Bargain BMW – 1979 E12 528i

Some of my earliest car memories are of riding in the back seat of a 1975 530i automatic, dark blue with a black vinyl interior (and a black vinyl roof, apparently to cover up roll-over damage). The car was equipped with steel wheels with hubcaps instead of the common turbine-style wheels you see on late 1970s BMWs, thermal reactors to clean the exhaust, and had a center-mount fuel-filler next to the license plate. It was apparently a bit of a pig to drive and went through brakes or tires fairly quickly. After 5 years of Montreal winters, it was succumbing to the salt, was given a quickie respray, and sold on to someone who planned to drive it cross-country.

This car is arguably a better evolution of the E12 – it has a manual 4-speed, normal exhaust system with catalytic converter, and while it has 7 fewer horsepower, the later engine was not subject to the reliability issues of the earlier one (admittedly, if the car’s still alive by now, it’s probably been resolved). It does still come in the very appropriate dark blue, with a blue cloth interior that should make riding in a car with weak or no a/c tolerable. It’s also a California car that’s now in Las Vegas, so rust should not be an issue. Most importantly, it’s on eBay with no reserve and an opening bid of $1500, with no bids and just over a day left to go as of this writing.

1979 BMW 528i front

From what you can see from the small pictures, this car looks really clean for 200K miles and original paint. The panels look really clean & straight, and the California blue plate confirms his claim of the car’s origin. Either some period aftermarket wheels (Momo Vegas?) or the standard steel wheels would give this car a more unique look, nevermind making it easier to clean the wheels (as the former owner of a set of turbina wheels on my spider, ask me how I know!). The 5-speed conversion is also fairly straightforward, although that unit is shared by the E30 M3, so might be hard to find.

1979 BMW 528i rear

Seller also says he has the European bumpers for the car, which would help lighten up the look, although eliminate the possibility of impromptu picnics and tailgate parties with a readily available bench. He does not explain whether the conversion is easy (or whether the bumpers are included), but many First Fives members seem to have done it, suggesting it’s not so bad.

1979 BMW 528i interior

What little you can see of the interior in this pic looks pretty decent. I’m not sure velour on the interior was offered on this car, but it’s a good match and would most likely have been offered in other markets. Unsurprisingly, the dash has some cracks and is covered up by a dash mat. All in all, I’ve seen far worse E12s for similar money – if I needed another car I would jump on this one and bring it back home!

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