Unrestored Survivor: Euro-Spec ’79 BMW 525

As the owner of a genuine Euro-market BMW, I’ve grown accustomed to spotting the tell-tale signs of grey market vehicles residing in the USA. This 1979 BMW 525 is a true Euro-spec car wearing all of the goodies that enthusiasts clamor over. It had been with the last owner since 1985, up until the current seller snatched her up. Find this E12-platform 5-Series here on eBay  with a Buy-It-Now of $9,470. 

Often times, the European versions of US-market cars have features that American enthusiasts seek out. The irony is that the parts they often want would be considered undesirable by actual Europeans. Take, for instance, the cloth interior in this car: it’s in great shape and I can practically guarantee most of our overseas companions would be thrilled if you took this cloth interior far, far away from their pride and joy. Interior preferences aside, both sides of the pond will appreciate the pairing of a manual transmission with the 5-Series’ inline six.

Ironically, I’ve been searching for this exact valve cover for my 1980 320/6 project due to it going missing in the time the engine has been disassembled. If you want me to really nerd out, you’ll note that this generation of inline sixes made do without the cheesy black plastic oil cap that came on later models, instead using a handsome metal cap painted the same shade of silver as the valve cover. No word on maintenance history, but given this E12 has been with its original U.S. owner since 1985, our bet is it was maintained religiously.

European bumpers, steel wheels with chrome trim rings, and front fenders not drilled (yet) for orange sidemarkers are all hallmarks of a genuine European market vehicle. Some conversion work was done in the 1980s, but all that is mentioned in the ad is that the gauge cluster was replaced. Otherwise, this is a 5-Series that appears as if it hasn’t been ravaged by DOT officials, and due to being legally titled in the U.S.A., it’s unlikely it ever will.

Fast Finds


  1. sofa king fast

    neat car.
    hood has some rust in the vent area, otherwise appears very rust free.

  2. Dolphin Member

    Very nice E12, and even better for being a Euro version. If I wasn’t already fully occupied with projects and plans I would consider this one.

    At first it’s hard to believe a near-40 year old car could have 60K miles, but it looks it, and is probably worth most of the asking price to someone who has always wanted a nice E12.

    Trouble is, there are lots of other BMWs, and even more other makes/models out there that are also desirable for the near-$10K asking price, so you would really need to want this nice BMW 4-door sedan to pay up for it.

    It will be interesting to see what it gets bid to. I think it might sell for the asking if it were advertised in Roundel with a photo and full description, and if the seller could offer much in the way of documentation of the low miles and service history.

  3. rdc

    very nice. I have a 1/43 scale model of this car is silver blue, an E28 and several e34s. :)

  4. James H

    Ive always had a soft spot for the 5 series. Ive always wanted am E12 but have never found one that’s been up for sale. heres my old E28 M535i for you to look at Jeff

  5. rdc

    I also have a soft spot for the 5-series. Here is my 95 e34. I used to have an E28.

  6. LAB3

    BMW was making some nice looking cars in this era but I’d be scared of a euro version, it’s gotta be a nightmare getting parts!

    • Steve

      There would be zero problem with parts…..zero. The slightly hard part would be collision damage repair, but an agreed-upon collectors insurance policy would cover that.

  7. KevinR

    @LAB3: there really aren’t that many Euro-specific parts on these cars. Most of the parts were found on the US-spec versions as well.

    • Chris In Australia

      It’s got rear side marker lights though.

  8. Pete

    While stationed in germany my wife bought a 76 525 exactly like this one. She didn’t bother to let me check it out before she did the deal. She paid $1200 USD for it. One week later the engine blew up. Took me about a year to find another engine for it. Got it back up and running and sold it for 2500 to a newby. He never had a problem with it and it did drive super nice. I believe that the transmissions are geared for higher speeds for autobahn use. Perhaps the rear end is also different. I looked into importing one and essentially at that time you had to change the headlights, weld a steel beam in the doors and change the bumpers. As well as the side lights. That is what I recall from the mid 80’s. What might interest some of you BMW fans is that the junkyards in germany are full of them. Not because of accidents primarily, but because of corrosion. So you can find perfect interiors, trim, doors, grills etc and drive trains. But the frames and wheel wells will be rusted out. No hope for cost effectively fixing those so they junk them. They don’t stay in the yard long because Germany has a pretty good recycling program I think 95% of the cars made there can be recycled. So off it goes and gets chewed up to make new cars.

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