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Weird car brand mashups aren’t exactly new, but the story of the Noble M12 might be one of the strangest. As an exotic British supercar, the Noble M12 is already a bit of an oddball. But the Ford engine under the hood of this head-turning rarity might be even stranger.

Noble M12 parked with its engine cover open
Noble M12 | Marc Wiley, MotorBiscuit

Ford’s Duratec engine comes from Porsche?

As hard as this is to believe, Ford’s Duratec engine lineup isn’t really Ford’s at all. Starting with the 2.5-liter version in 1993, the Duratec is actually technology borrowed from Porsche. At the time, the dual-overhead cam V6 featured a 60-degree bank angle, and Porsche was developing a similar setup at the same time.

The common wisdom is that Ford purchased Porsche’s V6 engineering and put their own touches on it. But in a 1994 interview with Autocar, Ford exec Bruce Coventry indicated that Ford hired Porsche to design the V6. Either way, it gave us one of the most widely-used V6s of the 90s and early 2000’s.

How the Duratec Made it Into the Noble M12

As far as how Noble came to use the Duratec engine lineup, the answer is simple: money.

In-house engine development can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s doable for a mega brand like Ferrari, Ford, or Porsche. But in an upstart, low-volume supercar brand, it’s simply untenable.

So instead, Noble purchased its engine for the M10 and future models directly from Ford’s crate engine program. In fact, Noble’s first car, the M10, got a bog-standard 2.5-liter Duratec at a measly 168 horsepower. Only six of these cars made it to customers, as the upcoming M12 quickly out shadowed the brand’s debut entry.

For that car, Noble took the Duratec and added a host of high-performance kit. The first versions got a pair of turbos that boosted output to 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. By the time the Noble M400 hit the assembly line, that setup generated 450 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.

The Garrett T25 twin turbos in the first M12 got the car from zero to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds, a staggering figure for 2000. By the car’s final iteration, Garrett’s T28 twin-turbo setup dropped another two tenths from that figure.

The Ford Duratec V6 engine in the Noble M12
The Duratec V6 in the Noble M12 | Marc Wiley, Motorbiscuit

Noble wasn’t done borrowing Ford’s engines with the M12. In 2004, the Noble M14 took the 3.0-liter version of the Duratec to 400 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque.  However, the car never made it to production, even after development of both the M14 and subsequent M15.

By 2010, Noble had moved on to the M600, which uses a Yamaha-built twin-turbo V8 engine to generate 650 horsepower. Meanwhile, the current M600 is still using that Yamaha engine to great effect, as the current cars deliver 662 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque.

Noble still uses Ford engines today

Though the Duratec is no longer in production, Noble is still using Ford engines to power its latest masterpiece, the M500. This modern supercar uses the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, though Noble’s website lists no official performance data for the car. Reviewed initially in 2022, Autocar mentions a 506-horsepower target, which is a notch above that same configuration in the current Bronco and F-150 Raptor models.

Not the only oddity with this British exotic car

In addition to the engine’s origins, the chassis has a similarly strange story. Instead of building the entire car in-house, Noble works with a South African manufacturer to deliver the frame of the car. Those components are then shipped to England, where the team assembles the bodywork, chassis, and powertrain.

Is it the weirdest automotive mashup we know of? It’s certainly up there. One thing is for sure, though. If you see a Noble rolling around our streets, take a closer look. It’s not likely you’ll see many more.

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