If you’re a car enthusiast, regardless of preferred brand, you know of the BMW M5. It’s one of the most iconic automobiles of all time, perennially setting the standard for what a big, performance sedan should be. With each new iteration of the M5, competing car manufacturers scramble to create their own versions of what the most current M5 is. It’s the benchmark and it has been since 1985.
Back in the early ’80s, BMW was looking to go racing after the demise of its M1 racing series. BMW wanted to enter into Formula One, with team Brabham, but BMW Motorsport boss, Jochen Neerpasch, had a different idea. The idea was to take the absolutely fantastic 3.5 liter, 24-valve BMW M1 engine and stuff it in a 5 Series. He proposed this idea to the board at BMW and soon after, the legendary E28 BMW M5 was created.
BMW engine designer, Paul Rosche, famous for his work on the incredible 6.1 liter BMW V12 that powered the McLaren F1, has a slightly different story about the M5’s origins, but his is a bit more interesting. During that time of heavy tension between East and West Germany, Eberhard von Kuenheim was the CEO of BMW. Von Kuenheim, for protection purposes in dangerous times, needed to be driven around in a turbocharged BMW 745i and his bodyguards followed in BMW 535is. However, the 535i wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the 745i, so Rosche requested a faster version of the 5 Series from the Motorsport Division. Thus, the M5 was born.
The latter is a bit sexier of a story, with political tension driving the need for fast bodyguard cars so as to protect BMW’s CEO. Whichever story is true, however, Neerpasch had to get the idea of the M5 past the board as a production car and we’re forever grateful for it. No one at BMW thought it would be a great success, as they felt customers wouldn’t pay that much of a premium for a faster 5 Series, but it sold 2,700 units in the first year and BMW knew it had something special on its hands.
The E28 M5 has always been a personal favorite of mine, now even more so after hearing those stories. Not only is it one of BMW’s coolest all-time cars, but it created a legend that still lives on today and shows no sign of ever leaving us and it has an incredible story behind it. If you didn’t already love the M5, it’s hard not too, now.