The E12 was the first car to bear the 5 Series moniker, denoting BMW’s fifth “New Class” platform. BMW produced the E12 between 1972 and 1981 before it replaced by the equally famous E28 5 Series. The E12 models were fitted with a variety of engines. 1.8 L and 2.0 L M10 I4 engines from the older Neue Klasse sedans were used in the 518 and 520, respectively. The 520i was also produced with a 2.0 liter M20 engine and used the mechanical fuel injection system (Kugelfischer) from the BMW 2000tii and BMW 2002tii. The six-cylinder 520i made 120 horsepower and 160 Nm (120 lb-ft) of torque. The four-cylinder variant made 125 horsepower and 171 Nm (126 lb-ft) of torque.

This particular model was quite troublesome for BMW when they imported to the US. With different regulations and safety laws BMW replaced and modified many of the parts on this vehicle and because of these mods the car was susceptible to overheating from warped or cracked cylinder heads. The company offered replacement parts one all effected models in and outside of warranty which was a steep price.


American-market E12s in the later years were generally sold as ‘upscale’ models and as such they were fitted with power windows, wood trim, and usually leather interiors and air conditioning as standard. BMW chose to sell only fuel-injected six-cylinder versions of the E12 in the American market: the 530i and later the 528i.


The E12 was face lifted in September 1976. Bigger rear lights, a relocated fuel filler flap on the rear wing, reprofiled bonnet and grille were the main changes.

As the patriarch of the 5 Series family, the E12 has given rise to a pedigree of automotive evolution forever emulating the Ultimate Driving Machine.

The folks over at Car-Shooters found a 1980 E12 BMW 520i and drove it through an exciting trip in Italy. Click below for an amazing photo gallery: