Words by Naz Faquir & Photography by Dan Pluck
I joined a car club about ten years ago to get a taste of some TVRs the club had in the fleet. Before I took out the TVRs, the club had a Noble M12 GTO that was available to use. I was blown away by its abilities the fist time I drove it. I owned an Elise and an R33 GTR at the time, and the Noble reminded me of both these cars. It’s size, steering feel, handling and damping are similar to a Lotus, and the punch it delivers was similar to the R33. The perfect car then.
Off the back of this encounter I was hooked and wanted one.
I looked at several on the market, but found that most were quite tatty, requiring at least a front end respray, and in one case, the car was a Category D write off, and I only discovered this because I decided to make a call to the previous owner minutes before I was going to part with the cash – a lucky escape. The car I ended up buying was nothing like the others I had seen in terms of condition, almost flawless. It is a GTO-3 variant in Jasmine Yellow that has covered 17,000 miles. It is completely standard, I’ve resisted the temptation to fettle with it like many owners do. I’ve owned my M12 GTO-3 for around eight years now, but only get a chance to drive it about 500 miles a year.
The Noble M12 is a great looking car, diminutive by today’s standards, but has so much presence, especially in a bright yellow hue. The interior is very basic, much along the lines of a Lotus, but perhaps a bit better appointed. There’s a lot of generic switchgear, which is fine as this car is all about function over form. The seats are very comfortable and the steering wheel has a nice feel to it. The factory fitted steering wheel does tend polarise M12 owners, some of which have switched to a smaller wheel.
Starting up the M12 requires the usual procedure with a key, but it has a starter button which brings the engine to life. It has a lovely deep meaty soundtrack. There is a lot of exhaust noise on start up, turbos tend to rob a lot of noise from a car, but I think the fact that the engine is located just behind the driver means a lot of the noise it not filtered out of the cabin. There’s also a lot of induction noise especially on the earlier 2.5 where the air filters are located very close to the cabin.
It is one of the best sounding turbo cars around.
The M12 has light, but meaty steering weight and is very easy to drive. The turbo boost comes on strongly but quite progressively, there’s no old school turbo lag, however you do get that turbo shove and you are pinned to the seat in the shorter gears. It’s a very torquey, flexible engine, and unlike many other turbo cars, you don’t often get caught out in the wrong gear. Probably the weakest part of the driving experience is the notchy gear change, much like an early Lotus Elise. The M12 is a very quick car and steers beautifully through the corners. For me, the stand out feature is the damping. It is absolutely brilliant, soaking up any bumps a road throws at it. I’ve never driven a car with such compliant damping, which results in being able to drive it hard on any road surface knowing that nothing is going to phase it. It’s an easy car to drive fast because it has a huge amount of grip. It has beautiful front end feel, and does not understeer on the road.
Mine is a non LSD version, so even when it does run out of grip, which is not very often, it will just spin an inside wheel and not get you going sideways or backwards! When I first drove a Noble, I remember thinking that this feels like a car that is always on your side, rather than trying to kill you.
So in summary, no understeer, no oversteer, just very quick progress. It would give anything a good fright on a typical British B-road.
The front end and side profile of the M12 are it’s best external features, and I love the look and feel of the standard steering wheel and how everything is focussed towards the driver in the cabin. It’s a great car to own, largely because it is so accomplished and fun to drive, but also because it is a rare sight. Not many people know what it is, I always get the “is it a Ferrari?” question. People love the car, especially kids who will point and stare at it. It’s a car that always attracts positive attention.
I’ve sometimes thought about selling the Noble because I’ve owned it for so long and always like to try different things. But every time I drive it, I’m smitten by its abilities. I’ve never had a big problem with the Noble, but there can be the odd niggly thing go wrong every so often. I’ve not been able to start it a few times and it’s always turned out to be the fuses which are located in the rear and which can get exposed to water ingress. I use Hilton and Moss to service the car, and have had a long term relationship with them which works well.
We’ve seen prices steadily rising over the last three years, and I think we will continue to see this trend. It’s a limited build car, and whenever someone drives a Noble, they realise how good a car it is.