1977 BMW 530i

If the E28 defined BMW as the defact mid-range sports sedan manufacturer, it was the E12 that established the trend. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the original Paul Bracq design; it is both stately and organic, subtle and understated but strong and elegant. The 5-series announced that you had arrived in a distinctly more sporty manner than the Audi 100 or Mercedes W123. Unfortunately, unlike the W123, it’s become exceedingly difficult to find good examples of the E12 – especially when you wind the clock back to the U.S. thermal-reactor 530i. Many suffered death by mechanical disregard or worse yet the ignominious death by tin worm. That’s why it’s especially awesome to see one pop up in fantastic shape, such as this 1977 Topaz Brown model that was spotted by our reader John via Daily Turismo.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 BMW 530i on Craigslist

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Double Take: 1978 BMW 530i

I’d like to think that Paul Bracq winces a bit every time he sees one of his beautiful creations saddled with what the government deemed necessary to survive a 5 m.p.h. impact. It’s rather ironic, seeing as how today most cars can’t even rub up against another without deforming the plastic bumper covers. But back in the 1980s, the solution to the problem wasn’t aerodynamic, well integrated covers – no, as if to say “that’s not a real regulation, is it?” to the government, manufacturers went overboard. They adopted massive impact bumpers for U.S. markets, many extending improbably far from the body lines of the car. The E12 was a perfect example of this; of course, take a BMW from the 1970s, take the bumpers off and drive it at something and you’ll quickly learn what will hit first – the hood. The chiseled looks Bracq refined were great though, almost good enough to overlook the saddling of U.S. safety equipment. In many ways, I prefer the simplicity of the E12 to the refined E28; to me, the early car is prettier, a 5 series with some of the best parts of the 6 series design incorporated. But there were many drawbacks besides the look of the bumpers for E12s in the U.S. market. Most notably, the pre-catalyst engine used thermal reactors and air pumps to help superheat the exhaust to burn off pollutants – remember, these cars were delivered when leaded gasoline was still around, meaning catalytic converters would quickly be clogged. However, the thermal reactors wreaked their own havoc with the M30, sometimes resulting in warping the head. Coupled with diminished performance and a propensity to rust, it’s therefore become rare to find good condition E12s still floating around today – but there are two for sale on Ebay right now:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 BMW 530i on eBay

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