The 5 Series got its name by being the fifth of the "new series" cars
after the V-8 and Isetta era. The preceding models were the 700, the
"New Class", the "New Six" 2500/2800/Bavaria and the CS. The 5 Series
was intended to replace the older New Six sedans.
The first generation's body was styled by Marcello Gandini, based on
the Bertone 1970 BMW Garmisch 2002ti Geneva show car. Gandini also did
the Fiat 132 and Alfa Romeo Alfetta, two other cars that have a similar
There have been six generations of the 5 Series to date. To
differentiate between them, they are referred to by their unique
chassis numbers (EXX or FXX).
The 5 Series began the BMW tradition of being named with a three-digit
number. The first digit (5 in this case) represents the model, and the
following two digits (usually) represent the size of the engine in
decilitres, which is the main distinguishing difference. Additional
letters or words may be added to the end of the three-digit number to
define the fuel type (petrol or diesel), engine or transmission
details, and the body style. The 'i' originally stood for (fuel)
The BMW E12 was the first 5 Series BMW made. The following models were
produced in this series:
1974 518 - 1.8 L M118 I4
1976 518 - 1.8 L M42 I4
1980 518 - 1.8 L M10B18 I4
1972 520 - 2.0 L M17 I4, 115 hp (86 kW; 117 PS)
1972 520i - 2.0 L M64 fuel-injected I4, 125 hp (93
kW; 127 PS)
1977 520 - 2.0 L M20B20 I6 122 hp
1973 525 - 2.5 L I6
1975 528i - 2.8 L I6
1975 530i - 3.0 L I6, 176 hp (131 kW; 178 PS)
1976 530 Motorsport Limited Edition - 3.0 L I6, 200
hp (149 kW; 203 PS)
1979 M535i - 3.5 L I6, 218 hp (163 kW; 221 PS)
The 1970 BMW 2200ti Garmisch show car designed by the Bertone Design
Centre led by Marcello Gandini set the style for the E12 5-series.
Designed to compete with the Mercedes-Benz W114 sedans, 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. A six-cylinder version of the 520, built with a 2.0 L M20
belt-driven engine was also available from 1977 on (to coincide with
the minor restyling).
The 525i, 528i, 530i, and M535i, were fitted with
M30 six-cylinder engines as used on the large E3 sedans and E9 coupes.
With the exception of the 520i, four-cylinder and 2.0 L six-cylinder
engines were fitted with Solex carburetors (although in the UK the
four-cylinder 520 was fitted with twin Stromberg 175CDET carburettors).
The 520i used the mechanical fuel injection system from the BMW 2000tii
and BMW 2002tii. Six-cylinder versions were available with dual Zenith
two-barrel carburetors or Bosch L-jetronic fuel injection.
Fuel-injected models contain the i letter at the end of their model
badge. Although BMW had always located turn signal stalks on the right
hand side of its steering wheels, the E12 was their first model to have
the stalk on the left side.