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“Good news for car lovers; the front-engined GT is back.” Car magazine, August 1993.
Though the 456 is technically the car that replaced the 412 as Ferrari’s front engined V12 powered four seater, for many it is closer to the 365 GTB/4 Daytona, certainly aesthetically and spiritually and indeed it was a Daytona that Car magazine pitched it against back in 1993. Cast in the true Grand Tourer mould Lorenzo Ramaciotti excelled himself from his drawing board at Pininfarina’s studios when he penned the 456. Taught lines were pulled over the engine and cabin to give the classic long bonnet, short cockpit look redolent of so many Ferrari coupes dating back to the early 1950s. A masterful blend of swoops and scoops venting the engine bay and running along the doors from wheel arch to wheel arch, the 456 was definitely a contemporary machine though it still referenced the 365 GTB/4, especially in its tail treatment, rear lights and glasshouse. The real styling triumph however was Pininfarina’s ability to produce a shape able to accommodate four people without the slightly ungainly higher roofline that afflicts the likes of Maserati and Jaguar which, it must be said, also struggled to get their 2+2 configuration to actually add up to four.
It is of course common knowledge that when you buy a Ferrari, you are actually just paying for the engine, the rest of the car comes free and the 456 GT is no exception. Their first new V12 since the 412’s (which itself had its roots in the 1940s!) the Tipo F116 was a technical tour de force with Nicasil liners in a light alloy block topped with alloy cylinder heads each carrying twin camshafts and four valves for every cylinder. A dry sump lubrication system made sure these components stayed together as intended and state of the art Bosch Motronic engine management ensured the right amount of fuel went bang in the right place at the right time. What the 5473.91cc (careful, it is the .91cc that will cost you your licence) 456 GT engine (back to the good old cc/cylinder Ferrari model naming system though “Ferrari 456.15916666 recurring” was thought to be a little cumbersome) is really about is betrayed by degrees, specifically the included angle of the V which was 65 rather than the 60 seen in every other Ferrari V12 up to that point (Flat V 12s aside but that is another story), be they from Colombo, Lampredi or Jano. In many ways the engine has more in common with the Dino’s 65 degree V6 conceived by Jano along with Dino and Enzo Ferrari back in 1956 and it is interesting that the firm’s Formula One V12 power units also utilised the wider angled configuration, as does the current 812 Superfast. The key of course is that the wider the V, the smoother the inlet tracts can be but you obviously knew that anyway. Either way this modern day masterpiece was universally lauded, winning the prestigious "International Engine of the Year (Over Four Litre Class)" award in 2000 and 2001 – now that’s an awards ceremony many a ‘Plus One’ must have relished. The resulting 442 horses produced at 6,250 rpm propelled the Prancing Horse and four humans to 188 mph (a record for a four seater) having cleared 60 in a smidge over 5 seconds, proving the pedigree of what was then the most powerful Ferrari road car ever, twin turbocharged F40 aside.
Employing the transaxle concept as seen on 275 GTB and Daytona, though this time with six speeds, the 456 achieved an admirable 49/51% front/rear weight distribution fully laden and when you booted all your mates and their luggage out, it only flipped those numbers round – near perfect weight distribution whatever the circumstances then. For a full (admittedly very full) four seater, that weight was kept reasonably low with the main body constructed entirely of aluminium welded to a steel space-frame chassis whilst a composite bonnet plus bumpers helped bring the total in at just 1,690 kg.
Under that beguiling body, Ferrari went for independent all wishbone coil-sprung suspension with anti-roll bars front and rear. Though classic in configuration it was controlled by state of the art sophisticated gas dampers that were cockpit adjustable from hard to soft, while the car’s powerful ‘brain’ factored steering angle, speed and acceleration into the mix too. A ZF steering rack that varied rate and effort depending on lock and road speed ensured the GT was both wieldy and accurate to direct. Slowing down was taken care of by 512 TR sourced vented discs and callipers with anti-lock function courtesy of ATE.
A good place to start with this particular car is in its all-important history file and particularly its comprehensive service history detailed within one of the seven (count ‘em) Factory books contained in their bespoke leather case. Over the first eight years and forty thousand miles of its life, this 456 was meticulously serviced within the Ferrari Main Dealer service network by the likes of JCT 600 and Meridien Modena or by respected Ferrari experts Specialist Cars of Knutsford, Cheshire. So frequently was the Ferrari attended to that the original service book was not able to keep pace and additional space had to be found in the inside cover for the multitude of stamps. The key dates and mileages were as follows:
JCT 600. 4.8.95. 600/1,000 mile complimentary service
JCT 600. 4.6.96. 3,332 miles
JCT 600. 6.2.97. 7,527 miles
Specialist Cars. 5.1.98. 13,401 miles
Specialist Cars. 16.9.98. 15,066 miles
Specialist Cars. 25.11.99. 16,484 miles, including cam belt change
Meridien Modena. C20,000 miles. Belts and clearances, check gearbox
Meridien Modena. June 2001. 25,726 miles
Meridien Modena. 4.7.02. 28,495 miles
Meridien Modena. 14.8.03. 39,531 miles
According to the MOT certificates on file, by April 30th 2005 the mileage had increased to 48,678 and it is understood that the 456 then remained unused while a divorce took place that is perhaps best described as 'discordinato' (sounds nicer than 'messy'); more than unreasonable behaviour we would say. Rescued from that period of inactivity in 2013, it then underwent considerable refurbishment, highlights of which are detailed by bills in the file and include re-leathering of the rear parcel shelf in 2016 plus a full gearbox rebuild, relining of the clutch, replacement of the radiator (a known problem area on 456s) and another full ‘cam belt’ service. This work was completed just a handful of miles ago in March of last year at a cost of over £3,700, shortly before its purchase by the current owner who has further improved the condition of the Ferrari. The mileage now stands at 56,760 - an average of under 2,500 per year over the last 23 years or so.
Also contained in the comprehensive History File is documentation from Mr Tony Willis of the Maranello Concessionaires Archive which confirms the car to be an original UK right hand drive 456 GT, Chassis Number ZFFSD44C000101604, Assembly number 18863, which was delivered to Maranello Concessionaires in April 1995, from whence it headed to JCT 600 and was sold to a Mr Ward on May 19th 1995, appropriately registered M456 AUM. Also detailed are the Order Number GT/064 and the car’s specification of ‘516/C’ ‘Blu Le Mans’ paintwork (for those who are not fluent in Italian, Le Mans Blue), Beige (4208) hide and matching Biondo (8214) carpets. This is complemented by the Ferrari UK New Car Order Form showing the original delivery was scheduled for 10th February 1995 (worth waiting for though) and that the standard dash and luggage was specified rather than leather. The next steps along the paper trail are the Invoice to Maranello Concessionaires dated 13th April 1995 confirming the car’s specification and that it would be delivered to Egham by lorry (with another 456 and a pair of 355s) and the Maranello Concessionaires Invoice to JCT 600 (Bradford) dated 28th April 1995 showing a 12% Dealer allowance and totalling £134,450.86. A Ferrari Price List which has a 456 GT at £151,751.25 plus an immobiliser for a further £350 along with a Ferrari UK Immobiliser certificate proving that this option had been taken are also present.
The previous owner of the 456 GT made a history enquiry with the DVLA and all previous custodians’ details along with the various personalised number plates the car has carried, including its current one, are listed in the file with their relevant dates. A copy of the original registration paperwork completed by JCT 600 is also present along with an HPI report from the last change of ownership and the current V5C.
On to the car itself, the Le Mans Blue paintwork has recently been refreshed and looks first class though there are a couple of chips in the front bumper as shown in the photo gallery. One of the best colours for a 456 in our opinion, it really shows the bodywork off to great effect. Very straight with just a slight misalignment of the off-side headlight which could perhaps do with a little adjustment, the bodywork is in fine order.
With virtually no chrome-work present on a 456 it is good to see the Pininfarina, Ferrari and Prancing Horse badges are all in good condition. Similarly the optional Prancing Horse Wing (or more accurately, bonnet) shields are unmarked and this is also the case with the lights on all four corners. The Ferrari logo kick plates on the sills have not been scuffed and the fabulous Connolly leather with Prancing Horse logos in the rear headrests defines sumptuous. With just the expected slight wear to the drivers’ outer seat bolster as can be seen in the photographs betraying any use at all, the hide is in fabulous condition and the other three seats look virtually un-sat in. The carpets are in excellent condition, doubtless benefiting from their matching over-mats, showing just some slight marking in the driver’s foot-well which may respond to a good valet. The boot is in similarly fine condition and contains the leather cased Factory tool kit which is complete with all its Ferrari branded utensils, aside from just one spanner which may unfortunately hinder any roadside engine strip downs. There is some slight delamination of the windscreen though this has not turned cloudy – please see the photo gallery.
The Ferrari’s underside is encouragingly free from fluid leaks of any sort but to be fair, honestly grimy with a slight flake of underseal on a couple of exposed brackets. Ditto the engine bay which has a good coating of dust but to us this just proves it is free from fluid leaks and also represents a quick win for both the new owner and his local valeting service. New tyres have recently been fitted to the unmarked alloy wheels.
The electrics all appear to work with, importantly, the notoriously troublesome door windows recently having been refurbished and they drop and lift correctly as the doors are opened and closed. A 200 mph speedometer and tachometer with a tempting 7,500 red line confront the driver while the centre section of the dashboard contains a full array of dials showing the time, oil temperature, water temperature, oil pressure and fuel level. Directly below these sits a row of switches and the evocative trademark, open gate gear change – 6 speeds in this instance of course – plus stereo.
A point worth noting; when new, a 456 GT was over £151,000 while the contemporary 512 TR was a snip at just £131,000. With 512s now being offered at their original list price, a 456 at potentially a quarter of its price when new strikes us as a bit of a bargain. The 456 GT can be seen as the first of the last full bloodied, V12, manual (if you are lucky) Ferraris which are bound to be a dying breed. Get one now before all Prancing Horses come with fewer pots, induction systems boosted by hair dryer blowers and food blender derived supplementary power units. Yes, it might be something of a dinosaur but who wouldn’t want to turn up to a budgie show with a pterodactyl given the chance?
Registration number: C9 NDO
Chassis Number: ZFFSD44C000101604
Engine Number: F116B