Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta: Establishing An Automotive Icon

Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta: Establishing An Automotive Icon

One of the most significant Ferrari racing cars of all time.

“Designed for long distance competition, the 166 MM took its name from one of the world’s most famous road races, the Mille Miglia, in which the Maranello cars were to triumph again and again.”

How the 166 MM came to be

The Ferrari 166 series was produced between 1948 and 1953 in different forms with various functions. The 166 S was an evolution of the marque’s first car; 12 were produced and 9 of them had so-called “cycle fenders” and were dubbed the ‘Spyder Corsa’. The S was followed up by the 166 MM and proved to be very successful in national and international races. The majority of 166 MM cars were bodied by Touring Superleggera in barchetta form.

1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0002M)

The first Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0002M).

Coachbuilder Touring built the Superleggera bodies that were placed over a 166 S chassis. These were the lightest bodies available. The car was quickly dubbed the ‘Barchetta’, which translates to ‘little boat’. According to experts, Ferrari was going to use this car for customer racing, but when they realized the car’s potential, they also started using it as a factory race car.

The Barchetta was powered by a 2.0-L V12 engine pushing out 138 bhp at 6600 rpm, with a recorded top speed of 220 kph (137 mph) – impressive numbers at the time. This didn’t go unnoticed in European races, as it won three very important events: Mille Miglia, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

166 MM Barchetta 0008M

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) Mille Miglia

Two of those three races were won by car 0008M, making it one of the most important Ferrari race cars ever built. It established Ferrari as a serious contender in the early stages of the company’s existence.

24 April 1949 - The car finished first overall in the Mille Miglia. Second place was claimed by another 166 MM (0010M).

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) 24 Hours of Le Mans

26 June 1949 – Car 0008M won that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans too – which was not organized for 10 years because of the Second World War.

Both were firsts for Ferrari, marking the start of an impressive racing record. In its later life, the car was owned by several notable car collectors, including Sir Anthony Bamford and Bob Baker. Robert M. Lee is the current ‘caretaker’ of the car, who bought for $1.4 million in 1997.

1949 Mille Miglia

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) Mille Miglia

The 16th edition of the Mille Miglia was organised on 24 and 25 April 1949. The Italian road race started in Brescia, then went to Rome and back to Brescia for the finish, for a total distance of 1602 km (995 miles). The route was significantly shorter than the 1948 edition, which was 1830 km (1137 miles) long. Although 369 cars with two drivers each were registered, just 301 started the race and only 179 managed to complete it.

For the 1949 edition, cars were painted with their starting times as their racing numbers. Car 0008M was assigned number 624 because it left Brescia at 6.24 am. This also made it easier for spectators to follow the progression of the race.

Clemente Biondetti

Clemente Biondetti

The Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta (0008M) was driven by Italians Clemente Biondetti and Ettore Salani. Biondetti obtained his fourth Mille Miglia victory in 1949, making him the most successful driver thus far in the competition;s history. He also won the 1938, 1947 and 1948 race.

There were nine total Ferraris competing, three of which were entered by the factory and the rest were private entrants. In all, three managed to complete the whole race and two finished in first and second place (both Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta cars). Below is a complete overview:

No.

Car

Team

Drivers

Result

624

Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta (0008M)

Scuderia Ferrari

Biondetti / Salani

1st

641

Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta (0010M)

Scuderia Ferrari

Bonetto / Carpani

2nd

635

Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta (0006M)

Private

Vaccari / Mori

34th

611

Ferrari 166 C Coupé Allemano

Private

Bianchetti / Sala

DNF

616

Ferrari 166 SC

Private

Mosters / Bianchi

DNF

629

Ferrari 166 SC

Private

Bracco / Maglioli

DNF

630

Ferrari 166 SC

Private

Besana / Cortese

DNF

633

Ferrari 166 SC

Private

Vallone / Sighinolfi

DNF

642

Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta

Scuderia Ferrari

Taruffi / Nicolini

DNF


The first car – a Fiat 500 – departed Brescia at one minute past midnight on Sunday morning. Biondetti and Salani were the first factory drivers to leave in their Ferrari, followed by Bonetto/Carpani and Taruffi/Nicolini.

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Vaccari and Mori

Vaccari and Mori missed their refuelling spot in Tarquinia and were forced to stop at a regular gas station. The 12-cylinder engine was made to run on special racing fuel and the regular fuel caused the car to drive very slowly, dropping it down the leading board. Once they found race fuel, they had to empty the tank before refuelling. Who knows at what position they would have finished in without this miscalculation?

Approaching Pescara, Bonetto and Carpani were slowed down by braking problems and passed by the other two Ferraris. In the town of Ravena, Taruffi and Nicolini dropped out of the race due transmission failure and were overtaken by Biondetti and Salani, who finished first on their return in Brescia with a total time of 12h 07m 05s.

1949 24 Hours of Le Mans

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) 24 Hours of Le Mans

Just two months later, the Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta 0008M travelled north to Circuit de la Sarthe were it competed in the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was driven to victory by Lord Selsdon, who bought the car for $17,000 after the Mille Miglia victory, and Luigi Chinetti, who was the American importer for Ferrari.

The 1949 edition was the first time the race was held following the end of the Second World War. Major infrastructure needs made the race a low priority, and its restoration wasn’t organised until France rebuilt the rest of the country. During the war, the Luftwaffe used parts of the track on a temporary basis, but thanks to government support, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) was able to rebuild the pits, grandstand and administration centre, add a new restaurant and resurface the track.

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) 24 Hours of Le Mans

Most of the entry list included cars built before the war, except for a few that included Ferrari: their 166 MM Barchetta was packed with the latest developments. Back then, Enzo Ferrari was a newcomer to the gruelling race. Enzo was Alfa Romeo’s team manager in the 1930s, but entering with his own cars was big news. Although just two private teams entered with a 166 MM, the car proved to be successful in the Mille Miglia with a 1-2 finish.

About four hours into the race, chassis 0008M was in third with two Delahaye 175S cars driving ahead of it. Both Delahaye’s retired within half an hour due to electric and engine problems, and Chinetti took the lead and held it through the night. At 4.30 am, he entered the pit with a three-lap lead and handed over the Ferrari to Lord Selsdon, who only drove the car for 72 minutes (!) before handing it over to Chinetti again.

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) 24 Hours of Le Mans

The hard race was now taking its toll on the new car, which caused the clutch to slip – as well as its lead. Chinetti, 47 at the time, was getting exhausted and losing focus. All the other cars experienced failures too, so Chinetti managed to keep the lead and finished just one lap (or 15 km) in front of Henri Louveau in his Delage D6-3L.

1949 marked the third Le Mans victory for Chinetti, who was only the second driver to do so. Apart from this massive achievement, it was the first time a V12 engine won and the first time Ferrari won the race. The latter was not matched until 1995 when McLaren won on their first attempt. Furthermore, the V12 stood as the smallest engine (1995 cc) to win Le Mans for more than 60 years, until a Porsche victory in 2015.

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) Luigi Chinetti

After it was repaired following a crash, the other 166 MM Barchetta (0010M) went on to win the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps the following weekend, piloted by Jean Lucas and Pierre-Louis Dreyfus.

1949 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0010M) 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

After winning at Le Mans, car 0008M was used at show car during the 1949 Paris Auto Salon and returned to racing in May 1950. Car 0010M was sent back to the factory and repaired after its accident at Le Mans. Wearing number 20, Jean Lucas and Pierre-Louis Dreyfus entered the car in the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and drove it to first place.

After racing

After its Mille Miglia victory, car 0008M was raced on a few occasions by Peter Staechelin of Switzerland, with no major achievements. The car was reportedly for sale at a Connecticut VW dealer in 1967 and bought by Carl Bross from Detroit. After his death, the whole estate went to Anthony Bamford in the UK, and 0008M is currently in the hands of Robert M. Lee with the racing number it was assigned at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (0008M) Concours de Pebble Beach

Would you say the Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta (0008M) is the most important car in the marque’s history?

Written by Max Lammers. Join our email list if you’re interested in receiving the latest on our online magazine and store.


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