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20 Rare and Interesting BMW Models You Probably Didn’t Know About

Vukasin HerbezMarch 6, 2019

  1. BMW 530 MLE E12

Did you know they produced the first M BMW in South Africa four years before any M cars appeared in Germany? In fact, in 1976, BMW South Africa presented a special model they called the 530 MLE, short for Motorsport Limited Edition. It featured numerous performance upgrades over the standard 5 Series 530 model.

But the biggest change was the almost fully race-prepped six-cylinder, 3.0 liters engine with an upgraded performance intake and cylinder head as well as beefed up internals. The result was a fantastic 274 HP coming from the three liters. And all that made this four-door sedan one of the fastest, most powerful passenger cars in the world at the moment.

  1. BMW E21 Baur

For decades, BMW had a long and fruitful relationship with the German design company, Baur. They produced limited edition and special models for BMW and other German brands. Also, BMW supplied the bodies for Baur conversions that were convertibles or Targa-style open tops they based on regular models.

But one of the most interesting was the E21 3-Series Baur TC2 model they produced from 1978 until 1982 in just over 4,500 examples. And, they only sold 25 of their new cars in America.

  1. BMW 745i E23

In 1983, BMW South Africa presented a special and significant car they called the 745i. It got its power from a naturally aspirated M88 engine from the famous M1 supercar. The six-cylinder engine produced 286 HP. In fact, it was one of the hottest engines from BMW that found its way into the biggest, most luxurious sedan in their lineup.

That’s quite an unusual combination, even by today’s standards, but 745i turned out to be a fast and capable car. It was even good enough to go racing. In an extremely interesting turn of events, the big 745i won the South African touring car championship, becoming the first 7 Series sedan to win a major race series.

  1. BMW-Brabham BT52

In the early ‘80s, BMW entered the Formula One race along with Brabham Team. In those days, turbo technology was all the rage, so they equipped the BT52 with a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder heavily turbocharged engine that produced a fantastic 800 HP.

The result was one of the fastest cars on the grid as well as being the first forced induction car to win the Formula One title. Although most have forgotten about it, this race car was immensely important for lifting the BMW confidence in racing.

  1. BMW Z1

Before roadsters like the Z3, Z4 and the cool-looking, limited production Z8, BMW introduced the strange looking but interesting Z1. The Z1 was a sleek roadster with uncharacteristic styling and plastic body panels. Also, it had unusual sliding doors, which disappeared in rocker panels when drivers opened them. Technically, you could drive the BMW Z1 with the doors down.

The other interesting feature was the plastic body panels bolted onto the chassis. Z1 owners could buy different color panels and attach them to the car at their will. That means they could change the color of the car just by adding different colored doors and fenders, as well as the trunk or hood.

  1. BMW 333i E30

In 1988, BMW South Africa introduced the 333i E30 coupe with a 3.3-liter straight six that delivered 194 HP and a vivid performance. The 0 to 60 mph sprint took around seven seconds, which was better than the M3 E30. The 333i came with a plush interior, but only two options, air-conditioning or power steering.

Apparently, the big six-cylinder took up so much space in the engine bay that buyers had to choose between an air-conditioning compressor or a power steering pump. Since this was a special model, BMW made only 210 of those fantastic 333i E30s. They are extremely rare today, even in South Africa.

  1. BMW M3 E30 Convertible

If you ask the average BMW enthusiast if the company ever produced an E30 M3 open top, the answer will be “no.” But, the fact is, they produced that model in fewer than 800 examples and for just three years as a special order. The original E30 M3 was homologation special BMW built for racing, so they didn’t consider a convertible version in the beginning.

However, to widen its appeal, the company decided to introduce such a car they based on a regular E30 3-Series open top. Today, those convertibles are a rare, expensive piece of M3 history.

  1. BMW M3 GT E36

The E36 M3 is now a legendary car which BMW sold all around the world. And it also proved itself on the race track. But there was one rare and forgotten version which was even better, the M3 GT. BMW built only 365 examples, and for one year only, in 1995.

The M3 GT had more power at 295 HP and less weight at around 60 pounds less. With its unrestricted top speed and stiffer suspension, it was the perfect driving machine. However, they only produced it in only one color, British Racing Green, selling it in selected European markets.

  1. BMW M3 GTR E46

BMW wanted to battle Ferrari and Porsche in the American IMSA racing series. So for that purpose, they prepared the E46 M3. However, instead of a high revving 3.2-liter six-cylinder, their M Performance division installed a special 4.4-liter V8 engine that made the M3 unstoppable at the tracks. But, the other teams in the race series cried foul since the V8 wasn’t a production item in the M3 range.

So, BMW decided to create one of the craziest homologation specials ever, the M3 GTR. It delivered a whopping 493 HP with full racing equipment and an aero package. Interestingly, BMW built 10 cars, but never offered them for sale to the public. Apparently, all 10 are still in BMW’s ownership even though there were interested buyers willing to pay $220,000 apiece.

  1. BMW M5 Wagon E60

Even though this was not the first M5 station wagon, BMW produced just 1,025 of them. In fact, only a few people even knew BMW offered the car. It had a high revving 5.0-liter V10 that pumped out 507 HP they derived from a BMW Formula One unit.

However, to fight Audi’s fast wagons, BMW decided to make a Touring version of the M5 and offer it with a manual transmission. So, it this is a BMW M5 station wagon delivering 507 HP with a six-speed manual transmission. It goes from 0 to 60 in just 4.5 seconds with a 205 mph top speed. It’s no wonder that second-hand examples go for over $100,000.

  1. BMW M3 CRT E90

When BMW debuted the E90 M3, most car enthusiasts raved about the glorious new V8 engine. However, they complained about the weight gain, which made the car feel less agile. BMW answered the criticism with a special, expensive and highly limited model they named the M3 CRT. The “CRT” stands for “Carbon Racing Technology” and represents the M3 Sedan with a full carbon body, seats, interior and other pieces.

Although the effort in reducing weight was extensive, the result was just 70 kilograms less than the regular model, which was a bit disappointing. However, BMW installed a 4.4-liter V8 engine from the M3 GTS with 450 HP that provided the M3 CRT with a strong performance. Since BMW only produced 67 examples in 2011, you will need around $300,000 to buy one today.

  1. BMW Hydrogen 7

From 2005 to 2007, BMW produced a special version of its 7-Series luxury sedan they named the Hydrogen 7. This was a specially prepared 760 Li model that could run on liquid hydrogen as well as on regular gasoline. Most importantly, it was the first production-ready passenger vehicle that could run on hydrogen fuel.

Although they only offered it in selected markets and production was reasonably low, it showed BMW’s dedication to clean energy and future technologies.

These are the 20 rare and interesting BMW models you probably didn’t know about, but now you do. Have you chosen your favorite? While some are still around, many of these are rare and highly-collectible models. But, they all show BMW’s dedication to innovation, design and technology.

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