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How to buy a secondhand Ferrari 456

Fri, 10 Apr 2009

By Chris Chilton

Motoring Issues

10 April 2009 10:00

The value of Ferrari’s big 2+2s have always gone down the tubes like used toilet roll, but not all have looked as beautiful as the 456, whose Pininfarina lines so cleverly disguise the car’s practicality. It can’t quite match a 612 for rear space but the back seats aren’t the joke you might expect and the ride quality is great – perfect for that imaginary trip to the south of France.

Mike Wheeler of Surrey-based Rardley Motors ( reckons he shifts more 456s than anyone else in the country and says the big coupés make real sense, but only if you service them at independents. He would say that of course, but he’s right. ‘Take the rear self-levelling suspension unit,’ says Mike. ‘A franchised dealer will want £800 for a replacement, but a specialist will send it back to Bilstein who’ll rebuild it for a tenth of the price.’

Centre console plastics suffer from bubbling because of the heat from the bulbs beneath, windows become misaligned and engines can weep oil, but they’re fundamentally strong cars, says Wheeler.

Early left-hookers are dipping into the mid to late £20ks but it'll take £30k-plus to buy a nice right-hand drive car. Auto versions became available from 1997 and are often less than a manual of the same age – perhaps because most buyers went for the two-pedal option, so that’s what you’re most likely to find when looking at late-’90s cars.

Ferrari 456: the driving experience

Your most likely criticism of the 456 is that it just doesn’t feel supercar enough in that first instant you get behind the wheel. The leather, the dials and the imposing transmission tunnel all impress, it’s just that you could be in a big luxury saloon.

But it’s a GT, remember. So it’s only right that the cabin feels airy rather than claustrophobic. It’s also right that the seats are built for comfort and that the ride quality is so staggeringly good.

Given all that, it’s something of a revelation to discover just how capable the 456 is when you turn up the wick. For a start, it still feels seriously quick, reaching 100mph in about 11 seconds.

By the mid-’90s Ferrari had dropped the dog-leg gearshift layout for a conventional H-pattern gearbox, making stop-start traffic less of a pain. But if you really want an easy life, the full auto version is barely any slower, taking just 5.6sec to reach 60mph, just two-tenths of a second adrift of the manual car.

And although there’s a hulking great V12 engine up front, this car still has real balance. When you’re driving it hard you can feel the outside rear tyre load up without ever needing to worry about it actually letting go, despite the absence of traction control to rein in the impressive 442bhp.

Engine: 5474cc 48v V12, 442bhp @ 6250rpm, 405lb ft @ 4500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph 5.4sec, 186mph
Weight: 1690kg
Years made: 1992-2003
Number built: 2600
Price new: £156,445
Price now: £35,000

What to look out for: These are true four-seaters, costing north of £170,000 when new. The 456 is essentially a detuned 550 with that glorious V12, plus a pair of rear seats. You’ll have a choice of manual or automatic, so it’s worth ensuring that the car comes with a warranty given the auto boxes can cost a small fortune to replace or service. Other areas to consider are the window seals; the electric windows have a tendency to wear the regulator mechanism which leads to gaps between the glass and the B-pillar, costing approximately £800 a side to renew or £300 for a fix. Ferrari also recommends that shock absorbers get replaced/reconditioned every six years. Rather than buy new at considerable cost, we’d suggest you get them reconditioned by Bilstein UK for £80 per corner. Budget to spend £2000-2500 per year for general servicing and tyres.

Service schedule: Ferrari 456s require a minor service every 6000 miles or annually (whichever arrives first), and a full cambelt change every three years or 24,000 miles. Otherwise they’re pretty sturdy.

Cost of minor service: Independent Ferrari specialist typically charges £450 for a minor service – roughly half a franchised dealer cost. If you prefer the safety of a franchised dealer stamp, Route324 can source a main garage service for as little as £800 + VAT.

Cost of major service: Independent specialists charge around £1200 for a major service. Clutches can be renewed whilst the engine is in situ, but it’s still a two-day job.

Typical spare parts prices: Shop around at independents for a 456 clutch and you’ll find one for as little as £1200-£1400 (plus VAT but including fitting). Select a reconditioned gearbox, and you’ll find an auto box for around £6000 + VAT, or a more reasonable £2500 for a stick shift.

By Chris Chilton