The manual BMW E46 M3 CSL is a natural evolution of a great platform
The reason why most Formula 1 teams, motorsport engineering companies, and small lightweight sports car manufacturers are based in the U.K. is that there’s simply a whopping number of talented mechanics, designers, and engineers in that part of Europe. And Darragh Doyle, a former F1 mechanic and racer, is one of them. His company, Everything M3, started out as a hobby kept afloat by eager forum members in dire need of rebuilt M3 and M5 differentials, only to become a full-time business with the perfect formula for manual E46 M3 CLS conversions, as well.
When you sit in an older M car equipped with the SMG 2 electro-hydraulic semi-auto gearbox, phrases like “you learn to live with it,” and “high-shifts are cool, but one day it will blow” will come up. Back in the day, BMW was as deeply in love with its electro-hydraulic manual contraption, as was Ferrari with its similar “F1” gearbox. Neither have aged well since.
For that reason, while representing the pinnacle of M performance, the M3 CSL was only available with two pedals in 2004. Of the 1383 Coupe Sport Leichtbau cars made, a little over 400 were sold in the U.K., complete with a GKN-supplied rear differential using viscous coupling, and a final drive of 3.62:1.
Enter Jaguar Land Rover vehicle dynamics test driver David, who purchased a high-mileage CSL five years before trusting Darragh with the conversion. It was either that or sell the car, but since a CSL is rather hard to replace, David gave in. Everything M3 got rid of the electro-hydraulic add-ons, and also changed the differential to a fully mechanical motorsport unit with a 4.1:1 final drive, which improves response and durability. With the job done, David ended up with arguably the best CSL in his country—and arguably the car BMW should have built in the first place. All this, too, without sacrificing that stock OEM feel, thanks to the SMG still being a manual gearbox at its core.
If you’re not jealous yet, British journalist Harry Catchpole had a crack at it: