When the Ferrari 456 GT made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1992, everyone noticed — and not just because the show car was painted in a pleasing shade of metallic blue rather than traditional Ferrari rosso. No, it was instantly apparent that this was one of Pininfarina’s best-ever designs for Maranello. The premium 456’s smooth front end with pop-up headlights flowed gracefully into the raked windscreen, down over the coupe cabin and on to the compact boot. The resultant fastback profile was simple but stunning, complemented by five-spoke alloy wheels and a jutting front end.
This generous 2+2 coupe could accommodate four people comfortably within a luxurious leather interior, and the front-engined 456 GT had sensational performance for a four-seater — it was Ferrari’s most powerful road car to date. The oomph was generated by a 5.5 litre V12 motor developed from the Dino-inspired V6 engine, coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox and Bosch engine management. The model name came from the capacity of each cylinder — 456 ccs. The tubular steel subframe carried a composite bonnet and aluminium body.
In 1996 the 456 GT was joined by the 456 GTA. This wasn’t so very different, the only point of departure being the latter’s four-speed automatic transmission as signified by the ‘A. This was unusual for Ferrari, which hadn’t often offered an automatic. In 1998 the 456 M was introduced, and this was different. Aerodynamics, handling and cooling were improved, there were various styling changes and a new engine management system wrung over 440 bhp out of the ever-willing V12. It seemed impossible that the fabulous 456 GT could be improved, but that’s precisely what Ferrari achieved with the 456 M. When your fairy godmother offers you the previously-owned Ferrari of your choice, ask for this one.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1992 (until 2003)
5,474 cc V12
456 GT — top speed of 188 mph (302 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The car-mad Sultan of Brunei had some very special 456s custom-built by Pininfarina — these include a couple of saloon cars and two convertible Spyders — whilst the Sultan’s brother (not to be outdone) ordered six special estate car versions named the 456 GT Venice.