Currently reading: Used car buying guide: Ferrari 456
The Ferrari 456 was designed to be used, but many have suffered at the hands of cash-strapped owners
John Evans
News
5 mins read
26 August 2019

Apologies – we’re a bit late to this V12 gem. In around 2009-10, prices for the 456 fell back to about £40,000 tops, while some cars in poor condition dropped to as low as £25,000. Then from around 2014 they began to rally, only to fall back slightly a couple of years ago. 

It all means that today you’ll struggle to find a good right-hand-drive 456, or the later 456M, for less than £40,000 while, if you want to sleep soundly in your bed, you’ll need to spend between £58,000 and £65,000 for a proper one with a low mileage and a good service history. 

That last bit – a good service history – is crucial. Too many 456s have gaps in their histories, a legacy of those rock-bottom prices when many people with shallow pockets but eyes bright with the dream of Ferrari ownership snapped up the cars. Once reality kicked in, the first thing to go was servicing, with the result that lots of cars have patchy histories with few signs of the necessarily regular 6000-mile fettle and 24,000-mile cambelt change. 

Many have since found good homes and had their service histories patched up. In any case, the model is, despite the litany of checks we advise (see below), a tough and reliable old thing. Indeed, it was Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo’s intention that it should be. He figured that building a reliable and practical supercar to be driven rather than locked away, as is the fate of most Ferraris, would be his brand’s best advertisement. 

The car was launched in 1992 as the 456GT and wasn’t replaced until 2003. In between times – 1998 – it was facelifted when it became the 456M, for Modificata. Whether GT or M, the 5.5-litre front-mounted V12 produces the same 436bhp, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox that went from being a dog-leg gate to a more usable H-pattern in around 1995. Alternatively, from 1996 there was a four-speed torque-converter automatic. Naturally, the former attracts a premium, but the automatic is reliable and a good fit if you just want to cruise effortlessly from country to country. 

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Not that the 456 can’t lift its skirts. In fact, for a time it was the fastest four-seater car in the world, with a top speed of 188mph. Four-seater? Well, two-plus-two, really, but there’s just enough space for a couple of adults in the back. 

Switchable suspension, in combination with a self-levelling rear set-up, is standard and, in Normal mode at least, very comfortable, but it all needs checking, as we explain. It’s linked to the brakes and problems there can cause the suspension to default to hard. 

With the facelift, the 456M became a little quieter and more refined. Production ended with the 456M GT Scaglietti, also known as the Schumacher Edition. You’ll pay a fortune for one of those, but with luck you should find a perfectly good standard 456GT or 456M for around £50,000. Hurry before prices move.

An expert’s view 

Martin Rowles, director, Rardley Motors: “The 456 is a usable everyday supercar. We have some through our workshop with over 100,000 miles on them. Increasingly, though, it’s seen as an investment and quite a few sit in garages never turning a wheel. Often it’s these that give trouble. Saying that, I reckon 30% are ‘Friday cars’ – it doesn’t matter how well they’ve been serviced, they’ll always have a problem. When checking one, establish what was done and when. The air-con service, valve clearances and brake fluid change are vital jobs but often ignored. My favourite is the manual. This, together with a low mileage, can mean a price difference of around £10k over an auto with a higher mileage.” 

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Buyer beware 

■ Engine: Valve clearances need checking every 32,000 miles. The hoses in the engine’s V may need replacing. Check for cracks in the aluminium around the exhaust manifold. The fuel pump mount in the fuel tank can break up, blocking the pump. 

■ Gearbox: On manuals, check the oil cooler and pipes in the rear bumper for corrosion. On automatics, listen for drivetrain noise caused by worn spider gears. 

■ Suspension: Check the switchable suspension’s actuators. Test the diaphragms in the self-levelling rear suspension hydraulic accumulators by inserting a screwdriver where the hose enters. If it goes in too far, there’s a problem (a split diaphragm causes the shock to become locked and burst). Check for cracked bushes and rusty wishbones. 

■ Brakes: A faulty brake pressure switch that puts the suspension in anti-dive mode can cause the suspension to go hard. Check brake fluid has been changed – it can crystallise, blocking the pipes. 

■ Body: Look for rusty sills behind the rear wheels. A new bonnet is £10,000. Check window gaps – failing glass mounts are a problem. Replacement front fogs for early cars are no longer available. Check delamination of rear screen and that the headlights pop up. 

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■ Interior: The leather trim on the dash and parcel shelf shrinks, and the rubberised coating on the ashtray, dash vents and switchgear goes tacky. Check the air-con has been regassed and that all electrics work. Smell for petrol fumes. 

Also worth knowing 

Replacement Ferrari suspension accumulators cost £580 each but BMW ones will also fit and cost just £90 each. You can also have the shock absorbers rebuilt by Bilstein for £96 each. Contact bilstein-shocks.co.uk

How much to spend 

£40,000-£44,999: High-mile 456 and 456M (up to 100k) including a ’98 456M with 91k miles for £39,995. Lower-mileage cars include a 2000 456M with 26k for £42,995. 

£45,000-£54,999: Mid-mileage cars including a 1998 456 with 55k miles and FSH for £47,995. 

£55,000 -£65,999: From a 1994 456 with 46k miles and FSH for £55,000 to a 2001 456M GTA with 17k miles for £67,990. 

£66,000-£84,999: Immaculate, low-mile 456 and 456Ms. 

£85,000 and above: ‘POA’ cars start here.

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One we found 

Ferrari 456M GTA, 1999, 48k miles, £49,995: Finished in dark grey with red leather, this GTA’s standout features are its 17 service stamps, complete set of books and tools and its 456 fitted luggage set. 

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Comments
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russ13b 26 August 2019

that esate

can't help thinking they should've actually made that properly, not as a bespoke run

Peter Cavellini 26 August 2019

That mid life feeling.....

 when I turned 50 I promised myself a fast Car, just to run for six months or so, in the hope I could avoid the big bills etc, my budget was £30K, and this was twelve years ago mind, I’m not into Ferrari’s, nothing decent before the F12 came along, I settled on the brand that most it seem hate...BMW, well, I bought an M3, apart from two Tyres it only cost me £100.00 a month for fuel, insurance was only £239.00 fully comp, I did 7,000 miles in it and only lost £4K come trade-in time, so, yes, you can drive a great Car on a budget, Ferrari’s though and the like?, nope, unless you’ve got a well paid job I’d look lower down the Food chain car-wise.

Takeitslowly 26 August 2019

Peter Cavellini wrote:

Peter Cavellini wrote:

 when I turned 50 I promised myself a fast Car, just to run for six months or so, in the hope I could avoid the big bills etc, my budget was £30K, and this was twelve years ago mind, I’m not into Ferrari’s, nothing decent before the F12 came along, I settled on the brand that most it seem hate...BMW, well, I bought an M3, apart from two Tyres it only cost me £100.00 a month for fuel, insurance was only £239.00 fully comp, I did 7,000 miles in it and only lost £4K come trade-in time, so, yes, you can drive a great Car on a budget, Ferrari’s though and the like?, nope, unless you’ve got a well paid job I’d look lower down the Food chain car-wise.

 

There are fast cars and then there are Ferrari cars, no link, particularly given your choice was a very far down the food chain car and not a great one at that. You most blatantly did not say which gen/state mileage/history/number of owners...for all we know you bought a clunker for eight grand lost half and thought yourself a most interesting person. Guess you passed on all the upcoming problems on to the next most unfortunate owner

Peter Cavellini 26 August 2019

Deep breath...

 One owner, had 14,000 odd on the Clock, a 2004 model, Six speed gearbox, running on 19” Alloys, the Car was painted in the color ( Phoenix Yellow metallic) , it had no mechanical issues before or after I had it, and it was bought from Elms Garage London, that enough?, as far as the food chain goes, it was fast enough and within my affordability range.

 

 

xxxx 27 August 2019

Actually

Peter Cavellini wrote:

 ..., I did 7,000 miles in it and only lost £4K come trade-in time, so, yes, you can drive a great Car on a budget, Ferrari’s though and the like?, nope, unless you’ve got a well paid job I’d look lower down the Food chain car-wise.

£4k loss in 7,000 miles for a secondhand 3 series isn't that great.  Just as well nothing did go wrong then!

concinnity 26 August 2019

456 Venice saloon, one of seven made