Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta

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The 1948 Ferrari 166 MM is the definitive 1950s sports car configuration, with its smooth envelope, long flowing hood and short tail. Named for the Mille Miglia race, it was created by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, and compared to the 125S, from which it was developed, the Barchetta (“little boat”) is a masterpiece of simple style.

Ferrari expert and 166 MM owner David Seielstad has called it “the first beautiful Ferrari and fundamental to the brand's success,” and he continues, “its styling was unlike anything before and has influenced the design of vehicles from the AC Bristol to the latest Ferrari California.”

The 166 propelled Ferrari to the top of the sports car wish list. As Dean Batchelor wrote in Automobile magazine, “the real heart of the Ferrari mystique has always been that blurry distinction between racer and road car – the 166 MM was the model that started the magic.”

The 166 won its MM nametag from Ferrari’s first win in the 1948 Mille Miglia in the hands of Clemente Biondetti, who repeated the feat in 1949. And heaping coals on the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” theory was Luigi Chinetti’s stirring victory in the 1949 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race, which was almost a solo achievement since he drove 23.5 hours himself. A 166 SC won the Targa Florio in 1949 as well, further cementing Ferrari’s place in motorsport history with a clean sweep across the European endurance racing ‘triple crown’ of Le Mans, the Targa Florio, and the Mille Milgia.

This particular 166 MM Barchetta, chassis number 0056 M, was sold new in the summer of 1950 to Porto, Portugal. Exported through João A. Gaspar, Ferrari’s agent in the country, it was earmarked for José Barbot and subsequently registered PN-12-81. Like many 166s, its Barchetta coachwork was courtesy of Carozzeria Touring, and it was originally painted blue. Barbot owned the car only for a short while, and it was sold onwards to José Marinho Jr., also a resident of Porto. It would change hands again to Guilherme Guimarães, also of Porto, by April of 1951.

Curiously for a Ferrari of this era, 0056 M wouldn’t turn a wheel in anger until 1951 when it was entered in the inaugural Grand Prix of Portugal. Held in Porto, it was driven there by Guimarães under the alias of “G. Searamiug” with race no. 6. Sadly, covered only four laps after qualifying 10th amongst 29 entrants. Guimarães (again entering under his alias) failed to finish again at Vila Real on July 15 due to a minor accident, having previously qualified 8th. The car’s luck would change the following day at the Porto Lima Stadium Night Festival. Guimarães loaned the car to Piero Carini who drove it to a second place overall finish.

Prior to the 1952 season, Guimarães had his eye on further competition success so he sent his Barchetta back to Maranello for further refinement. It returned to Portugal in early June alongside two new 225 S Vingale Spiders, and a photograph exists of all three cars at the docks in Lisbon. Chassis number 0056 M’s first event that year was the 1952 Portuguese Grand Prix at Boavista. Wearing race number 15, Guimarães entered under a new alias, “G.F.Oliveira”, and proceeded to qualify in 12th and finish the race in 8th overall and 3rd in class. Similar results followed at the 11th Circuito Internacional de Vila Real in July 1952, where they finished 5th overall and 3rd in class once again. Later that month, Guimarães entered the car in the Penha Hillclimb, finishing 1st in class. Another podium finished followed in the 166 MM’s next event at the III Circuit de Vila do Condo, where he finished 3rd overall. The car’s final event of the 1952 season at the IV Circuito de Vila do Conde resulted in a retirement.

Guimarães and his 166 MM Barchetta saw limited action on the track in 1953. Although the car was entered in the July ACP Jubilee Grand Prix in Monsanto, it failed to start. Five months later at the Oporto Speed Trial, Guimarães won his class, which would be the pair’s last event together. Two years later in February of 1955, 0056 M was sold to José Ferreira da Silva, who entered it in the fifth Grand Prix of Portugal in Porto, however the car did not start the event. Through 1956 and 1957, 0056 M remained in storage in Lisbon alongside a pair of Ferraris: a similar 166 MM Touring Barchetta (chassis no. 0040 M) and a 225 S Vignale Spider (chassis no. 0200 ED). In 1957, the cars would part ways, with this car and the 225 S Vignale Spider stored alongside sold to the Automóvel e Touring Clube de Angola (ATCA).

Like many sports cars of this era from Portugal, drivers sought further thrills abroad and the logical choice for many was to ship their cars to Angola, then a Portuguese colony. The 166 MM Barchetta and the 225 S Vignale Spider were purchased by the club to be used in Angola by driver’s of the club’s choice. By September of 1957, had arrived in Angola and it was entered in the first ATCA Angola Grand Prix with Maximino Morais Correia, although it failed to start. The next year at the same event, Correia entered the II Taça Cidade de Luanda, a support race for the Angolan Grand Prix, and the pair finished sixth overall.

In September 1959, 0056 M crossed the border into the Belgian Congo for the third Grand Prix de Léopoldville, wearing race number 8, although it unfortunately retired. Returning to Angola, roughly two weeks later the car was entered again in the Angolan Grand Prix. Qualifying 21st out of 24 competitors, it finished 16th overall, a highly impressive outing especially when considering that it was nine years old by that point, nearly obsolete in racing terms.

Nineteen-sixty would see 0056 M’s last event in the ownership of the ATCA. It was driven by João Alves in the City of Lourenço Cup wearing race no. 4, and finished 7th overall. At this point, the car was noted as being fitted with the engine from 0200 ED, which it retains today. Sold to António Lopes Rodrigues and registered privately in Mozambique with the registration number MLM-14-66, it was raced by him in the Polana Hillcimb, painted white. Rodrigues would race the car just once in 1961, at the Formula Libre and Sports Car race at the Circuito Internacional de Lourenço Marques, although it had been noted as being fitted with a six-cylinder engine from a BMW 327.

Two years later, Rodrigues sold the 166 MM Barchetta to Hugh Gearing, a doctor from Johannesburg, South Africa, and the car was subsequently exported. Importantly, the 225 S engine 0200 ED was sold alongside 0056 M. In 1973, Gearing sold the car to the current owner, who promptly reinstalled the 225 S engine and began a restoration. In stripping the car to bare metal, twelve different layers of paint were found, with the bottom being a metallic blue. It was repainted red at that time and remains largely unchanged as you see it today.

Other than a few appearances at the Mille Miglia (in 1996, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2017) the Goodwood Revival (2011 and 2015) and the 2018 Concours d'Elegance ACP in Estoril, Portugal, 0056 M has largely remained out of the public spotlight. Despite this, it has been well-known to DK Engineering as it has been entrusted to us for servicing and restoration work. Replacing the car’s one-piece windscreen, twin single windscreens were made by DK Engineering and fitted in 1995. In 1997, the barchetta was shown at the Ferrari Club of South Africa’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Ferrari, held at the Kyalami racetrack. Returning to DK Engineering in 2011, 0056 M received a sympathetic restoration in preparation for use in the Freddie March Memorial Trophy.

Retaining its original chassis, bodywork (rare for a 166 MM Barchetta as many were rebodied in period), the car is still fitted with the engine from 0200 ED, a gearbox stamped 0030, and a rear axle stamped 134E (believed to be from a 212, ratio 9/42). Needless to say, the acquisition of this particular car carries with it a number of tantalizing opportunities. Following a mechanical service, it could continue to be used as-is in a number of top-tier driving events, including not only the Mille Miglia and Goodwood Revival as it has done so previously, but also events including the Le Mans Classic or Colorado 1000. Pursuing a full restoration provides further opportunities, as it could be returned to a plethora of interesting liveries that it boasted in period, following which the car would surely be welcomed at a variety of top-tier concours events with open arms.

Boasting a rich history on two continents having been continuously used and enjoyed throughout its life, 0056 M is undoubtably one of the most interesting early Ferrari barchettas to be offered in recent memory, and one which is ready to enjoy whatever adventures its first new custodian in nearly five decades has in store.

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