BMW M Performance cars are nowadays widespread across the lineup since you can have everything from an M135i compact hatchback to an X7 M50i fullsize luxury SUV. Back in the 1980s, they were less common as it wasn’t until the second half of the 2010s when more and more cars received the “M lite” treatment to bridge the gap between regular and full-fat M models.

This M535i from 1987 built during the E28 generation wasn’t the first souped-up BMW to carry M badges since its predecessor, the E12, came out in M Performance guise about seven years earlier as the M5’s ancestor. Recently purchased by the folks over at The Fast Lane Classics, this black example has an interesting history since it was originally bought by a customer from Japan with a left-hand-drive layout in a right-hand-drive country.

You might have already seen this car going up against a Porsche 944 Turbo from the same year, and now it’s getting the video walkaround to show what an “almost-but-not-quite M5” was like 35 years ago. Back in the second half of the 1980s, BMW sold two versions of the car as Europe and other markets got the M535i while the US was stuck with the lesser 535i.

Not the actual car

Aside from missing the “world’s most powerful letter,” the version sold in North America had a lesser configuration of the 3.4-liter, straight-six engine. The M60 made only 182 hp whereas its European counterpart packed a more substantial 215 hp. The US-spec car was also down on torque since it offered 214 pound-feet (290 Newton-meters) instead of 229 lb-ft  (310 Nm).

This car was originally built with an automatic transmission but the previous owner decided to make things right and swapped it for a five-speed manual. You can easily tell it wasn’t manufactured for the US since it doesn’t have identically sized headlights as the inner ones are slightly smaller to lend the car a more M535i a more aggressive look.

Bought by The Fast Lane Classics for $18,000, the M535i was obviously much cheaper to acquire than an M5 from that generation, so TFLC settled for the next best thing. The odometer shows 191,032 kilometers (118,701 miles) and the sports sedan seems to be in good condition, at least visually. As with current M Performance cars, it has quite a few M trinkets inside and out even though it’s not a bona fide M5.

Its modern-day equivalent would have to be the M550i, which costs nearly $27,000 less than a standard M5 and is tailored to those who are not willing to pony up six figures for the whole shebang. Of course, there’s also the more expensive Competition version for an extra $7,600 over the regular M5, plus the limited-run M5 CS available for $142,000.

[Source: TFLclassics / YouTube]