1948 was the year that Ferrari discovered its true purpose as a leader in sports car manufacturing. After enjoying success in the Prestigious Mille Miglia event, Ferrari decided to upgrade their successful car, the 166 Sport. The upgrade resulted in the production of the 166 MM series of sports cars. The birth of 166 MM marked a turning point for the company as it was the first car to win many international races for Ferrari. The 1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta that eventually established Ferrari as a serious company in the racing world. This should explain why the 1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta is still loved more than half a century down the line. The 1948 window of opportunity gave Ferrari exactly what they needed to claim dominance in the world of sports cars. They took the chance head on and developed the 166 MM series in style. The company outsourced the production of bodies to a Millan based company Touring. The bodies were developed with high expertise using the patented Superleggera technique.
The Barchetta Development
This is the trademark car that Mr. Ferrari himself worked on. He asked his friend Felice Bianchi of Carrozzeria Touring to help with the production of the bodies. Unfortunately, Felice died before the work was complete. The work of completing the design and building bodies for the 1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta was left to Felice's son Carlo Formenti. Carlo progressed with the work and delivered a 1:10 model to Ferrari which was approved.
Egg-crate grill and mustache lines just below the lights were the two distinctive features on the design. To many, the 1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta looked like a small boat. The design was sleek and unique making it a favorite among car lovers. Journalist Giovanni nicknamed the car "Barchetta" which means a small boat. The name has been held up to date and only a few people call the Barchetta by its official name. Many cars borrowed the look of the Barchetta over the years. The Prototipo Barchetta, for instance, copied almost all the features of the exterior Barchetta. Although many cars took the shape, they were all very different from the Ferrari 166 MM in detail.
The only car that was built with close detail as the Barchetta is the Ferrari Coupe. The first model of Coupe was endowed with 166 MM's chassis. The Zagato Panoramica Speciale was the fist in the class of Ferrari Coupe and had so many similarities with the Barchetta.
The Barchetta was made primarily for the track and nothing less. Thanks to its featherweight, it became Ferraris go-to car in matters of the race. Although it was based on the same chassis as the earlier version of 166 Sport, it was much faster and swift due to the light body. It also enjoyed an engine upgrade with the V12 reaching the 140bhp for the very first time. This machine became a dream for many drivers both company and independent.
The most successful driver of the Barchetta, Luigi Chinetti, managed to race 23 hours of the 24 hours Le Mans, giving Ferrari its first overall victory. In this event, Luigi worked together with Lord Selsdon; but lord only managed to drive one hour due to competition regulations at the time. The same car that won the Mans, went ahead to claim the 1949 Mille Miglia under the control of veterans Ettore Salani and Clemente Biondetti. The Chassis 008M became the most important Ferrari at the time and up to date it still stands out. This car paved way for the development of most modern Ferrari's and is among the most coveted Ferrari classics of all times.
The man who put Ferrari on the Map for winning Le Mans 24 hour Mr. Chinetti immediately went into business. After the victory, he decided to set up a business and Ferrari became his North American Importer. later on, he set up NART( The North American Racing Team). This team supported many important Ferrari races in the US and abroad. The 008M went on to win many other victories that are not as significant in racing books. In recent years, the car has been restored and holds its look from the 1949 races.
Ferrari continued to produce the 166 MM racing cars until the year 1953. After that, the car was replaced by Ferraris that use long block engines. The 275S models led the way in introducing the 340 series. Even with the end of production, Ferrari continued to produce cars for private individuals. The 166 MM was modeled to the 195 S with an enlarged engine. Later on, the car changed into the 212 Export. Many people who loved the 166 MM found most features in these two versions; which were only produced on order.
Chassis Development and Sales
The chassis of the 166 MM played an important role in making it a successful car. Interestingly, for this model, it is the body that was designed for the chassis and not the other way round. The chassis 0141 started life at the Tipo 166 created by Anasaloni. The car enjoyed a long racing history without any major damages. It was later on sold in 1952 and the new owner fitted the 014i with a new unique body. The chassis of the 166 MM had seen several developments before racing the Le Mans in 1949.
The 1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta remains one of the best cars in Ferrari's history. In fact, it is the car that creates history for Ferrari. If the car had not won the 1949 Le Mans, chances are that Ferrari would not be what it is today. This car has experienced success on the road and remained resilient until recent days. Although there are just a few cars of this model left, they are among the most prestigious racing cars in the history of Ferrari. The most recent auction of the 1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta saw the car being sold at $3,080000. This explains the value attached to this masterpiece and why it will keep on rising in price.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson