Just 24,600km from new 2002 Ferrari 456M GT Coachwork by Pininfarina
"More refined, more comfortable and a sight more sophisticated than any car ever to be built at Maranello. Whether you look at it, sit in it or drive it, it all adds up to one simple fact: The 456 is the greatest grand tourer the world has ever seen." Autocar, 2nd June 1993.
Have a flick through Ferrari's back catalogue and you'll discover a rich vein of talent for creating superb front-engined V12 GTs. Think of the 1964 275 GTB or the 1968 365GTB/4 Daytona for instance. The trouble is that after the Daytona Ferrari took its eye off the ball. The cars that followed; the 365 GTC/4, the 400 GT and the 412 GT had neither the glamour nor the ability of the Daytona, which might explain why, when it died in 1989, the 412 was not initially replaced.
But at the Paris Motor Show in 1992, Ferrari had a surprise in store for the assembled press pack. The 456 GT marked a line in the sand for the great Italian marque. Gone was the excess and flamboyance of the 1980s, in its place a more studied, elegant approach to design.
Acknowledged as one of Pininfarina's finest pieces of work, the aluminium coachwork was chemically bonded to a tubular steel chassis, and a new V12 was brought in. The 65 degree powerplant was developed- unusually- from the Dino's V6 and displaced 5,474cc (the name derives from the fact each cylinder was 456cc). Complete with four valves per cylinder and Bosch Motronic 2.7 engine management, the 456 developed 436bhp and 406lb ft at 4,500rpm, making it the most powerful Ferrari ever produced bar the F40. A top speed of 188mph (302km/h) and a 0-60mph sprint time of 5.2 seconds further reinforced the fact the 456 was more than just a pretty face.
If that wasn't enough, the new four-seater, front-engined Ferrari was also quicker around Ferrari's Fiorano test track than either of its existing mid-engined supercars, the 348 and 512TR.
This Swiss-registered example is one of the ultimate 'Modificato' 456M GTs that arrived in 1998, following an unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show. Although the V12 gained an extra 6bhp courtesy of an upgrade to Bosch Motronic 5.2 and the firing pattern was altered to improve smoothness, the main aims of the 456M were to improve aerodynamics and cooling. A fixed underbody spoiler replaced the motorised one and at the nose a larger grille was used in conjunction with a sharper, more pointed design treatment.
Connolly leather still featured inside, but new seats were fitted and the ergonomics were improved, a new Becker stereo head unit now fitted in front of the six-speed open gate gearlever (a four-speed automatic was also available from 1996), rather than behind.
The manual's the one to have though, Road & Track reporting that the GTA auto "gets the job done, but without the tautness and direct mechanical sensitivity of a manual." All 456s are a joy to drive, delivering a rich, textured experience that's in no way dominated by the phenomenal engine. The 1,690kg grand tourer has beautiful balance helped by the rear transaxle layout and delivers crisp, involving handling.
First registered on 27th November 2002 and costing a staggering CHF.305,000, not to mention CHF.6,880 in options (aluminium coloured brake calipers, Scuderia shields and GPS navigation), this 456M GT boasts arguably the most elegant colour scheme available: Blu Pozzi with beige leather trim and blue carpets. Acquired by Peter Baumberger to replace his outgoing 456, it has covered a mere 24,599km and looks almost new.
If further proof was needed of the 456's success, you'll find it in the fact that the car continued in production, unchanged except for the Modificato amendments, for 11 years before the 612 Scaglietti took over: a mark of how well designed and engineered the fabulous 456 was in the first place.
The Baumberger Collection 456M GT is offered with Swiss registration (cancelled) and a full complement of owners handbooks in their leather wallet.