UK Barn Find: BMW M535i

Among old-school BMW enthusiasts, the E12-chassis M535i is one of the more desirable M cars available. Never sold in the U.S. due to our draconian emissions laws, the M535i is effectively the only Motorsports division E12 5-Series built by the factory, and this RHD example here on eBay UK is one of less than 500 made with the steering wheel on the right-hand side. While it’s cosmetically tired, all of the important Motorsports-specific bits are still attached. Bidding is over $6K U.S. with four days left in the auction. 

The BBS cross-lace alloy wheels, Motorsports trunk spoiler and front air dam were all visual cues that this was indeed the hottest E12 on the market. Thankfully, these pieces are still attached as they sometimes go missing due to uninformed owners selling off the rare bits to scare up some cash to put back into the car. That’s a shame, as this M535i is rare enough that it should either be preserved until funds allow for complete restoration or sold to an enthusiast who can take it on. Thankfully, this example is being put up for sale so a new caretaker can bring it back to life from its current scruffy form.

Inside is one of my favorite BMW Motorsports steering wheels of all time; in fact, I am hunting for one for my E21. They cost a pretty penny  given how few of these cars were made, and were otherwise only found in the M1 supercar. The M535i could be optioned with either Scheel or Recaro bucket seats; this example appears to come with the latter. While the dash and wood trim look tired, the good news again is that the desirable components of the Motorsports package are all accounted for, and the seats actually look quite serviceable as-is.

The car does run and drive, as confirmed by the seller after installing a fresh fuel pump. It will need new discs and pads to drive safely, but the bigger question is the extent of the rust. The seller does acknowledge that the project is best suited for someone who can do their own bodywork, which usually translates to, “Hiring a bodyshop to replace all of the rotten metal will be expensive.” In this case, I can’t fault the seller for putting it out there as-is given the rarity of the car and the overall completeness. Plus, it’s selling at no-reserve which helps limit the potential risk factor. I want it!


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  1. Steve M

    Love this…..but the wheel is on the wrong side.

    • Sir pike

      Love this ….and the wheel is on the correct side .

  2. The_Driver

    I had a friend in college, who had one of this M535’s. Even in FL, the car had a “murky” gray market title, and rust all over. My classmate got a clean 533i in auction, and swapped the 2V 3.5 engine, the LSD, the close ratio tranny and the seats, unto the 533i. Since the E28’s have a better rear suspension than the E12’s, that Franken 533i, was AWESOME!

  3. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking BMW. I’ve always loved old-school BMWs.

  4. chad

    wonder where it sits ’72 -’81?
    Nary a hint here or on fleebay.
    Or I just missed?!?
    like the motor!

  5. Peter K

    A friend of mine has one of these as a daily driver with more than 400k miles on it and still going strong.

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