More than anywhere else, PH is the place to celebrate great British sports cars. And the not-so-great ones, too, if that’s your bag. As buyer demand and legislation propels the market away from the traditional two-seater, so it becomes easier to look back more fondly on what went before.
The turn of the 21st century now seems a halcyon period for the genre. Following the incredible success of the first car, the S2 Lotus Elise arrived, with a sister car from Vauxhall of all places; there was a TVR Tuscan in a Hollywood blockbuster; Jensen was back; MG was going to make a nitrous-fuelled supercar; and both Westfield and Radical put bike engines into scarily fast track cars. A great time.
Now, of course, some of the sports car ideas were far-fetched to say the least (remember the Strathcarron? The Connaught Type D), but there was undoubtedly some real genius out there as well at the time. Perhaps nothing showed off better what the British sports car industry was capable of than the Noble M12.
The story of Lee Noble’s eponymous company is well known by now, as is his most famous car; what seems worth reporting more than 20 years after the first M12 was made is how many still remain out there. There might not be many new sports cars still to be made, but the dedication of those who own the old ones means buyers still have plenty to choose from. This is quite some achievement, given how many were very powerful, very light and very much not equipped with many driver aids.
On Thursday Lotus issued a press release that suggests around 70 per cent of its sports cars are still roadworthy; we found a Marcos Mantaray of all things lurking in the classifieds last month; there are more than 130 TVRs for sale on PH; and there’s every iteration of the M12, too, from GTO to M400.
This is a GTO-3, the 3.0-litre car that followed the 2.5 in 2002. The larger engine boosted power and torque noticeably, taking the M12 to beyond 350hp and elevating the Noble to another level of performance. It kept what one buying guide has called the ‘recalcitrant’ five-speed manual and open differential of the GTO (where later 3Rs and M400s got a six-speed and LSD) but this car isn’t any old GTO-3 - it’s had an LSD fitted and a recent gearbox rebuild as well. So there ought to be no problems there.
The way it looks must still be part of the Noble appeal. Yes, the lights were from a Mondeo and the interior was sparse, but what was attention-grabbing and dramatic back in the day looks otherworldly now. Usually, the passage of time softens the impact of a car, but not for the Noble. This GTO-3 benefits further from just 27,000 miles of use since 2002, driven by just two owners in that time. If you wanted proof that many of those iconic British sports cars are looked after by those that really, really love them, here it is.
This M12 is for sale at £54,950, slightly above average to reflect its low mileage; most Nobles for sale at the moment are between £40,000 and £50,000 (even with more than 60,000 miles), or about what they cost new. Which just goes to show the regard these incredible sports cars are still held. Don’t be surprised if they remain just as revered in another 20 years’ time.
SPECIFICATION | NOBLE M12 GTO-3
Engine: 2,968cc, twin-turbo V6Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drivePower (hp): 357@6,200rpmTorque (lb ft): 350@3,500-5,000rpmMPG: 25 or soCO2: N/AFirst registered: 2002Recorded mileage: 26,858Price new: £58,850 (3R)Yours for: £54,950
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