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Noble M12 GTO: Buying guide and review (1999-2008)

Noble M12 GTO: Buying guide and review (1999-2008) Classic and Performance Car
Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO
Few small sports car makers have what it takes to challenge the established players, let alone come away on top. Back in 1999 however, that is exactly what the Noble M12 GTO accomplished. Designed from the ground up by Lee Noble, the M12 was a track racer for the road. Built on a limited budget, it was never going to match a contemporary Ferrari or Porsche on general fit and finish, but when it came to dynamic ability it was right up there with the very best.

It may have had blue-collar underpinnings, but the combination of the Ford Mondeo sourced V6 – with added turbochargers – and ultra-light tubular chassis gave the M12 a serious turn of speed. 

Which M12 to buy?

The M12 GTO arrived in 1999 and featured a mid-mounted and heavily reworked 2.5-litre version of the Ford Mondeo ST220 engine. Two Garrett turbos gave it 310bhp which was plenty thanks to the featherweight glass fibre body. 

These early cars featured a five-speed gearbox, no limited-slip diff (although it was a factory option) and came without any form of electronic driver aids, not even ABS was offered. What you did get was an Alcantara clad roll cage, a basic radio, bucket seats and a smattering of mostly Ford sourced switchgear. You could add air-conditioning and a custom-made luggage set but this was no luxurious grand tourer. These cars can be the bargain of the range although newer models did feature worthwhile mechanical upgrades which are worth retrofitting. 

In 2003 the GTO-3 arrived and with it a move to a larger capacity 352bhp 3.0-litre engine, the wheel and headlight designs were changed too. The 2004 GTO-3R added a six-speed gearbox and a Quaife rear differential, both are popular upgrades for earlier cars.

The M400 was the last revision of the GTO theme, introduced in 2004 it had a Roush-tuned engine which produced 425bhp and featured numerous upgrades to the chassis and suspension as well. Air-conditioning was removed from the options list and this was the most track-focused car in the range.

Any of these models is a good buy and are superb trackday toys but while they are robust, abused cars will spell trouble. If you do find an earlier model, make sure it has had some essential updates carried out, more on that below.

Performance and specs

1999 M12 GTO
Engine  2544cc 24 valve DOHC V6
Power 310bhp @ 6000rpm  
Torque 320lb ft @ 3500rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
0-60mph 3.9 seconds
Top speed 165mph 
Insurance group   -
Fuel consumption  15mpg
Price when new  £44,950

Dimensions and weight

Wheelbase              2438mm
Length 4089mm
Width 1850mm
Height 1143mm
Weight 980kg

Common problems

• The engine may be based on a Mondeo but it is heavily reworked and is very robust. Early cars could suffer from oil starvation which would damage the turbos. A baffled sump was available from Noble so check whether one of these or a reputable aftermarket item has been installed. Twin radiator fans are standard on later cars and a worthy upgrade to avoid overheating issues. Upgraded turbos and remapped ECUs are common and need to have been carried out by a reputable specialist.
• Exhaust manifolds can crack, welding can temporarily resolve the issue but only a new item will solve the problem.
• The first batch of 2.5-litre cars came with a Magneti Marelli engine management system that can be flaky, an upgraded MBE system replaced this component so check that yours has this more reliable unit. If not, the entire wiring loom will need replacing along with the control unit.
• The electrics are not a strong point and water ingress into the engine bay can play havoc with the wiring connections. The fuel pump needs updating if regular track use is on the cards and being positioned in a vulnerable spot under the wheel arch means that the wiring connections can become corroded too. Erratic idling can be due to perished fuel pipes and blocked fuel filters.
• Six-speed gearboxes are more robust than the earlier five-speed units, which tend to break top gear. An upgrade can be carried out so check for evidence of this. A loose, imprecise shift is common and is more or less normal. The LSD as offered on the GTO-3R is a popular retrofit on earlier cars and it was an option on five-speed models too.
• Rust is not an issue on the exterior thanks to the glass fibre panels but water can get in-between the aluminium panels and steel chassis. This will lead to corrosion so check under the floor carpets for damp.
• The hand-built nature of the car means varying panel gaps are par for the course. Replacement panels can still be sourced if required. Check for signs of accident damage around the nose and any evidence of badly repaired chassis tubes.
• The light chassis does not put too much strain on the suspension although watch out for worn wishbone bushes and leaking dampers. Brakes are strong and should not give trouble however there was a recall regarding the brake pipes which all cars should have had done. A pulsing pedal feel can indicate warped discs.

Model history

1999: Noble M12 GTO introduced with twin-turbo 310bhp 2.5-litre V6 and glassfibre body. Five-speed manual gearbox standard and no electronic driver aids fitted.

2003: M12 GTO-3 introduced with notable external changes being fared in headlights and new alloy wheels. Engine now up to 3.0-litres and producing 352bhp.

GTO-3R adds six-speed gearbox, standard air-conditioning, leather seats and a limited-slip differential. M400 introduced. Roush-tuned engine makes 425bhp, springs and dampers are revised. Steering rack receives adjustment to reduce twitchiness.

Final year of production for all M12 based models in the UK.

Owners’ clubs, forums and websites

www.nobleownersclub.comNoble owners’ site
www.nobleforums.com Enthusiasts’ forum
www.noblemotorservices.co.ukNoble specialists

Summary and prices

The once affordable M12 GTO has been appreciating in value, and while you could find a decent early model for not much more than £20,000 a few years ago, few dip below the £30,000 mark today. This does mean that most should be well-maintained but be sure to check that this has been the case throughout the cars life. Low mileages are common but don’t always equate to a pampered life.

Early 2.5-litre cars require a few essential upgrades to give their best and good ones can be a savvy buy. The GTO-3R is the sweet-spot in the range and can be found for between £40,000 and £50,000. The rare, hardcore M400 can be found at the £50k mark too, its focused uncompromising nature will suit those wanting to regularly take to the track.

If you are looking for a safe and hassle-free sports car then the Noble M12 may not be the answer. Accept that a limited-production specialist car comes with a few more issues than a mass-produced alternative, and will require even more specialist knowledge, then it can be an even more rewarding experience. 

The M12 GTO requires a skilled driver to unlock its true potential but the rewards are that much sweeter, as analogue sportscars go there are few rivals out there that can match it.

Words: John Tallodi
Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO Noble M12 GTO
Last updated: 3rd Mar 2018
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Noble M12
29995 32500 GBP
  • 2003 Noble M12 GTO 3


    M12 GT0-3 Titanium Silver Metallic, Black Leather and Grey Alcantara Interior, Stunning condition, Upgraded to 3R Front Clam, 4 owners, Recent Full Service and Significant Preparation (over £5,000 spent), Tracker fitted, Number Plate Not Included but Available, a Lovely Unmolested Car. There are no features available

    • Year: 2003
    For sale
    Bespoke Performance
    0844 984 6666 View contact number
  • 2004 Noble M12 GTO 3R


    Noble M12 GTO 3R 2004 (53), 31,300 Miles, Rebuilt Engine at 28,000 MIles With 438bhp and 415lbs/ft of Torque at a Standard 0.85bar Boost with Upgraded Valve Springs and Exhaust Timing Set to M400 Specification, Quaife Automatic Torque biasing Limited Slip Differential, Track Day Sump, Metallic Black with Grey and Black Full Leather, Front Daytime LED Running Lights, Bespoke Leather Covered Dashboard, Electric Windows, Forward Swept Carbon Rear Wing with Black Uprights, M400 Type Side Pods, Rota GTR Gloss Black 18” Alloy Wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tyres, Re-profiled Rear Clamshell With LED Lamps, Carbon Drip Tray, Internally Mounted Light Weight Battery and Recent New Alternator, Push Button Ignition Without Key, HVAC System For More Effective Cabin Cooling and Air Distribution, Including Upgraded HVAC Blower Fan Without Heater, Custom Carbon Fibre Central Dash With Bespoke Switchgear, Supplementary Air Vents, Pace Products Intercooler, Hard Pipe Kit With Atmospheric Dump Valve and Atmospheric Oil Breather Tank, BCS Variable Tone Active Exhaust, Stainless Steel Including Stainless Steel Catalytic Converters and Flexi Sections. The Mufflers are in for Low Speed/boost and

    • Year: 2004
    For sale
  • Noble M12 GTO

    £29,995 £29,995

    Vehicle Information NOBLE M12 GTO 2.5 2002(02) NOW SOLD - ALWAYS LOOKING FOR STOCK - PLEASE CONTACT GILES FOR A CHAT Chassis: SA9M12R1M2A113039 Registered: 01/05/2002 HISTORY: 32600 miles from new. 4 owners. 15 service stamps with the last performed by JETSTREAM Noble 09/07/16. MOT 2018. Full handbook pack. 2 keys. OWNERSHIP: Sold new to a gentleman from Newcastle Upon Tyne who kept the car for 9 years and 24000 miles. 2nd keeper from Edinburgh for 3 years (who obviously loved the car) spending a vast amount of money on Upgrades, Repaint and Maintenance. The 3rd keeper purchased at 28000 miles prior to selling after 22 months. The last keeper purchased at 31780 miles with Jetstream Noble then performing a full 24k service + renewing sundry items as required. SERVICE HISTORY: 01/05/02 76 m Noble Moy 16/09/02 2045 Noble Moy 4284 Noble Moy 15/04/05 8704 Noble Moy 11/04/06 10787 10/06/07 13410 25/04/08 18291 20/0609 20010 29/05/10 22615 20/02/11 23439 17/05/12 26541 Jetstream 13/06/13 28197 21/07/14 29432 19/06/15 30654 24/06/16 32364 Jetstream UGRADES / SERVICE INCLUDE: REPAINT LAMBORGHINI ORANCIO PEARL (to show standard August 2013) PRO ALLOY RADIATOR NEW CARPETS NEW LEATHER SEATS RE

    • Year: 2002
    For sale
    £29,995 £29,995
  • Noble M12 GTO

    £32,500 £32,500

    Vehicle Information NOBLE M12 2.5 2002/02 Registered 22/01/2002 Chassis: SA9M121M1H113024 HISTORY: 38320 miles from new. Five private and two dealer owners. 7 Noble main dealer + Jetstream Motorsport service stamps. Full handbook pack. 2 keys. OWNERSHIP: Originally the Christopher Neil demo car for nine months. Three years and two private owners later Gordon Lamb Motorsport registered the car for five months selling to the next owner from Ipswich in June 2004. The last keeper purchased in February 2007 keeping the car until his recent sale to myself as a result of a lack of usage. In this time he self maintained the car storing the car in dry building over the following 8000 miles to the date of my acquisition in 2016. I then sold to a local gentleman 12 months ago who drove a further 828 miles and I am very pleased to offer again SERVICE HISTORY: 24/01/2002 112 m. Noble Moy 22/01/2002 1050 C Neil 03/10/2002 3202 C Neil 11/05/2004 12885 Gordon Lamb 22/03/2005 24126 Kerridges 06/06/2006 30128 Kerridges 2007 - 2015 Owner Serviced 12/09/2016 38230 Jetstream Motorsport 07/07/2017 38824 Kerridges JETSTREAM NOBLE in 2016 had been commissioned to fully reinstate this M12 to FIRST CLASS co

    For sale
    £32,500 £32,500