BMW 5 Series (E12)

BMW 5 Series ( 1972-1976 )

The first BMW 5 Series is the successor of the "New Class ", which was produced by the summer of 1972 to mid- 1981. The vehicle has the model number designation E12.

It initiated a reorganization of nomenclature at BMW. The first 5-Series was offered only as a four-door notchback sedan.

  • 3.1 petrol engine
  • 3.2 Alpina

Model history

1968 BMW was planning the successor to the New Class (1800 and 2000). Relatively early they came up with the name " 520 " to build a bridge to the models BMW 501 and 502.

In March 1970, a study was presented as a "BMW 2200TI " ( Garmisch ). But you still had rectangular headlights, which would not fit the typical BMW, sporty character. 1971 this was corrected.

The introduction of the now designated as 5-Series car was held in September 1972. The E12 was also the first BMW in the series designation ( in the case of a five ) stood at the front. Mid-1975 followed the E21 (first 3 series ) and in early 1976 the E24 (first 6 ) in this Article

For the E12 a rich motor program was offered - starting with the small 1.8-liter entry-level engine in the 518, which was already known from the BMW 1800, to the 3.5 -liter engine in the end of the series in a small number built M535i. BMW 518 and BMW 520 have the proven four-cylinder engines of the M10 type. From the summer of 1977, the BMW 520 was equipped with the newly developed small six-cylinder engine M20. The larger displacement versions of the 5 Series BMWs were equipped with the six-cylinder engine M30.

A diesel engine there was not the BMW E12 as the company had not had diesel engines in the program. The comparatively heavy diesel engines in the 1970s, still largely without a turbocharger, at that time did not fit into the dynamic concept of BMW. Surprisingly, a diesel engine ( M21) was offered on the successor E28, which was derived from the motor M20.


Initially, the BMW E12 was only built at the BMW plant in Munich - Milbertshofen. After commissioning of the new plant in Dingolfing in 1973 the production was relocated gradually there.

In 1975, BMW production of the quintet in Munich entirely a. Far from Munich began in 1973, the assembly of the 5 Series sedan in South Africa. The German plants supplied CKD vehicle kits (CKD = Completely Knocked Down ), which were assembled at the BMW plant Pretoria. Thus, the high import duties could handle.

The BMW Motorsport GmbH ( M GmbH) in Munich built initially on special customer the BMW 525 and BMW 528 order. The vehicles received a performance increase by installing displacement of more powerful engines. As of 1980, the M GmbH BMW M535i offered in larger numbers. This 3.5 -liter engine came from the 7 Series, however, was structurally closely related to the three-liter engine, so that offering such a modification to improve performance.


In August 1976, the E12 was optically modified. The most striking feature was the the BMW " kidney " slightly curved bonnet, larger sized rear lights and the stern moved ( to the right of the flag) in the right rear fender filler cap.

In June 1981, the production of E12 in Germany has ended. A total of 722 435 copies of the first 5 series were produced.

Rear view

After the cessation of production in Germany, the South African plant took over the press tools from Germany and manufactured henceforth the E12 with the interior of the successor E28 until 1985., Where there was the 520 with two-liter four-cylinder (85 kW/115 hp), the 528 with carburetor engine (125 kW/170 hp, as standard ZF three-speed automatic transmission) and 530 (130 kW/177 hp four-speed gearbox).

The BMW E28 solved then in South Africa the BMW E12 from and was produced there until 1989.



* Vehicles of BMW Motorsport GmbH (today BMW M GmbH)


After some tuning variants Alpina 1978 brought the E12 B7 Turbo as out, then the fastest sedan in the world. This has a three-liter turbo engine (BMW M30) with 300 hp. In 1981 there were a total of 60 as B7S Turbo with 3.5 liters and 330 hp.


  • Automobile review, catalog number 1979