Driven: 1950 Ferrari 166 MM
The B4068 Salperton to Naunton road is not exactly the Futa Pass. I was, however, sitting behind the wheel of the same car that works Ferrari driver-to-be, Eugenio Castellotti, steered to sixth in class on the 1951 Mille Miglia.
The suffix ‘MM’ celebrates Ferrari’s first Mille Miglia win in 1948. In that year, veteran Clemente Biondetti scored his third win, driving a factory-entered Ferrari Type 166 with Allemano fixed-head coupé bodywork. The following year, the great Italian won the combined Tour of Sicily/Targa Florio and the Mille Miglia again – this time in a Touring-bodied barchetta 166 MM. Oh, and Luigi Chinetti/Lord Peter Selsdon were first overall in the Le Mans 24 Hours that year, too.
The Ferrari 166 MM Touring barchetta is one of the definitive post-War racing cars and started Ferrari’s magnificent record in long-distance events that included multiple wins at Le Mans, Sebring, Daytona, the Nürburgring and the Targa Florio. Come 1950, the type was a ‘production sports car’ and therefore eligible for more events and individual class victories.
The car you see here is a matching-numbers Ferrari 166 MM from 1950, chassis number 0058M. A young Eugenio Castellotti used it that year, competing in the Giro Toscana. In 1951, Castellotti was very active with a sixth in class in the Mille Miglia, a DNF at the Coppa d'Oro delle Dolomiti and seventh in the Portuguese Grand Prix. The following year – proving how effective these small cars were, even three years on from introduction – he was 12th in the Prix de Monte Carlo and won the Portuguese Grand Prix.
From then onwards the car was raced mainly in the USA, before long-term residence there where it was shown at Pebble Beach and other top-flight events. In fact, the car was no stranger to Pebble – it was second in class at the 1954 Pebble Beach Road Races (Robert Craycroft).
I like old Ferraris, and this Ferrari Classiche-certified car does not disappoint.
Its Colombo-designed, 1995cc V12 produced around 140bhp in period, maybe more with the three-carburettor set-up of our car. The Superleggera body, a Touring trademark, greatly aids the performance and the smooth, remarkably torquey, classic 12-cylinder pulls the car along well at speed. The British magazine Motor Sport cited the 'convincing superiority' of the 2-litre 166 MMs when up against British opposition at Silverstone in August 1950.
Placing Alberto Ascari in one of them certainly helped Ferrari’s cause...
The driving position is comfortable with the wheel not too close and the pedal area tight - but not requiring driving shoes. The seats are suitable for a day out for two behind the wheel on the Colorado Grand or the Mille Miglia retrospective (and this car can do any of the top events). There’s useful luggage space, too. I would, though, drop the driver’s seat just a touch to allow a little more knee room under the wheel and keep my left leg away from the gearlever.
The light clutch, coupled with a very positive gearchange (after a good period of warming-up) makes the little barchetta easy to drive in traffic. As with all cars of this era the steering is heavy on full lock but, as my passenger, Martin Chisholm, helpfully explained: “Castellotti would have taken that second gear turn-off in a big slide.”
Yes, Martin, I expect he would.
I did not want to test the brakes too much but the drums worked well enough in the wet. And I didn’t hit anything. Seriously, they would be fine for a two- or three-day fast tour once you’d mastered the limits, and the feel of the pedal is perfect.
We’d taken the car out for a run around the Cotswolds in a brief, brighter moment in between spells of dire November weather. It is in fantastic, concours-level condition but, as we splashed carefree through puddles and mud, we considered that this is just what Biondetti, Castellotti, Marzotto and Ascari would have contended with in any one of the 100s of events tackled in-period by 166 MMs.
It is a remarkable car and most certainly one of Ferrari’s best, right up there with the GTO and TR 250. A fine car that carries a fine price, no doubt. Give Martin Chisholm a call to find out just how much.
For further information please see Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta or www.martinchisholm.com. Click HERE to see all the Martin Chisholm Collectors Cars Ltd cars for sale in the Classic Driver car database.
Text: Steve Wakefield
Photos: Classic Driver
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