Fully restored and subtly modded, this immaculate bagged BMW E12 5 Series is simply pure classic perfection.
Feature from Performance BMW. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: shimfoto.ru
When it comes to general BMW appreciation, it’s always going to be the classics that get all the love. Sure, the newer models are more impressive in terms of performance and technology but the old-school BMs are the ones with all the style and flair and even the simplest E30 has an inherent charm and appeal about it. Of course, from our perspective, if you add a few enhancements to bring out the best in these classic BMs then you really elevate them to another level of appreciation. The less-is-more approach works so well when it comes to classic projects, allowing those timeless styling cues to shine through without being spoiled by excess additions, and Anton’s (@fsd_tony) stunning E12 518 is the perfect example of that modding philosophy in action.
The E12 is not a car we see that often on the scene, with most people opting for its younger E28-shaped sibling or even the later E34 when it comes to picking a classic Five, which is why seeing one is always a pleasure, and especially when it looks this good. For 32-year-old Muscovite Anton, cars have always been a big part of his life; “My experience with cars started when I was a young boy – I always helped my father with repairing cars, and at the age of 15 I bought my first car. It was a classic Soviet Moskvich 412 made in 1968 – my love for cars started there,” he smiles and that love has spread to BMWs. “BMW is a part of me now. I bought my first one in 2012, a 1987 E32 735i. You only have to try it once and you’re definitely in love with it. There’s no cure for BMW addiction,” he laughs and that’s evidenced by the fact that he also owns an E53 X5 and an E60 5 Series alongside his E12.
Considering how gorgeous this E12 is to look at and how much effort Anton has clearly put into it, it was actually something of an unexpected purchase for him; “I was offered just to check this car over – I didn’t even know about it as such – and I absolutely fell in love with it so I acquired it quite spontaneously,” he grins. “It was love at first sight with its shape and interior, especially with its naughty temperament. It is the progenitor of the 5 Series, so to speak,” he adds with a smile. “I found the car in a small Russian town called Torzhok; it was not in the best condition, sitting motionless for many years. The interior wasn’t complete and the engine didn’t start at all, also there was corrosion on the whole body. But I’m hard to stop and I decided to restore it,” he laughs.
“At first, I wanted to bring this car to its proper state so that it could work with no trouble (at that time it was in everyday use and now I use it only on weekends), but then I realised that it should be restored in a factory theme but still modified. Almost all the body parts have been replaced – only the roof and rear arches are original, while the remaining items were found from other cars and were recovered,” he explains. The end result is an E12 that is the very definition of clean – finished in its original shade of Biscay blue it looks so good with that chrome brightwork adding some highlights, and the only exterior aesthetic enhancement you will find is that BBS front spoiler, a subtle period piece that works so well with the whole look of the car. We’re also big fans of the Trixie fresh air lattices that Anton’s added to the rear windows because they’re just cool.
Of course, while the styling may have been left largely untouched, this E12’s looks have received some serious enhancement thanks to some other additions, namely Anton’s choice of suspension setup and wheels. “The car used to be on coilovers but I drive only on my own in many Russian cities and we all know about the quality of Russian roads – if you don’t then I’ll just say they’re not great,” he laughs. “Finally, I decided to get a four-way air suspension setup. I chose all the components myself due to the lack of off-the-shelf kits,” he explains but it was well worth the effort as the results are simply stunning.
Aired-out this E12 looks epic, like it was born to be on air-ride and the suspension suits the car perfectly, with Anton’s setup controlled via Bluetooth, adding some very modern flair to this classic build. Of course, if you’re going for air then you need to choose the right set of wheels to complement your suspension choice and while, at first glance, Anton’s selection might seem familiar it’s actually quite rare. “For a long time, I was running a set of 16” BBS RZs. The diameter of the wheels wasn’t enough for me, I wanted a set of 17s, but in the same style as the well-known BBS mesh. At last, we found these Zauber Rivale Mesh wheels – they were bought in Japan and are a perfect fit,” he grins and we have to agree. The 17” three-piece splits have that tight, classic cross-spoke design that suits the E12 perfectly while at the same time being a make of wheel that Anton is unlikely to see on another car, which is always nice for that rarity factor. 17s really were the perfect choice, with the classic Five more than happy to accept 8.5s and 9.5s front and rear respectively and these wheels just look so good.
With this being a humble 518 Anton hasn’t really spent much time under the bonnet, because this car is all about just cruising and looking good rolling low and slow. “The M10B18 is pretty much as it left the factory. I like the M10 for its simplicity because you can always fix it and move on. I improved only one thing – I changed the intake system so instead of the native Zenith 2B4, I installed horizontal Dellorto DHLA-40 carburettors,” says Anton and the only other mod is a custom exhaust. The cabin continues his minimalist modding approach and the E12’s interior is immaculate, but that’s thanks to Anton’s efforts in getting it to this level as, if you recall, when he bought the car the interior was in bits. “I tried to save the original interior, just renovating it or searching for better condition parts to restore it. I even managed to find a brand-new original Bavaria S radio!” he grins and it’s this attention to detail and those little period touches that make all the difference with a classic build like this. To complement the original wood trim, Anton has also added a wooden steering wheel and there’s a wooden gear knob to match and they’re the perfect period-look finishing touches to this classic build.
Anton has owned his E12 for eight years now and it’s been a slow and steady build, which seems fitting for a classic cruiser like this. “I’ve owned this car since 2013 and, honestly, I didn’t have any desire to do things in a rush – I did everything properly without any hurry. Here in Russia we have a lack of good spare parts or other elements, unfortunately,” he says but that didn’t stop him from restoring and modding this E12 and knowing the obstacles that he had to face while working on this project makes the immaculate end product all the more impressive. And perhaps even more impressive still is the fact that he bought this car without intending to own an E12 and then modded it without any specific plans or goal in mind. “The decision to go for a stance style came up spontaneously – I had always liked low cars but this was something absolutely new to me back in 2013. Almost all the work on the car I did on my own (except painting), but I didn’t want to do too much and change the car’s whole construction and design. I appreciate and love the BMW brand and everything stayed original, except the wheels and suspension,” he smiles and while the mods here might be minor, they work together so well and make a big impact when they combine.
Above all else, Anton loves everything about this car; “I like its simple modifications, its smell and controls, its simple engine and a minimal usage of electronics – you can just sit and drive,” he smiles and that’s such a big part of the appeal of classics such as this. Having worked on his Five leisurely over the past eight years Anton’s next plan for it is incredibly wholesome; “I want to save it for future generations,” he smiles and having restored it to such a high standard that’s not really surprising. The E12 is becoming something of a rare beast, so seeing this magnificent blue beauty brought back to life, saved and modded in one fell swoop, makes us happy and we imagine it makes Anton very happy too.
Tech Spec: Bagged BMW E12
Engine & Transmission:
1.8-litre four-cylinder M10B18, Dellorto DHLA-40 horizontal carburettors, custom exhaust. Getrag 245 five-speed manual gearbox
8.5×17” (front) and 9.5×17” (rear) Zauber Rivale Mesh three-piece wheels with 195/45 (front) and 205/45 (rear) Joyroad Sport RX6 tyres, custom four-way air suspension, Airfactory Android Bluetooth controller, ATE four-piston calipers (front)
Resprayed in original Biscay blue, BBS front spoiler, Trixie window lattices, Gold Bronze-tinted windows
Victor 360mm wooden steering wheel, wooden gear knob, Blaupunkt Bavaria S Mono radio