’s Motorsport heritage before rising prices put it out of reach, then look no further. This fabulous modern classic is raring to go, and those winding summer roads beckon. Remember, whilst the E12 M535i may not be for the feint hearted, there is really no better way to celebrate the birth of BMW M than behind the wheel of this brilliant sports saloon.
For more information or to book an appointment to view the car, phone our showroom team on 01825 740456 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org