Early M Car: 1980 BMW M535i


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Today, BMW is well known for its Motorsports division that is responsible for cars like the M3 and M5, high performance machines with an added dose of exclusivity. In the 1980s, BMW applied the formula to its E12 chassis 5-Series sedan, and this recently unearthed right-hand drive example here on eBay UK presents a rare opportunity to restore a hard-to-find European classic. 


The M535i is a European-market vehicle, featuring the slimmer Euro bumpers and a healthy straight-six engine free from restrictive U.S. emissions equipment. Paired with a dogleg manual transmission and a limited slip differential, the M535i was an early glimpse into the company’s ability to create hot-rod sedans that were equal parts understated and desirable. This example retains its factory rear spoiler and BBS / Mahle wheels.


The performance-minded features carried over to the interior, with Recaro bucket seats and a unique 3-spoke Motorsports steering wheel. This M535i, despite being barn stored and missing a windshield, shows these rare items to be free from mildew and any significant damage – which is important, since these trim items are near impossible to find and very expensive when you do.


There are not too many engine shots but it is said to run, and the brakes are also functioning. There is some rust on the body, but the pricey bits are still attached and what makes this car so special. Although it’s overseas, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it shipped stateside given the wide base of M-car fanatics who want something more exclusive than the M3 or later E28 M5. You know I want it!

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  1. Doyler

    RHD – d’oh!

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  2. Tirefriar

    I owned a ’78 530iA back in the very late 80’s. Great cruiser, it could cruise at 100 mph without breaking a sweat. However, I’d be braking sweat to get up to those speeds with an auto. I still remember getting my ass handed to me at a stop light race with a Mk 1 Rabbit. May be the Rabbit was souped up, but I was utterly embarrassed. And that’s with the thermos out and straight pipes and a muffler in. I sold the car with close to 200k on the clock. I’d buy this iteration in a heart beat even with the RHD. The most memorable feature for me was the fan speed switch doubling as a bezel for the clock. Great car but US regulations seriously hurt it with the diving board bumpers and smog restrictions…

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