Avery special M model, a fantastic event and over 150 participants: The BMW M3 CSL recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. A group of enthusiastic owners from around the world celebrated in style with a trip to Munich and the Nürburgring. This resulted in incredible images – with the impressive BMW World in Munich as the backdrop. We spoke with Mike Rainbird, one of the organizers of this amazing event.  

20 years of BMW M3 CSL - Mike Rainbird

“I wanted to make sure not to miss the 20th anniversary.”

Name: Mike Rainbird

Place of origin: Norfolk, Great Britain

Profession:  Business owner and passionate owner of a BMW M3 CSL  

BMW M Magazine: Mr. Rainbird, how did this particular M3 CSL anniversary event come about?

Mike Rainbird: Having bought the car six weeks before the 10th anniversary in 2013, I desperately wanted to attend, but missed out due to work commitments. This event was talked about by everyone for years (further rubbing it in for all those who weren’t able to go), so I wanted to make sure that I not only did not miss the 20th anniversary, but that it was also to be similarly memorable for all who attended.

How did you get to Munich? Did you drive the car or put it on a trailer?

I drove the car from Norfolk with a fellow owner. We met up with nine other CSLs at Folkestone, making a convoy of eleven CSLs. We then headed to Munich with an overnight stop at Saarbrucken, the half-way point.

20 years of BMW M3 CSL

What is special about the M Community?

The passion for the brand, the camaraderie and the worldwide friendships based on the love of M division.

What originally made you buy the BMW M3 CSL and how has your passion evolved over the years?

Like many in our group, I watched the original test of the CSL on Top Gear and was instantly taken by the looks, the sound and Jeremy Clarkson’s praise for the car. From that moment on, I was hooked and I knew I had to have one. It took me 10 years to buy one, and I plan to keep it forever. It has the perfect balance of practicality and specialness that I don’t think can – or ever will – be replicated.

20 years of BMW M3 CSL
20 years of BMW M3 CSL

“The M community is very special with its passion for the brand and the worldwide friendships.”Mike Rainbird

What was the highlight at this event?

Meeting the legend Horst von Saurma. He is the Sport Auto journalist responsible for the 7.50-minute Supertest lap time that he achieved in the M3 CSL, racing against the Porsche 996.2 GT3, and defeating it. They say you should never meet your heroes, but on this occasion, that could not have been farther from the truth. Horst was everything you want from a “hero” – gracious, unassuming, funny, considerate and more than willing to spend time with us and share his memories.

What role do you think the M3 CSL plays in automotive history, and in what ways does it hold a special place?

For me, it’s the best car BMW M has ever built. Its combination of practicality and special features is unrivalled – some cars are more exclusive but less practical, and some cars are more practical but far less special. Aesthetically, there is not one bad angle to view the car from. Put that all together with the fact that everyone involved in producing the car still remembers it as a halcyon period for BMW M, you begin to appreciate just how well loved the car is. For me, it is still the M3 CSL against which every subsequent M car is benchmarked. The car feels raw, special and, above all, hugely involving. Modern cars lack this provocative feature because they isolate you from the world outside. This is okay for mundane cars, but not for people who enjoy driving. To quote a BMW tagline: the BMW M3 CSL is the ultimate driving machine.

20 years of BMW M3 CSL - Nürburgring

A place where legends were formed: Part of the group made a “short” detour to the Nürburgring after their stay in Munich.

Can you share a memorable experience or story related to your M3 CSL?

It was the beginning of 2013, just before the 10th anniversary of the CSL, and practically all the talk on the CSL register forum was about this event. It looked like it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – I desperately wanted in.

I was logging on and checking the “cars for sale” section every single day and I was finally rewarded when a sapphire black M3 CSL came up for sale at the very beginning of March. The only problem was that it was almost as far away as you could get from me – in Aberdeen, Scotland. Despite this, it was in good condition.

The owner and I agreed on a price, but before I travelled all that way to view the car, I insisted on some close-up pictures of the interior. The seller kept promising he would send some, but, a few weeks later, he still hadn’t sent them despite my chasing him regularly. It started to become annoying. I didn’t even really want a Sapphire Black car – I feel that the carbon details are lost in the sea of darkness – I really wanted a Silver Grey one, because the beautiful metallic silver grey paintwork is a perfect contrast to the carbon parts. Unfortunately, this was the only CSL for sale at that time, given that most owners on the forum were going to the 10th anniversary trip and did not want to sell before then.

Obviously, I was still scouring the “for sale” section on the forum and, on the 18th of March at 16:08, an advertisement appeared for a Silver Grey one. It had my dream specs and everything – APs, Supersprint, H&R coilovers as well as all the standard parts to boot. Within 30 mins of the advert going live – and having no idea of where the car was located – I had sent the seller a message.

Now, this is where the story starts to get incredible, especially if you believe in fate. This is the reply I got:

Hello Mike,

You are certainly very quick off the mark! The ad only went up half an hour ago. And the news gets a little bit better for you. The car is currently in central Norwich, not far from the cathedral.

My number is 07788 xxxxxx. Give me a call if you’ve got any more questions or if you want to sort out coming to see it.

I’m going to keep the ad up for the time being but rest assured, you’ve got first dibs on it.



Not only am I located in Norfolk, but my workplace is only a 10-minute drive from where this car was located. As you can imagine, reading his reply, I nearly fell off my chair and I phoned him immediately. Since he was at home, I naturally arranged immediate viewing. The timeline went like this: he posted the advert at 16:08, I messaged him at 16:35, he replied at 16:50, I phoned him, got his address and set off (at high speed) to view the car. By 17:09, he posted that the car was provisionally sold (I had viewed the car and paid a £500 deposit). In total, from posting to selling, it took exactly one minute over an hour… This car was obviously meant to be mine and makes me believe that there is such a thing as fate.

Sadly, as previously mentioned, I wasn’t able to make the 10th anniversary. However, I did get the T-shirt to celebrate the event and intended to keep the car to ensure I could at least attend the 20th anniversary. And, yes, it has worked!

“Our passion for this car and the M brand transgresses age, nationality and religious barriers. We are M!“Mike Rainbird


Are there already plans for the next event?

Following the success of the 20th anniversary, the owners in the group who attended want to make an annual meet-up and track event – so, watch this space!

If you could take a dream trip around the world in your BMW M3 CSL, where would you go and why?

We just went on it! The next one will be the 25th anniversary, which is already in the early stages of planning, and will be even more epic.

Have you made any friendships or connections with other M enthusiasts?

The camaraderie is as unrivalled as the passion for the car and the BMW M brand. The friendships established over the past 3½ years (our WhatsApp group), will be lifelong – we all bend over backwards to help and assist each other. We have over 220 owners from around the world – from America to New Zealand – and our passion for this car and the M brand transgresses age, nationality and religious barriers. We are M!

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