Live Auctions

Backyard Bimmer: BMW 530i

Here’s a dream scenario for many of us who haunt this site: buy a house and discover that a car that has been left on the property is now ours. I bet for most of us, though, in our fantasies we’re opening that creaky barn door to discover a dusty but otherwise well-preserved fuel-injected ’57 Corvette or a Ferrari or something. This seller in Red Bank, New Jersey bought a house that came with the rusty hulk of an old BMW sitting out in the middle of the backyard; with no title or keys, and no idea why it became yard art, it’s probably a parts car at best. So much for the dream scenario. Still, it could be an inexpensive source of valuable bits and pieces to the right BMW E12 fan—if that’s you, check it out here on craigslist, with thanks to Bill Walters for the find (archived ad).

The seller’s best guess of this Bimmer’s age is 1970, but we can say with more certainty that it is either a 1977 or ’78—the years between the E12 5-series’s mild facelift, which included wider taillights and a raised central section on the hood, and the 530i’s replacement with the 528i. It looks like this car was (and still sort of is, I guess) painted in BMW’s beautiful, 70s-tastic Resedagrün, but plenty of Atlantic air and untold New Jersey winters have taken their toll. The passenger door has the worst rust we can see, but I bet the underside is none too pretty, either.

Most of the car’s value is likely here, in the interior, which seems to have been used as a makeshift shed of sorts. The mottled color of the dash in this photo seems to be just a reflection of the grimy windshield, but the steering wheel definitely doesn’t look like something I’d want to touch without gloves. Even so, nothing obvious is missing here, down to the original radio. If the seller accepted an offer of a couple hundred bucks (or less), an enterprising buyer could almost certainly make it back and more with the parts found in here.

What do you think led to this BMW’s backyard demise? A big factor leading to the replacement of the 530i with the 528i in 1979 was issues with the thermal reactors and EGR system used to bring the M30 inline six into compliance with emissions regulations on these early U.S.-market 5ers. We don’t know how many miles or years this car saw before it was parked, but it looks like it’s probably been in this spot for a good while. What would you do if you bought this backyard find BMW—or, what would you do if you found it in the backyard of your new home?


  1. Jeff Lavery Staff

    I want an E12, badly. If this were closer (as in, down the road) I’d certainly check it out – but I suspect you’re correct that the underside is completely rotten. Shame, as that is a beautiful color.

  2. Steve R

    I hate this type of ad. Put a price of $1 in the header then say, “make me an offer”. Act like a grown up, do your research then pick a price, either that or have the scrap yard come get it. Just a hunch, but I’d bet he has unreal expectations as to the cars value and will be offended by any offer that is reasonable.

    Steve R

    • UK Paul

      Agree, this winds me up too. I don’t want to be the buyer and seller.
      People like this need to pull up their big boy pants, pick a number and stop wasting everyone’s time.
      I buy a lot of antiques and collectibles and hear it all the time. Or the other classic ‘i don’t know what it’s worth’. They know if they want $50 or $500 for it. No one is about to drop two grand on this. That phone call is never going to come.
      Great parts car though .. i never get such interesting things left behind when i buy houses.

  3. Grenade Motorsports

    I had this exact model, but with a 4 speed and tan interior. Mine was a ’77. Same color. I used to beat carbureted mustangs on the street and laugh. This one, is GONE. Might as well part it out on Ebay or give it to a forum for free.

    • Steve R

      Mustangs of that era were pigs.

      Steve R

  4. Dolphin Member

    Too bad. I’m very partial to BMWs but I would not tackle this one, for 2 reasons.
    1) too close to the Jersey shore, so the rust is probably worse than it looks
    2) it probably also needs everything attended to, or at least I would have to go in assuming that.

    Besides, if I take what I think this will sell for—maybe $500, tops—and add another couple of thousand I could be driving a decent, roadworthy 530 months, maybe years sooner.

    • Doyler

      The rust is worse than it looks? Is the glass holding it together at this point?

  5. John

    Pretty sure only 1977 had the black background on the model script. Nice car back then, among other things.

  6. jw454

    Nickel a pound.

  7. Chuck Sibio

    Ugly bumpers make it past model year 1974, probably is at least a ’77.
    at one time a car to lust after. Sorry… not now.

  8. Miguel

    Isn’t that a key in the ignition?

    Why was it parked? It was probably the repair bills from a BMW mechanic to keep it on the road.

  9. edh

    Who would want this mess?

  10. KO

    Till it in.

  11. victor sanchez

    I had a 528 I nice car fast and very comfortable but, I found out that everything about it was $$$$ when it needed tires I could only put Michelins and they were not cheap. Mine was the same color inside and out but sad to say this one is ready for the bone yard. RIP old friend

  12. Mark

    Yes Key is in ignition with a tag

  13. Classic Steel

    No matter what you do pleas Don’t open the trunk as the smell is already expelling!

    Call the cleaner like in Pulp fiction and get it removed and contained at the local crusher with no questions asked 🙃

    Seriously a tune up and a couple
    headlights on an old Beamer is like 2000 !!!! Crush it for scrap quick !

  14. SquirrleyGig

    OK! I know this is (mostly) an automotive site & in this case the post is about a Bavarian Meat Wagon, but one of the first things that caught my eye in the photos was the slightest corner of the vintage “Freestyle spectacular” magazine (Feb. issue 1987) on the passengers seat . I knew as soon as I saw it what it was. Upon viewing the full size Clist photos it was obvious. My gen was a bit earlier when the ‘zine was known simply as “Freestylin”. Just thought I’d throw this observation out there. It was kinda’ random & funny (to me). Otherwise, not sure if that’s any indication to how long the car’s been sitting in that spot? The magazine alone is probably worth the sum of the usable parts on the car itself. Could be a double “investment”! No, really!

    • Jim Z Member

      You have a sharp eye, Travis McGee!

  15. TC

    That would make for a perfect little hen house, or a playground for pygmy goats. The trunk would be a good spot for a raised herb garden. Lots of potential with this ride!

  16. James

    I purchased one of these in 1994 for $500. It was in far better condition. No rust, perfect interior, etc. I stripped it to the block, rebuilt the engine, (learned the difference between ft/lbs and N/M on the pistons, which is still with me today on restorations) and interior only needed a few items. I autocrossed it for a while, and loved it. I ended up spending about $5,000 to get it to nearly new shape. I traded it in for $3,500 for a W126 Mercedes Euro 500SEL. I have never looked back. This is not even worth $500. Pay $250 and sell the rare parts for $1,000 (console, seats, dash parts, rare intake manifold, and scrap it for $250.

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