The Ferrari 456 Buying Guide
This big V12 grand tourer offers space and pace in equal measure at prices that are still reasonable, at least when compared to most classic Ferraris. As with any complex Italian sports car from the ‘90s, finding a good Ferrari 456 is essential, read on to ensure that you do.
Introduction of the new Ferrari 456 in 1992
The 456 GT was introduced in 1992 as a replacement for the long-running and divisively styled 365 GT4, a 2+2 GT which started production in 1972 and ended life in 1989 as the equally awkward-looking 412. Suffice to say, the svelte 456 was long overdue and while the Pininfarina penned body style was undoubtedly elegant, some felt it lacked the visual drama usually associated with Ferrari’s sportier mid-engined offerings.
Clearly there is no pleasing everyone, one thing that wasn’t in dispute was the immersive driving experience, aside from being an excellent long-distance tourer, the 456 was also one of the last Ferraris to be made available with a manual gearbox. A 4-speed auto was offered though, and while the three-pedal cars tend to command a premium, both are enjoyable to drive. A facelift was carried out in 1998 but changes throughout the six years of production were relatively minimal.
Not that much change was needed, the stonking 436bhp 5.5-litre V12 gave the 456 a top speed of over 186 mph, making it the quickest four-seater on sale after the limited-edition Porsche 959.
As with most big V12 Ferrari GTs, values took a nosedive in the early years but they have remained relatively stable lately. Good ones command a fair premium over average examples but in this case it is a price well worth paying.
Engine of the Ferrari 456
The 436bhp 5.5-litre V12 is relatively unstressed and has proven to be quite reliable too. Check for evidence of regular servicing and inspect the cam covers for signs of oil leakage as this is a weak point on some cars.
Cambelt changes thankfully do not require the engine to be removed, something that was common in other Ferraris of that era, and therefore the labour costs are significantly lower for this job. Budget for replacing them every 3 years.
Most 456s tend to have covered relatively low mileages, but regular oil and belt changes should still have been carried out as sludge build up can occur and snapped belts will mean big bills. An oil service is recommended every 6,000 miles or annually.
There were a number of recalls carried out regarding possible fuel leaks, gearbox oil radiator pipe leaks as well as a potential loss of brake fluid and handbrake issues. All should have been rectified, but it may be worth double checking to avoid any unforeseen bills.
4-speed automatics tend to be expensive to rectify and signs of impending bills are rough gear changes and a general lacklustre response to driver inputs.
The 6-speed manual is a rare treat and despite offering a more engaging driving experience, few 456s were equipped with one. A recalcitrance when shifting to second can indicate a hard life and clutch changes are expensive.
Suspension and brakes
The 456 is a heavy car and suspension bushes and dampers tend to take a beating, worn out components can detrimentally affect the handling of the car and a quick underbody inspection should reveal any cracked rubber mountings or weeping dampers. Ferrari recommends new dampers every 6 years and if the car feels sloppy or loose around corners then it may be time to change them.
The self-levelling rear suspension is a pricey unit to replace too but specialists tend to charge a lot less and probably know more about these older models than the franchised dealers. Brake fluid changes are often overlooked and can cause a blockage in the pipes.
Ferrari 456 – Bodywork
The largely aluminium construction of the 456 means that rust should not be an issue, however it is always a good idea to thoroughly inspect panels for evidence of accident damage and blocked drainage holes and rotting leaves under the bonnet can cause corrosion issues.
The pop-up headlights were the last ever offered on a Ferrari, check that they operate in conjunction with each other and do not judder when opening.
Interior of the Ferrari 456
Electrical issues have been known to affect some cars so take a look over the service history and see if there have been an unusually large number of invoices in that area. Electric windows in particular can cause problems and some models suffered from window gap issues Rectifiable but labour intensive.
The dashboard instrumentation tends not to give issues however the centre console can flake and bubble in places and some switchgear can work intermittently at times, this is a classic Ferrari after all. The rest of the interior is hard wearing and cars should not exhibit significant signs of wear on the leather seats and door panels.
Ferrari 456 History
1992: Ferrari 456GT 2+2 launched, equipped with a 436bhp 5.5-litre V12 and 6-speed manual gearbox. 456 GTA 4-speed automatic introduced shortly thereafter
1996: Engine management updated but power remains unchanged
1998: Face-lift carried out with a name change to 456M (Modificato) and 456 MA. Various exterior and interior changes include fixed undercarriage spoiler as opposed to electronic system and upgraded cockpit and audio setup
2002: Carrozzeria Scaglietti specialisation program introduced, approximately 30 cars built
2003: Final 456 produced with a total of 3,289 cars being made
Which Ferrari 456 to buy
When the Ferrari 456 GT was launched, 180mph+ motoring for four in comfort was as rare as a naturally aspirated sportscar with a manual gearbox is these days. Almost three decades since its reveal it still remains an indecently quick grand tourer and its demure looks have only got better with age.
A huge initial price tag kept sales numbers relatively low, but there are still enough out there to be a little picky and while the manuals offer greater driver engagement, the automatics suit the nature of the 456 rather well. Some say that the facelift cars are the ones to go for but overall condition should be more of a priority.
Avoid cars with patchy histories, values have been low for long enough that some examples may not have been very well cared for. That said, mechanically the 456 is robust and many have accumulated more miles than you would expect from a Maranello exotic. A verifiable service history should allay most fears, buy the best that you can afford and the only surprise down the road should be from the massive grin on your face every time you slip behind the wheel.
0-60mph:5.0 sec (5.3 sec for Automatics)
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Text John Tallodi Photos Ferrari, Sports Classics London
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