While Claus Luthe’s design of BMW’s E28 models has always been a favorite here at Curbside, we’ve covered many of them with a few notable exceptions as far as I can tell. So while I was initially pleased to see what I figured would be yet another although increasingly harder to find 528e, I was even more pleased once I crept up on it and realized it was instead a 533i, a model that we seem to have missed so far.
The 528e was, and is, a desirable car on its own merits, however driving excitement isn’t really atop the list of those merits. While still a straight six, BMW’s “eta” engines of the early 80’s era were limited in the revs department and as such were perhaps better suited for crawling along Sunset Boulevard and being valet parked than heading up into the Rocky Mountains. But for 1983, BMW finally saw fit to once again bless the “Fünfer” in the North American market with one of their “Big Six” M30 engines, starting with the 3.2liter version producing the power of 181 fine Bavarian horses, thus forming the basis of the 533i such as this example.
Only available for 1983 and 1984 and in manual or automatic form, this vehicle was later replaced in the lineup for 1985 by the 535i and of course later by the even rarer 535is and M5 models. This particular one is perhaps either a recent import to this state or a recent addition to the owner’s stable based on the new-ish license plate sequence. It certainly looks to be a very well-kept example and in its element here on the open freeway heading towards the mountains.
While 181hp isn’t anything particularly special today, 37 years ago it made for a formidable car; matched with a relatively light chassis and set up with a fine ride and handling balance, these were cars for connoisseurs that could appreciate the difference, there being next to no outward difference between it and the lesser 528e.
As I passed it, I craned my neck to see the front of it in my mirror and wasn’t surprised at all to see it carry on that grand tradition of 1980’s BMW’s, at least in the US, that being the lit fog lights at seemingly any hour of day or night, no matter how clear the weather. I swear it seems like the fog light switch is hardwired to the ignition switch on every single 1980’s BMW with no other way of controlling the illumination. No matter, either way it was a welcome and refreshing sight on the afternoon of a long day and I hope the driver enjoys his car at least as much as I enjoyed looking at it.