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On March 7, BMW employees will blow 97 candles - accurately gapped to a 0.5mm tolerance - off a flawlessly circular cake to celebrate the company’s birthday. Slice allocation will be measured with a protractor. Laughing will be monitored. There will be no crumbs on the floor. NICHT KRÜMEL, MENSCHEN.

So we thought we’d join in on the celebrations by highlighting this classified ad - a rather tasty E12. And while it looks a lot like it’s the first cool-looking BMW we found online, this car actually represents the German manufacturer’s leap from small European car company to global luxury automaker. Well, this and a man called Eberhard von Kuenheim.

As well as a profoundly German name, Eberhard had many talents. Chiefly, he could grow car companies. He joined BMW as CEO in 1970 at just 40 years old after leaving Daimler-Benz AG. By 1971 he’d moved it to its now-iconic Munich HQ, architecturally modeled to look like four cylinders. A year later he signed off the 5 Series to replace the New Six saloons, and with it won over the American luxury market. It was a model that kick-started the brand’s international presence, and contributed greatly to the 18-fold increase in turnover and four-fold increase in car production during his stewardship.

Based on the 1970 2200ti Garmisch show car designed by Bertone, the E12 was built to compete with Mercedes’ W114 model, which was effectively an E-Class equivalent. Like the Benz, it was offered with a huge breadth of engines, incorporating six and four-pot variants (but no diesel, thankfully) - you could have a 1.8 or 2.0-litre four pots, alternatively the six-pots were available as 2.0, 2.5, 2.8, 3.0, or 3.5-litre units. Unless you were American…

Part of Eberhard’s scheme was marketing US-market cars as posh saloons, so you could only buy a 530i or 528i. Inside, they were smeared with stuff like wood trim, electric windows, leather seats, and most got air conditioning as standard. But the American market imposed several restrictions, chiefly hideous bumpers designed to withstand a 5mph impact with no body damage. Despite looking dreadful compared with Euro-speccers, they flew out of showrooms, imbedding themselves - and the BMW brand - in the USA’s upscale consciousness.

This is not one of the posh ones. It’s a proper European, work-a-day 2.0-litre four cylinder BMW. It has an auto ‘box, un-hideous bumpers, its original Biscay blue paintwork, sparkly factory britework and jet black grills on the C-pillar (they tend to go grey and horrid) - but most importantly, there’s only 24,811 miles on the clock. Remarkable considering that this is the model that built BMW’s brand identity.

Click here to see the ad

Happy birthday BMW. Any TopGear.commers going to celebrate it by buying this? It’ll only set you back £9,995. £7,510 less than a new 1-Series.

Pictures: 4 Star Classics

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