1981 BMW M535i E12

Trade Classics > Auctions > 1981 BMW M535i E12
Auction ID
Posted on
5th of January 2018 at 11:59 AM


    M535i E12
    5 speed dog-leg manual
    Reg. Date
    Interior Colour
    Interior Trim
    Corduroy and leather
    Matching #s
    Last Service
    Engine Rebuild
    MOT Exempt
    Road Tax Exempt
    HPi Clear
    Tyre Tread
    Tyre Brand
    Tyre Age
    Security Sys
    Master Key
    # of Keys
    CO2 (g/km)
    LHD or RHD
    Vehicle Visited
    Sale Type
    8 years
    Key Feature
    BMW Motorsport
    5281 times

***This car is now available for a negotiated sale.***

Contact us on 01926357473 if you would like to know more.

Please read the How it Works page for more information and our Terms and Conditions of sale.



This E12 M535i is the reason why we have the M range today. It was born in the era when BMWs were built to stand the test of time in every single way possible. The mighty super saloon under the Trade Classics spotlight this week is one of 1400 produced in just over a 1 year period. There are in fact currently only 17 left registered on the road in the UK.

This epic E12 was awarded the exclusive M badge only once the magic that the letter M deserved had taken place. The same M30 engine derivative used in the ultra rare M1 was tickled up to 3453cc and in conjunction with a Bosch L-Jetronic injection system, 218BHP at 5200 RPM with 224 lb ft of superb torque at 4000 RPM arrived. To add in the all important driveability and entertainment, this pioneer of the M badge achieved it with a Getrag dog-leg 5 speed gearbox with perfectly matched close ratio gears, a limited slip differential and beefier brakes.

The instantly recognisable 3 spoke M steering wheel shared with the M1 garnishes the sublime Recaro-seat-centred interior off a treat. The M controller and all their occupants will be in a very nice place indeed. This timeless sharkless nose wears an aggressive air dam at the front, a slick rubber spoiler at the back, hints at its capability with the off centre twin pipe exhaust silencer, and wears handsome wider Mahle mesh wheels in the middle.

BMW Car magazine celebrated 40 years of the magic letter M in September 2012. This actual M535i was hand picked to join the photoshoot party. Being the original M, its presence was non negotiable. Top Gear magazine also made use of this legendary BMW classic shark’s photogenic nature in December 2016. A famous, famous car then.

The drivetrain pulls strongly to this day having been maintained to the highest standard. The bodywork shows not only its mature stage of life, but honesty too. The wheel arches are starting to ask for attention as would be expected from any car of this age, but having been stored in a garage and well looked after, the bodywork is free from annoying dents and scratches.


Hamish has been maintaining the car with specialists Munich Legends, arguably the UK’s top classic BMW specialist and, coincidentally, the garage which sold this car originally in 1981, having been an approved dealer back then. This matching numbers M535i is as it left the factory aside from a fitting upgrade that always enhances the driving pleasure of any older car – a tastefully chosen Alpine audio system that produces a clear rich sound, with deeper notes aided by a neat subwoofer in the boot. The car has partial history before current ownership with BMW and some other specialists, but since Hamish acquired this car it has been regularly serviced and had all maintenance carried out at Munich Legends. No expense has been spared to ensure proper and original parts have been fitted wherever available.

Hamish uses this car mainly for Sunday drives and long roadtrips. Put simply, for pleasure. He’s been lucky enough to take this car to Germany, one of his most memorable trips with the car. This is an honest, up and running as it should be M535i. You will not find one when you are looking for one. Now is the chance.



The next guardian of this rare entity should plan to address the issues in the notes below and enjoy and document the process, then they would have a pristine M535i. Membership to a very exclusive small group worldwide there then.

Sporting beautiful and period 15″ Mahle cross spoke alloys in good condition, to be picky we can highlight slight curbing in two spots on the front drivers side wheel, nothing a refurbish would not attend to.

The body is free from dents or scratches, but does possess visible rust issues: a patch on each of the rear wheel arches; a couple of tiny spots around the sunroof; a small nick in the paint on the edge of the petrol flap and the OSF and OSR door bottoms need attention. There are some small spots of bubbling across other parts of the car along with a crack to the front bumper on the passenger side (these have been filmed in the exterior inspection).

The paint is in good condition across the car, with the exception of the rust / slight bubbling mentioned above.

Glass and Trim
The glass is generally in great condition, although the windscreen chrome trim has faded and some of the window rubbers are beginning to perish. This is something that any honest, true to itself classic shows after many years.



As you open the driver’s door, the three spoke BMW steering wheel displays its appropriate patina perfectly, leading your eyes to glance around and admire the blue corduroy draped Recaro seats that are in great condition thanks to some light restoration work carried out in 2016. The new mats compliment the leather door cards and the wood stands out proudly and majestically. The ambience and feeling of being special I fear is lost on many modern BMWs. This was BMW in full swing of being the epitome of style.

Seats and Carpets
All seats are in original condition with wear in line with the 180k miles. The bolsters in the Recaro seats have been refurbished in the past, ensuring that you can still enjoy that figure hugging fit.

The carpets show signs of discolouration, but Hamish has bought the correct floor mats for the car in the original colour to leave the car looking smart.

The dashboard is all original, the centre console area shows some sign of wear and a small tear in the leather wrap.

Steering Wheel / Gear Stick
The rare steering wheel is in great condition for the age and use, with the BMW logo having some lovely patina. The gear stick gaiter would benefit from being refurbished and the M gear knob, although in great condition, is loose and needs to be fastened correctly.



The power plant is BMW’s M developed straight six M30 engine, shared with the M1 amongst others, that was increased to 3.5L. Firing up with a delightful, purposeful demeanour that only a classic BMW of this nature can achieve, the engine settles into providing its mesmerising exhaust note. Free from audible knocks or rattles, this M535i shows the service history of its current ownership.

Engine and Gearbox
Slipping the Getrag close ratio dog-leg gearbox left and back into 1st gear is something every petrol head should experience at least once in their life. The shifter throw is not the tightest of throws, but trust me, on the open road, the overall mechanical and driver obedient nature of this super saloon lends itself well to a slightly longer throw. Of course all gears are engaged without a problem and the sweet torque curve and exhaust note are both made the most of with the close ratio gears. The clutch is firm with no play and is a pleasure to use in conjunction with the dog-leg box.

Suspension and Brakes
The M535i handles well and with a tail end that responds eagerly to the throttle position if you want it to, can provide entertainment aplenty. Yet thanks to its light steering and ability to be mild mannered easily, it can happily cruise around town. On occasion the car pulls to the right under braking from high speed and at low speed a rumble in the braking system can be detected. As with all BMWs of the 80’s and 90’s, lazy and sticky culprits can be the case. It is their way of asking for some tlc.

The Drive
Gear selection was smooth and no issues with the clutch and drove as expected.

All the electrics work as expected, with the exception of the temperature gauge in the instrument cluster. When current from the battery is high, the gauge reads at max. Hamish will include a second hand replacement instrument cluster that he acquired from a BMW breakers yard, should you wish to try to remedy the issue.



Having covered over 180K miles this is a car that has been well maintained, enjoyed a healthy level of use and is thus perfect to be used some more by the next M-controller-to-be. As mentioned above, Hamish has been fastidious in the maintenance of this car, with all mechanical work being completed by Munich Legends.

Mileage recorded on HPI check as follows – also, see the extensive history in the photos below.

179,901 miles recorded on 14 Jun 2017
175,837 miles recorded on 13 Jul 2016
174,658 miles recorded on 14 Aug 2015
174,648 miles recorded on 12 Aug 2015
171,994 miles recorded on 4 Aug 2014
167,821 miles recorded on 4 Sep 2013
166,498 miles recorded on 25 Jul 2012
166,491 miles recorded on 25 Jul 2012
164,441 miles recorded on 4 Aug 2011
162,394 miles recorded on 3 Aug 2010
155,624 miles recorded on 5 Aug 2009
153,877 miles recorded on 25 Jul 2008
152,587 miles recorded on 16 Mar 2007



This is a brute of shark nose. A significant, vital and rare car in the BMW M division history. Born in an era where ESP, DTC and TCS were only letters of the alphabet and BMWs were engineered to last.

A car that is truly deserving of its M badge in every single way. A car that is happy to potter around town with passengers ‘along for the M experience’, and able to hold its own on a spirited drive on a twisty ribbon of tarmac. A car that looks fast even when it is not moving. A car that maintains elegant presence wherever it goes. Aggressive, brutish and arrogant, yet calm, sophisticated and tasteful to look at. It is undeniable. Whether you pull into a posh hotel, a Tesco car park, or a drift race meeting. In this silver M535i, you will be the coolest cat there.

This example has been thoroughly enjoyed and used across the continent and you can do the same. Buy it, jump in and drive away today. To maintain the car and preserve what is a valuable and on the up classic day-by-day, we suggest the bodywork issues should be attended to and the braking system given a thorough check over to find the culprit of the pulling under hard braking. A sensible reserve has been set for this sought after model to enable this. In the meantime, this super saloon will still be able to transport you in time warp style, comfort and speed, with the all important M magic doing its thing; just as it did when it first rolled off of the M production line in 1981.



Want to see this car like you’d see it in real life, in eye popping 3D 4K virtual reality?

Well you can as we are the only classic car auction house to film our high value cars in glorious VR.

There are two ways to watch:

3D – Mobile Phone
Experience glorious 3D by putting your phone into a VR headset & then click on the text links below:

– Exterior – tap here.
– Interior – tap here.

The 3D VR video will then open in your YouTube app – simply select the goggles button and you’re all set.

2D – Laptop / Desktop
Click on the videos below to view in 2D and pan around using your mouse.Top Tip: select a higher resolution in video settings (up to 8k) to see pin sharp quality  – more instructions here.




This auction listing was written by Mike Atwal from information gained from Hamish (owner and seller of the vehicle) and Adam Purrier and Kulraj Salh (Trade Classics) that visited the vehicle and took the images and videos.  Mike works for Trade Classics as a vehicle appraiser and journalist and has many years’ experience in the classic car sector – for over 8 years he was the General Manager of the Classic Car Club in London.

If you have any specific questions about the vehicle then please use the comments section below. Hamish will receive a notification and will reply as soon as he can.

UsernameBid AmountDate MadeWinner
eman1£14,050.0026-Feb-2018 19:54:45 
jamie70£13,000.0026-Feb-2018 19:49:17 
eman1£12,000.0026-Feb-2018 08:48:24 



17 Comments on "1981 BMW M535i E12"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

If this car was not serviced , maintained by Dan ‘fraud’ Norris at Munich ‘robbers ‘ Legends , I would happily pay good money for it.


Kulraj Salh

Ooooof, that’s some harsh feedback Nik, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Interestingly, Mike is writing an article around the topic of “I know the best garage” soon, watch this space…

Hi kulraj My comments are not a opinion …they are facts…contact BMW car club GB, and they will let you know how many people are taking Dan ‘fraud ‘ Norris of Munich legends to court for charging customers for work not done on their cars and charging customers for using OEM parts and using non original cheaper parts. Mr Norris has sold customers cars and with held their money from the sale. Mr Norris and Munich Legends will no longer be in business by the end of this year, their are several on going court cases. When Mike writes his… Read more »
Kulraj Salh

Hi Nik, I will check in with BMW Car Club and see what they have to say. Right now, we have to judge the car on its merits and the ride we took in it. The car is priced honestly, with a low reserve based on its condition as highlighted in the content above. What I would suggest to potential bidders who are worried, is to visit the car, and also get an independent inspection if they are unsure. Hope that helps.

Gary Turner

My personal favorite it the MG Maestro! As a fresh graduate one of my first jobs was on the launch team down at Cowley. We had over 3000 live PCRs (product change requests) at launch. Absolute chaos….


Maestro Turbo…. now that’s a car… (I think)!!!!

Gary Turner

Haven’t you got to love German engineering? I’m speaking as a British engineer – and proud of it. But they seem to have a knack of ‘getting it right’.

Kulraj Salh

Very true, but I guess British engineering can take pride in the creation of the super saloon class with the Jaguar MKII


Hello everyone… more details now live and bidding open. Please ask Hamish any questions you may have here… thanks Adam


Hi there.
When is the car likely to be auctioned – do you have a date/time?
Thank you.


It’s now live 🙂

Kulraj Salh

Hi devchana, should be going live on auction within the next few days. Remember, our auctions run for a week, with a n auto extend feature if we have lots of last minute bids coming in.


Lovely looking beast! I can’t wait for a more elaborate write-up on the history and condition of the car. I was lucky enough to drive one of these in the early 90’s. One fine day I picked up a couple of hitchhikers just outside Paris on their way to Amsterdam. I dropped them off 300 km closer to their final destination, just outside Brussels, an hour and 40 minutes later! They were the most quiet hitchhikers I’ve ever picked up. The car, however, produced a magnificent howl throughout 🙂


Hello… it’s now live… what do you think?

Kulraj Salh

Lovely story, they had a lucky day to be picked up in one of these! We should have a full write-up with photography and videos live next week.

Richard Lake

Cool car, do you have the correct wheels?

Kulraj Salh

Hi Richard, this car comes with 15″ wheels, period correct but bigger than the 14″ that were originally shipped from the factory.