We consider the pros and cons of purchasing an example of the most beautiful Ferrari V12 GT since the Daytona...
Even the most disinterested of onlookers would admit the Ferrari 456 GT is heart-stoppingly beautiful. The 550/575 (and certainly the 612 Scaglietti) that carried Ferrari’s two-plus-two V12 GT mantle in later years never managed the same level of elegance as the 456, and there’s an argument that even the enhanced 456 M of 1998 isn’t quite as pretty.
Launched in 1992 as a successor to the relatively unloved 412, the 456 GT was an instant success although, as with any older car, there are pros and cons when choosing one as a classic prospect.
FERRARI 456 GT
Power (bhp@rpm) 436bhp@6250rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 406lb ft@4500rpm
Top speed 186mph
Gearbox 6-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
As is befitting of a car that cost more than £170,000 when new, the 456’s construction is suitably space-age. A tubular steel spaceframe is clad in aluminium body panels and a composite bonnet. While body rot is rare, it’s wrong to think that aluminium cannot corrode. In areas where the body panels meet the spaceframe, a special sort of filler called ‘feran’ allows the two metals to be welded together. If this filler is damaged and not re-applied properly, the results can be unsightly and expensive to repair.
Poorly repaired accident damage is the main thing to look for when assessing a prospective 456. Evidence of unequal shut lines, iffy paint and overspray in the engine compartment should start alarm bells ringing. Also the door check straps – these were never strong enough to handle the heavy doors, and can allow the door to open wide enough to actually dent the surrounding bodywork.
Ferrari V12s weren’t always known for their ruggedness, but the 5474cc powerhouse in the 456 – in essence a de-tuned version of the engine that would power the 550 Maranello – has proved itself to be a largely reliable and unstressed unit.
Most enthusiasts will by now have seen the infamous YouTube footage of just how vicious a Ferrari factory test-driver had to be to cause a 456 engine to detonate, so walk away from any car that is anything other than silky smooth.
That said, no engine is without vice, and under-bonnet checks of any 456 should start with the cam cover, which has been known to weep. Occasionally, a pulley connected to the crankshaft can become detached – if left unchecked, it can cause the belts that operate the fanbelt and alternator (among other things) to fail, with likely repairs at more than £2000.
Early models have been known to run excessive oil pressure which can eventually destroy the oil filter, while low compression often points to poor ring seating or leaky valve seats, especially on low-mileage models. Persistently low oil temperatures, however, could be nothing more than a faulty thermostat.
Both manual and automatic transmissions were offered on the 456 GT, and a known weakness on the former is the premature failure of the circlip on reverse gear. If a car won’t
stay in reverse gear, then you’re potentially looking
at a bill of £2000 or more to get the transaxle repaired. Ignore the ill-sounding noises issuing from the transaxle for long enough and you can more
than double that repair bill figure.
Other problems include leaking self-levelling rear shock absorbers, while making sure the power-assisted steering pump is in good health is definitely a prudent measure – as well as controlling the steering, it also pressurises the self-levelling rear suspension.
Brake hoses are also known to deteriorate, while a holed radiator will create another, rather bigger hole in your wallet – around £3000 plus fitting.
Don’t worry if your 456 GT squeaks incessantly when on the move – all those converging leather surfaces are bound to create a creak or two. The 456’s hi-tech cabin electrics can cause all sorts of problems, however, from electric seats that won’t adjust to failed window regulators that render the windows inoperable. This latter problem is apparently caused by owners closing the doors by pushing on the window glass rather than the door itself.
Window seals are another known weak point, while the windows themselves are known to require adjustment to create a fully water- and air-tight seal.
More seriously, air conditioning systems can be foxed by something as simple as dirt in the system, but the biggest issue surrounding the 456’s interior is deteriorating trim – the rubber, in particular, seems to be of a rather poor grade that degrades very quickly.
1950s and 1960s exotica aside, the 456 GT is the most handsome GT Ferrari ever made. Mechanical and trim issues should have been sorted by previous owners by now, so as long as you can afford the annual bills (from £450-£800 for a minor 6000-mile service, to £1200 for a major service) and expensive parts, there isn’t a prettier or more potent car for the money.