“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.
The heart of any Ferrari is said to be its engine and the 456 GT is no exception. Their first new V12 since the 412’s (which 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 ensured 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 (don’t forget the .91cc) 456 GT engine (back to the good old cc/cylinder Ferrari model naming system though “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 had more in common with the Dino’s 65 degree V6 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. 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, 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 – 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 and a composite bonnet plus bumpers that 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.
By 1998 the 456 was due a mild facelift involving, amongst other things, doing away with the bonnet air vents for a cleaner front end, making the previously automatically deployed rear underside spoiler fixed and swapping some plug leads around for smother running while upgrading to a Bosch Motronic M5.2 engine management system. Inside, a reduction in the instrument count provided a less cluttered dashboard. These modifications resulted in the 456 gaining an M (for Modificata for our Italian speaking readers) suffix.
This particular 456M was supplied via Maranello Concessionaires to Evans Halshaw and was first registered in November 1998 to a Mr A Batt of Winterbourne. The car’s all-important comprehensive service history is detailed within the set of Factory ‘books’ contained in a bespoke leather case in its History File. In summary, over the first seven years and thirty-nine thousand miles of its life, it was meticulously serviced by Evans Halshaw and Dick Lovett, both obviously Ferrari Main Dealers, until its care was taken over by independent specialists. After a period of relative inactivity the Ferrari was treated to a very comprehensive overhaul and recommissioning program to ensure it is as close to factory fresh condition as possible; the cost of nigh on £17,000 is documented by invoices which are on file - as the saying goes, ‘buy other peoples’ bills’. Most recently a full service including the vital cam belt change was carried out by McGurk in 2016.
There are well known and respected laws regarding colour; red for ready salted, green for salt and vinegar, Tour de France Blue for 456s. Teamed with entirely complementary Crème leather, there is simply no better colour combination for Ferrari’s turn of the millennium GT and this fine example looks resplendent in these hues.
Outside the paintwork looks first class and the bodywork is in fine order, arrow-straight with perfect panel gaps even around the pop-up headlights which often do not sit perfectly in the composite bonnet that surrounds them – please see the photo gallery for confirmation.
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 fabulous Connolly leather complete with Prancing Horse logos embossed into the headrests, defines sumptuous and while not the most forgiving colour to maintain, even the drivers’ seat stands close critical examination as can be seen in the photographs. The other three seats look virtually un-sat in and the carpets are in excellent condition with the leather dashboard also unmarked. The boot is in similarly fine condition and contains the leather cased Factory tool kit which is complete with its Ferrari branded utensils in excellent, we suspect unused, condition.
The Ferrari’s underside is encouragingly free from fluid leaks of any sort and the same can be said of the engine bay. Good tyres are fitted to the unmarked, stylish five spoke Factory alloy wheels.
The electrics all appear to work including the often troublesome door windows which 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 three dials showing secondary information. Directly below these sits a row of switches above the Ferrari branded stereo.
With only 139 456M GTAs imported for the UK market, this one is in beautiful order having covered just 44,000 miles. It needs nothing, everything works and performs as it should and it is worlds away from the tired machines so often found. We feel it is consequently very realistically reserved.
A final point worth noting; when new, a 456 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 some way below a third of its price when new strikes us as a bit of a bargain. The 456M GTA can be seen as the first of the last full bloodied, V12 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: S811 XOG
Chassis Number: ZFFWP50C000113503
Engine Number: 50860