Car of the Month - December 2006

Cars of the Month

The Car of the Month for December belongs to:
Remy Davison

This 1983 E12/8 528i is one of 1,800 built by BMW South Africa (between 1981 and 1984) at their Roslyn plant, which makes it as rare as an M535i if not nearly as desirable. This is the Executive model, which was introduced in South Africa first, and was later an E28 model in some markets, including Australia .

This was my first BMW, purchased in February 2002. It was brought to Melbourne, Australia, by the original South African owner. I first drove a '79 but it wasn't a good one. I couldn't figure out what this car was, knowing nothing about the first Fives, but I stumbled onto FirstFives researching it and I was hooked. I've learned a tremendous amount from this great site the best BMW website, period.

The E12/8 has E12 brakes, a 184bhp LE-Jetronic (E28) M30 (more torque than the Euro E12 528i says 260Nm), E28 front and rear suspension, E12 diff, E12 radiator, E28 A/C and heating/ventilation and, apart from the interior door panels (unique to these cars), E28 interior, dashboard and electronics. It's sometimes a chore to figure out whether you need E12 or E28 bits. Options fitted include full leather interior and headlining, power windows, rear headrests, metallic paint (Rubinrot # 18 - Ruby Red), front fog lights, (rare) sump guard, premium sound system (now replaced) and factory-original Towmaster towbar (and it's a great tow car).

The dash electrics are haphazard (unlike my '81 E12, where everything works), but all the important stuff works, as well as the Check Control. Only routine maintenance and repairs, including fuel pump relay, brake master cylinder, new ignition wires, Bosch Silber spark plugs, distributor cap, rotor, oil pressure sender, K&N filter, voltage regulator, guibo, water pump, disc rotors and pads all around. The car came fitted with Koni shocks.

When purchased, the front right-hand corner and part of the hood were smashed, and these were professionally repaired and the whole front of the car resprayed. The smash repair was very well done. Both front (Euro) turn signals were also smashed and replaced. There is typical rust in both front doors, but Killrust has taken care of it, and the car is structurally sound.

The odometer only works intermittently, but I estimate something like 130,000 miles, and it blows some blue smoke, although the engine performs brilliantly, particularly on the highway, and trans shifts are smooth. I've taken it up to 110mph without problems. I haven't timed it against my Euro 635Ci, but it wouldn't give away that much to the 3.5. Much of the paint is scratched, resprays from earlier damage to the rear do not color match, and there are sundry dents, especially in the rear bumper. But the car is a daily driver and very reliable.

It is totally different to drive from my '81 E12, but they are both hugely enjoyable in their own way. With E28 soundproofing, the E12/8 is quieter than the E12, but with its lighter weight and better brakes, it's much more an E12 in feel than an E28 (I also have a Euro E28 528i). Bottom line: it's a BoBW (Best of Both Worlds) car, combining the best of both the E12 and the E28.

You can also see scans of a large number of Euro and South African road tests of E12s I've collected at

© 2006, ™