Earlier this month we were in Portugal test driving the all-new G30 5 Series, BMW’s midsize athlete that’s often associated with the successful Bavarian brand. To showcase the important of its 5 Series family, BMW has brought out its entire lineup, starting with the iconic E12.

But among those historical cars, there was one that stood out the most – The E12 M535i.

BMW M535i E12-10 BMW M535i E12-12 BMW M535i E12-06

The M535i was introduced as a sporty version of the regular 535i, although the M535i does not feature any unique BMW Motorsport-designed drivetrain components it is, however, equipped with an M-Technic suspension, wheels and body panels not found on the standard 535i.

The E12 M535i is the only official BMW Motorsport-developed version of the E12 5 Series. It is the only E12 model powered by the 3.5-liter M30 inline-six from the E23 735i and E24 635CSi. It also has a BMW Motorsport-tuned chassis and several unique cosmetic items.

BMW M535i E12-21

European-spec E12 M535i models were partially assembled on the normal 5 Series production line at Dingolfing then hand-finished at the BMW Motorsport facility on the Preussenstrasse in Munich. South African-spec versions were assembled in BMW’s Rosslyn, South Africa factory from Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits supplied from Germany.

BMW M535i E12-28 BMW M535i E12-35 BMW M535i E12-30

The E12 M535i was introduced at the 1979 Frankfurt motor show.

The E12 M535i was never officially sold in North America because the 3.5-liter M30 engine was not yet available with a catalyst and therefore could not meet U.S. emission control standards. Also, the addition of such equipment, as well as the various government-mandated safety items, would have reduced performance to essentially that of a North American-spec 528i.