Swap the E46 BMW M3 CSL’s Semi-Automatic for a Real Stick Shift With This Clever Kit

Everything M3s’ six-speed manual CSL kit was engineered using 180 genuine BMW parts, and it makes the greatest E46 even better.

byMáté Petrány|
BMW News photo

The 2004 BMW M3 CSL is arguably the best M3 the Bavarian company has made so far. A limited edition of just 1,383 cars, the E46 CSL was lightened and upgraded to stiffer springs, a quicker steering rack and semi-slick tires, while its S54 inline-six came with hotter cams, a better intake system and larger exhaust valves. With these modifications, BMW's much praised 3.2-liter produced 355 horsepower. Unfortunately, the CLS was also born at the time when BMW was in love with its semi-automatic SMG II gearbox, a unit most owners would rather replace with a crisp six-speed manual by now. Since the CSLs came exclusively with the SMG II, former Formula 1 mechanic Darragh Doyle came up with a conversion kit now offered through his company Everything M3s.

The semi-automatic SMG II is still based on the E46 M3's standard Getrag 420G stick-shift but it uses an electrohydraulically-actuated clutch, which is capable of shifts in just 80 milliseconds, according to BMW. What the factory casually forgot to mention is that this track-happy gearbox is also rather bad at stop-and-go traffic and low speeds in general, not to mention its so-so reliability.

Doyle argues that the manual CSL is what BMW should have built in the first place, and he’s far from the only one. His conversion pack is sold as a complete fitted kit, with the manual components replacing the electrohydraulic element of the gearbox with a traditional clutch pedal and gear stick arrangement using 180 genuine BMW parts. The process only takes a few days with the gearbox removed, a self-centering shifting mechanism added, a new clutch and flywheel fitted and the engine management recoded for a manual transmission.

What's more, keeping in mind that the E46 is a rare and collectible car, the entire process is reversible with all factory SMG parts retained to ensure the possibility of a complete return to stock form at any time in the future.

As you can see in the video below, Ferrari and vintage racing specialists DK Engineering is already endorsing Everything M3s' conversion job, which starts at £3,500 or roughly $4,600 USD. In their press release, Mr. Doyle added that "while there is a waiting list for the conversion, lead times are reasonable."

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