1 May 1973
BMW’S rear-wheel drive family sedan debuted in Australia, just one year after its European release in 1972, replacing the 1500-2000 series models that formed the backbone of the Bavarian company’s return from the brink of bankruptcy during the 1960s.
It introduced the classic BMW silhouette that, with three extensive revamps, was to take the 5 Series right through to the 2003 E60 ‘Bangle’ version.
Initially two sedan variations arrived – the 520 fitted with an 85kW/165Nm 2.0-litre overhead cam four-cylinder engine, or the 92kW/175Nm fuel-injected version.
Only the 520 was offered with a three-speed automatic as well as the standard four-speed manual gearbox.
Dual round headlights distinguished the 525 from March 1974. Fitted with twin carbs, it offered 108kW/209Nm from its 2.5-litre in-line six-cylinder engine, but only stuck around until July ’75, when the 121kW/238Nm 2.8-litre 528 replaced it.
As with all ‘70s BMWs, the transmission choice here was either a four-speed manual or three-speed auto.
By mid-’76, with new strict pollution laws pending, the 520 vanished while the 520i came in for some trim changes before it too was discontinued in ’78.
August ’77 saw the release of the classic 528i badge, adding fuel injection to the 2.8 in-line engine for a healthy 135kW/240Nm, as well as a host of exterior and trim changes. By comparison a Ford XC Falcon 3.3 ‘6’ produced 97kW and 257Nm.
But there were grumblings from the Australian media about the unsuitability of the 528i’s handling, particularly as Holden’s Radial Tuned Suspension campaign brought unfavourable comparisons with its reformed HZ Kingswood of the time.
BMW finally introduced firmer suspension from July ’79 to counteract the criticism its 5 Series was receiving. A five-speed manual gearbox arrived from early ’81.
In total 699,094 E12 5 Series were produced between 1972 and 1981.