Few cars that wear the “GT” initials in their name are actually worthy of it. The Ferrari 456 GT is one of the cars that define the genre. Fast, elegant and comfortable, this Ferrari four seater supercar of the â€˜90s is one of the most beautiful “Gran Turismo” of all times. Those 3,700 lbs of beauty can accelerate four persons to 60 mph in 5 seconds and reach a later limit of 186 mph.
“Gran Turismo” is the Italian equivalent for “grand tourer”. This term was first used to describe vehicles that were participating in long distance or endurance races such as 24 hours of Le Mans, Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Carrera Panamericana. Such cars had to be fast enough to perform on the track, but in the same time stable, reliable and comfortable for long term driving. These qualities were inherited by race inspired road cars, that got to deliver top performance and also the required comfort for long journeys, enough space for travel luggage and eventually four seats.
The best examples of gran turismos that are in production at the time would be the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, BMW M6, Aston Martin DB9, Bentley Continental GT or Mercedes McLaren SLR. The “GT” term was borrowed by many car manufacturers and used for their cars, even if they were not gran turismos. The Volkswagen Golf GTI (Gran Turismo with fuel Injection), as an example, does not fit in the mentioned category.
One of the cars the cars that can be truly called a gran turismo is the Ferrari 456 GT. This high performance front engined car was introduced in 1992 as a replacement for the mid-engined Mondial as the company’s 4-seat car. The updated model, 456M GT, was produced until it’s replacement in 2004 by the 612 Scaglietti.
With the 1992 release of the 456 GT, Ferrari changed the perception of a high performance 2+2 seats coupe. By blending Refinement, elegance, comfort and performance, Pininfarina (Ferrari’s traditional partner design studio) designed a body that was as beautiful as the car was luxurious and fast.
Equipped with a 436 bhp 65° V12 engine matched with either a 6-speed manual (456 GT) or 4-speed automatic gearbox (456 GTA ), featuring aerodynamics and handling characteristics that humiliated any 2+2 coupe of those days, the Ferrari 456 GT become the ultimate four persons of its time.
In 1998 the model received a facelift with the introduction of the 456M GT (‘M” stands for ‘Modificata’ – ‘modified’ in Italian). The car received many changes that improved aerodynamics and cooling, freshened up the interior and raised the power up with six bhp.
The first Ferrari ’2+2’ to be designed by Pininfarina was the1966 250 GT. Ever since, Pininfarina got to design all of the Ferrari four seaters. Pininfarina’s original design for the 456 GT was so popular, that an extensive design was face-lift was considered premature, and therefore the 456M GT received only minor aesthetic changes.
Body & chassis
The 456 GT was design having the ‘gran turismo’ philosophy in mind. The 456 shape was sculptured as a synthesis of the performance and driving pleasure of a supercar with the comfort and the space of a four seater vehicle. Pininfarina created a body that was aggressive while compact and slippery, making a special effort for attaining overall dimensions that are similar to those of a classic 2-seater.
The car is easily recognizable as a Ferrari due to the many elements that belong either to the brands history or to the model lineup of the ‘90s. The front air intake, the retracting headlamps, the long hood, the descending roofline, the style of the side and tail lights belong to the rich Ferrari heritage. and highlight the strong character of the car. This combination of elements beautifully combined in a homogenous blend identifies the 456 as unique.
The aerodynamics of the 456 GT was studied for a long time in a wind tunnel to define the underbody. An important aerodynamic feature was the retractable wing, integrated with the rear bumper that conformed with the rear aerodynamic profile, and reduced rear axle lift. This spoiler element was electronically controlled in accordance with the speed of the vehicle. The front spoiler was improved to reduce front axle lift and improve airflow towards the rear.
Starting a new design style for Pininfarina, the 456 GT had a light aluminum bodywork made from ‘Feran’ spot-welded alloy panels to a structurally optimized tubular steel chassis that guaranteed structural integrity. The ‘Feran’ is a special steel foil treated in a differently on it’s two faces in a way that enables one side to mate with the steel of the chassis, and the other with the aluminum of the body.
Other exotic features of the 456 GT’s body were the hood and the retractable headlamp covers made from a sandwich composite material with a honeycomb layer that guaranteed rigidity without adding weight. The frame-less door windows lower automatically during the opening and closing of the door improving perimeter sealing, a feature common for many coupes today, but quite advanced at the time the Ferrari 456 GT was produced. The aerodynamic of the car was accurately tuned to direct the engine cooling airflow and exit it through the outlet grilles mounted on the sides of the car. Two more such air exhaust holes were carved in the engine hood.
Ferrari has officially produces an sold the 456 GT only as a coupe was. But, three other version were produced in limited edition for special buyers. The rarest model is the Ferrari 456 GT Sedan. It was built in two units specially for the Sultan of Brunei. An interesting fact is that they are the only known sedans ever produced by Ferrari.
Another exotic variant is a station wagon called Ferrari 456 GT Venice. Pininfarina built seven such models at the command of Prince Jeffrey of Brune. Finally, the prince only purchased six and the seventh model is known to be sold somewhere in England.
The last special production body type was a convertible version called the Ferrari 456 GT Spyder. Two of these were built by Pininfarina especially for the Sultan of Brunei. But, a small number of aftermarket conversions are also knows. They were modified by the R. Straman Company of Costa Mesa, California and one such car is known to belong to Boxer Mike Tyson.
Engine & transmission
The Ferrari 456 GT was equipped with a compact 334 cui V12 65° all light-alloy engine. This unit was designed in accordance with the “gran turismo” credo to produce high power and torque at low and medium rotational speeds from a smaller, lighter package. The four valves per cylinder bank was controlled by four overhead camshafts. Interesting features were the intake runners that had a rectilinear form and the combustion chambers that had low surface to volume ratio. The impressive lubrication system consisted of two scavenger pumps, one delivery pump, double filtration and a radiator.
Engine management was done by a Bosch Motronic M5.2 system that controlled both the ignition and fuel delivery. Fuel injection was timed and sequential multi-point. The fuel delivery system was composed of two submersed pumps with compact filters and static, two six-outlet coils ignition.
In recognition of the high-performance this engine was able to deliver, it was awarded the "over 4 liter" class prize of the International Engine of the Year Competition two years in a row (2000 and 2001).
The 456 GT was the model equipped with a manual transaxle gear-box, positioned at the rear of the car. The gear-box was reached through a three-bearing driveshaft housed in a steel pipe. The propeller shaft was rigidly connected to the hydraulic clutch that acted directly on the flywheel. This jewel-like 6-speed box had double-cone synchronizers and a low-friction direct sixth gear. It was also pressure lubricated with a pump and oil radiator. In the good Ferrari tradition, the gearbox knob featured the well-known polished aluminum gate. The limited slip differential was a fin-type ZF, with differentiated calibration.
The 456 GTA was offered with an automatic transmission, as an alternative for drivers that required more comfort and less driving. With 4 electronically controlled gears, the gear-box was mounted in the same housing with the differential for even weight distribution. The 456 GTA transmission was hydraulically attached to the strengthened chassis and was managed by two computers in the transmission doubled by the Bosch Motronic M5.2.
gear ratios 3.23:1, 2.11:1, 1.52:1, 1.19:1, 0.97:1, 0.82:1
Specs for 2002 456M GT
position Front Longitudinal
The Ferrari 456 GT was equipped with a sophisticated four wheel independent suspension using non-parallel arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers and stabilizer bars both front and rear. The suspension system was one of the most advanced at that time as it incorporated a system allowing the damping to be manually selected from three programs, Intermediate, Sport, and Touring damping curves. In addition to that, the stiffness of each damper changed automatically as a function of the car’s speed. This was controlled by a CPU that stiffened automatically damping when it was deemed necessary. The driving conditions were determined by sensors transmitting the steering angle, the longitudinal acceleration and the vertical acceleration. Another advanced feature true to the gran turismo philosophy was that of the self-leveling device for the rear suspension that maintained ride height load-independent.
In order to encourage a a safe tendency to under-steer, the front track was wider than the rear one. Also, the front and rear suspension had a racing-like push-rod system geometry with dampers specially developed by Bilstein.
The powerful braking system was composed of 4 ventilated discs with aluminum calipers and an ATE mark IV 4-channels ABS system. The feature ensured a specific degree of intervention in different conditions to optimize tire grip. The 456M GT also received a pneumatic brake booster as well as integrated ASR and EBD (rear electronic braking corrector).
Smart and self-adaptive was also the ZF "Servotronic" power assisted rack and pinion steering. This advanced steering system ensured adequate response to the steering wheel in different conditions by varying the steering ratio and the level of assistance. For weight saving purposes the power steering pump also provided the pressure for the self-leveling system.
Tires & wheels
TheFerrari 456 GT was equipped with high performance Z-rated Pirelli P Zero tires, mounted on five spokes 17” rims.
For a gran turismo the interior is as important as the performance part of the car. The Ferrari 456 offered a sober, but elegant and distinctive atmosphere. Exquisite materials, such as Connolly leather, fine woods, and pleasing metals were the main materials experienced by the 456 occupants. The front seats were fully electronically adjustable and guaranteed both driving support and comfort. Safety features included standard driver and passenger side air bag and seat belts integrated in the seats themselves. Rear seats were not as spacious as those in a saloon, but they were quite comfortable for a supersport coupe.
To further emphasize, comfort the Ferrari 456 GT offered in standard an automated climate control featuring eleven outlets that allowed full airflow to both front and rear passengers, and window demisting. Standard was also the hi-fi stereo system with radio and CD player with eight speakers.
The dash board included round speedometer and tachometer mounted behind the wheel and another group of supplementary analogue gauges mounted below the dashboard. Auxiliary controls were arranged in twelve switches in the same area.
TopSpeed artists tuning recommendation
The Ferrari 456 GT is by all means one of the most beautiful cars in the world, and one of our favorites. Pininfarina has done a great job styling this car and didn’t left much room for improvement. We chose to update the front spoiler with one that looks fresher and is a bit more aggressive. The new spoiler improves both aerodynamics and brakes cooling. Also for aerodynamic purposes, we lowered the side skirts. Both the bumper and the side skirts are painted in a lighter color than the rest of body. This visually widens the car and makes the lateral air outlets to remind of those found on the Ferrari Rossa prototype. Some 19” elegant five spoke BBS wheels replace the standard 17” ones, and the tires get a low profile to maintain the same diameter