|Vehicle:||2004 Noble M12 GTO 2.5|
|Original List Price:||$38,453 (this car)|
|Chassis Number Location:||On chassis rail under right of driver’s seat, under carpet|
|Club Info:||Noble Owners Club|
|Alternatives:||2000–16 Lotus Exige, 2000–06 Saleen S7, 1993–97 Dauer 962|
This car, Lot 303, sold for £30,875 ($38,600), including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone’s NEC Classics Motor Show Sale auction in Birmingham, U.K., on November 12, 2016.
Although there’s something of the Lotus Elise or Vauxhall VX220 about the M12 that turns mass-manufacturer smoke-and-mirrors on its head and manages to make quality materials look cheap, these cars are well screwed together — and are a fantastically accomplished package.
The main structures were built at Hi-Tech Automotive in the same factory in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, that made the Superformance cars, continuation (replica) GT40 and Shelby Cobra.
Once the chassis and bodies were completed, the cars were shipped to the U.K. for the engines, sourced from Ford, and 5-speed drivelines to be added. Brakes are off-the-shelf items from AP Racing, and Mondeo owners will spot various engine ancillaries plus Mk1 taillights (but that’s okay — the Caterham 21 used them, too).
There are even some Nobles in the United States: 220 GTO-3Rs and M400s were imported in period. However, from February 2007, 1G Racing in Ohio (now Rossion Automotive) has held the U.S. production rights.
Rossion later released its own improved Q1, based on the M400, currently offering 450 bhp from its turbocharged 3-liter Ford V6.
Salica Cars in Bristol, England, built its own version of the M12, which included the open-topped GTC. All Nobles since the prototype M10 had been hard tops.
It burns and turns — and everything works
Nobles are light and stiff, but what comes as a surprise given their excellent handling, accessibly nuanced by confidence-inspiring feedback, is that they also offer a relatively supple ride, partly as a result of not running anti-roll bars on their double-double-wishbone suspension, although the M400 wears one at the front.
It’s rather what Colin Chapman might have arrived at had he been doing a Europa for the 1990s — except that these are easy to live with and everything works.
The styling is a little schoolboy-sketch, but inside, they wear better than a TVR.
Functionality is the byword here, with clear, easy-to-read instruments and no distractions apart from the twin horn buttons on the steering wheel spokes, which irritate drivers, according to Noble Internet forums.
The sparkling performance is courtesy of a humble Ford Duratec, as found in the Mondeo ST220 — with the addition of a pair of turbos. This aluminum V6 is made to survive with some extensive reworking, including a balanced crankshaft, forge-decompressed rods, cylinder-bore oil-spray jets and turbo oil feeds built into the heads — plus ST220 camshafts and a new MBE engine management system.
Lighter, cheaper and more nimble
The whole plot weighs 980 kg (2,160 pounds) — or about the same as an RS 2.7 Lightweight. The result is a car that will outrun a Ferrari F360 (395 bhp, 1,495 kg (3,295 pounds), 4.5 seconds 0–60 mph) and Porsche 911 Turbo (420 bhp, 1,615 kg (3,560 pounds), 4.4 seconds 0–60 mph) — and run rings around them in corners.
Currently in the U.K. you pay in the £40ks ($48k to $54k) for a nice 996 Turbo, and £55k-plus ($67k) for an F360, perhaps more with this low mileage.
For a device with such elevated dynamics and available relatively cheaply, Nobles are obvious and popular track-day weapons, and inevitably, owners modify — okay, fiddle with — them to optimize circuit performance.
As ever, the better you make a car for the track, the less nice it becomes on the road. Unusually, this one appears completely standard, and it’s claimed it’s never been on a racetrack.
It has covered just over 15,700 miles, backed up by old MoT (annual roadworthiness test) certificates and bills, which must make it one of the freshest examples currently available.
Our subject car, in Chrysler GTS Blue, sold near the middle of the £27k–£32k estimate range, which makes it somewhat cheaper than when Silverstone last sold it, at their February 2016 Race Retro sale, with 15,540 miles, for £33,750 ($41,221).
Deals are everywhere
A trawl through the U.K. classifieds reveals M12s in various states of tune asking £30–£40k (with a £29,995 373-bhp modified M12 2.5 and a 38k-miles stock 2.5 at £30k ($36,642), from the same dealer, both sold). None had mileage as low as this, but all are well behind their new price of £44,950.
So given that there looks to be a little left in it for a retail profit, and when you consider what catastrophe of a 911 3.2 Carrera you could secure for the same money (needy, and a needy 911 quickly turns expensive), then this looks well bought — especially compared with last year.
If you can’t import this car to the U.S., very-low-mileage Rossion Q1s can be had from $65k, with Noble M400s occasionally popping up for a little less.
Thinking outside the box turns up all sorts of exciting possibilities. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Silverstone Auctions.)