From my private collection:
A true Grand Tourer.
Ask anyone under thirty what defines the ultimate Ferrari, and a mid-mounted engine would probably appear on the wish-list. More traditional enthusiasts, however, often feel that a "true" Ferrari should be a front-engined, rear-wheel drive machine - powered, of course, by a magnificent V12, with a manual gearbox operated through a chrome open gate.
When it was introduced in 1992, the 456 GT was hailed as the most beautiful Ferrari for a generation, its Pininfarina lines hinting at the earlier Daytona model. The new 456 GT was the first of the modern Ferraris to follow this classical format.
The aim was to offer a 2+2 model which gave the expected Ferrari performance, combined with saloon-class comfort and space. With the engine up front, but well behind the front axle, and the gearbox in unit with the rear differential, the traditional layout of the 456 GT offered excellent weight distribution, and enough room for a civilised, four-seater coupe. Easy access, 110L fuel tank with approx 650 Km range, powerful airconditioning, a premium audio system with a 10 CD changer, and for the first time for Ferrari, Mercedes like dependability reinforced the car's aspirations as a gentleman's Grand Tourer.
A quick look at the chassis and suspension helps to explain why the 456 GT is renowned for its fine handling. First, there's that extremely strong, tubular steel, spaceframe chassis. But the car is given even greater structural rigidity by welding the aluminium body directly to the steel chassis, using a foil chemically treated with "Feran". The Feran allows the aluminium body panels to bond with the steel.
The tubular chassis provides a good platform for the 456's all-round unequal-length wishbone suspension. The front suspension features anti-dive geometry and low-friction shock absorbers to give both steering precision and greater comfort on rough roads.
The shock absorbers incorporate sophisticated damper software for optimum wheel control under compression and rebound. Ferrari tells us that: "The three-position (Sport, Normal or Soft), electronically-controlled damping is coupled to the ASR traction control and four-channel ABS with EBD, controlling the car's stability." Unlike many modern cars, the technology is imperceptable to the driver, and does not intrude on an enthusiastic driving style.
Inside the car, the occupants are comfortably ensconced in Connolly leather, while the front seats can be electronically adjusted in several directions, and readily slide forward to give easy access for rear passengers.
The 456 GT's sophisticated light alloy dry sump V12 uses the same 65° bank angle as Ferrari's 1989 Formula 1 car. The road car's engine, however, is a smooth and extremely flexible 5,474cc unit - the "456" model name deriving from the displacement, in cubic centimetres, of each cylinder.
The engine's four valves per cylinder, and twin overhead cams, enable the 456 GT to produce an unstressed and reliable 442 bhp at 6,250 rpm, with torque showing an impressive 406 lb ft at just 4,500rpm. A top speed of over 300 kph and 5.2 secs to 100 kph made the 456 GT the worlds fastest production four seater, and Ferrari's top of the range car, at a cost of £153,001 at the time. (The original sales invoice is in the comprehensive history file).
Like the earlier 'Daytona' the 456 GT is fitted with a rear mounted transaxle layout which produces an ideal 51-49% weight distribution, and provides excellent levels of performance. The standard six-speed manual gearbox has a precise change providing a degree of mechanical feedback that reminds you you’re driving something pretty special.
L3WDE is a fast and comfortable 'go anywhere' GT car, professionaly and properly maintained with only 95,000 Km (59,000 miles) on the clock. Fitted with a discreet parrot hands free phone and bluetooth audio system and an integrated/removeable TomTom Sat Nav to smooth the journeys. For security, a hidden RAC 'Trackstar' electronic GPS tracker is fitted, with transferable full European lifetime cover. Although registered in the UK, the car is in LHD European spec with loads of life left in it, perfect for big European trips. Which is exactly how the car has been used in my personal ownership, travelling between European Grand Prix's in the course of my work as a racing engineer.
With a total production run of only 1,548 456 GT's built between 1992-97, the 456 GT is becoming as desirable and collectable as earlier Ferrari's. Aficionados recognise the cars usability in comparison to now more expensive (& much poorer quality) slightly earlier Ferrari's. As more people catch on, prices will rise.
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