The 2003 BMW M3 CSL is rightly lauded as one of the greatest M-cars of all time. However, its brutal SMG automatic gearbox – which offers sequential manual shifts via the lever or steering wheel paddles – has always split opinion.
For some, it amplifies the raw ‘DTM racer for the road’ experience. For others, it spoils the car.
If you fall into the latter camp, help is at hand. Everything M3s, a BMW specialist based in Banbury, is offering a manual gearbox conversion kit for the CSL. For £3,500, it could make the best M3 (discuss) even better.
BMW M3 CSL on test.— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) February 3, 2017
Vital stats: 355bhp, 0-60mph in 4.8sec, 161mph and 33mpg. Prices from £50k upwards… pic.twitter.com/C913UZZwSI
The aftermarket kit uses 180 genuine BMW parts, replacing the electrohydraulic element of the transmission with a traditional clutch pedal and gear lever.
After the SMG gearbox is removed from the car, a self-centering shift mechanism is added, followed by a new clutch and flywheel. The engine management ECU is also reprogrammed.
Everything M3s says the whole process takes ‘a matter of days’ and ‘while there is a waiting list for the conversion, lead times are reasonable’.
Protecting your investment
Importantly for a classic that has soared in value in recent years, the conversion is fully reversible. The original parts can be retained and the car returned to standard spec – protecting the value of your investment
Everything M3s is owned by ex-Formula 1 engineer, Darragh Doyle. Speaking about the conversion, he said: “While we appreciate every iteration of M3, I was annoyed that the CSL – in my opinion the best of the best – never had a manual gearbox, so I decided to engineer my own.
“It is easier to live with in traffic and around town, while giving total control on a racetrack. A manual M3 CSL is the car that BMW should have always built.”
M3 CSL’s carbon intake manifold looks – and sounds – utterly brilliant.— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) February 3, 2017
Six-speed SMG semi-auto gearbox is standard on all cars. pic.twitter.com/OIBOVwFwHs
I sampled the E46 for our Retro Road Test and came away shaken and stirred. Here’s a snippet from the review, which you can read in full on Motoring Research.
‘Around town, it feels like a caged animal, the ageing SMG ’box venting its frustration with occasionally clunky shifts.
‘All of that is soon forgotten once you find the right road, though. With no turbo to spool up, throttle response is instant, the engine exploding to 8,000rpm, the gearbox banging each ratio home by brute force.
‘For all its straight-line performance, it’s the CSL’s handling that elevates it to legend status. The last car I drove that felt so tied-down yet adjustable was a Porsche Cayman GT4. High praise indeed for a BMW first launched in 2003.’