My love of the M3 CSL started probably where ever other owners’ love did. Top Gear. Specifically an episode in 2003, right when I was just about to pass my driving test. Until then, I’d been a Ford boy through and through. Being from Essex, I’ve grown up around Fords; my dad always had Fords, having raced them since the 60s and been friends with a number of people in the Essex-Ford ecosystem. My first car was a Ford Escort. Diesel. The mould was set. I digress.
It was arguably Top Gear’s most exciting time. The show was still fresh and Jeremy Clarkson didn’t always look like someone had rudely awoken him from his untimely death. We’d just got a new Stig and James May was just about getting warmed up. Then, all of a sudden, here on my screen was a car that planted a seed deep into my brain. It was a car that was made purely to go fast, comfort and practicality be damned. It was the ultimate expression of the E46 M3 and here was a man drifting and speeding around the Isle of Man with the car making all sorts of intoxicating sounds I’d never heard before. For whatever reason, there’s something about a stripped out, purified, distilled version of a car that really speaks to me. The CSL was just that, it was a good car - the E43 M3 - with everything turned up and buzzing, without compromise, exactly what the engineers wanted from the base car before other departments started telling them the seats needed to be comfier and it had to be quieter and there had to be somewhere to put your drink.
I even remember the song from the segment - Electronic Performer by Air - its brutalist electronic beats perfectly echoing the BMW’s single-minded, ruthless function.
Mr. Clarkson concluded that it was BMW at its absolute best, and I was inclined to agree. I knew I had to have one, one day.