The 166MM, chassis #0008M, is the only car ever to win both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Mille Miglia, having tasted victory in both races in 1949.
And it won’t be the only important Ferrari at the concours in September, with three other 166MMs joining it, including the car that won the 24 Hours of Spa that same year.
The 166MM played a massive role in Ferrari’s early development. The Touring-designed roadster was launched at the 1948 Turin Salon, where Giovanni Canestrini of Gazzetta dello Sport reportedly gave it its nickname of barchetta – meaning ‘little boat’.
It was based on the 166S and indeed took its name from it; the ‘MM’ part was a tribute to its predecessor’s victory in the 1948 Mille Miglia.
Chassis #0008M was to replicate that success the following year, with Clemente Biondetti at the helm, but even bigger things were to await it.
Soon after the Mille Miglia took place in May, the American-based Italian racer Luigi Chinetti brokered the sale of the car to the British aristocrat Lord Selsdon.
Chinetti, who had already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, fancied a third tilt at the title, and had earmarked the 166MM as the car in which to do it. With Selsdon on board as co-driver he had his chance, and the pair duly lined up on the grid the next month.
The Italian took the first stint from 4pm and, incredibly, he stayed behind the wheel until 4.26am the next day – by which time he had a three-lap lead.
After a short break, during which Selsdon was allowed to have a go, Chinetti was back in charge and remained there until the close. Most reports suggest he drove all but one hour, and much of that while managing a slipping clutch.
It was Ferrari’s first victory in the event, the first Le Mans triumph for a V12 and, until 2015, it held the record for being the smallest-engined car – at 2 litres – to win there. Ferrari went on to take eight more Le Mans titles in the 1950s and ’60s, but it was here that it all started.
Chinetti wasn’t satisfied yet, though, and just two weeks later raced another 166MM, chassis #0010M, at Spa.
Again, he won – but this victory was nowhere near so straightforward. With only half an hour to run, Chinetti spun on oil dropped by the second-placed Delage D6-3L as he approached Stavelot.
Having given first-aid to a woman he’d run over during the course of his excursion, he returned to the pits, but was thankfully able to rejoin and complete the last two laps for Ferrari’s second major endurance success in the space of a fortnight.
Chassis #0010M will also be at the Concours of Elegance, which takes place at Hampton Court Palace from 6-8 September, as will another 166MM, this one commissioned by Fiat owner Gianni Agnelli. A fourth one, the third Barchetta ever built, will also be present.
Andrew Evans, Concours of Elegance Director, said, “Gathering this astonishing collection of heritage-laden 166MM racers – including the most significant vehicle in Ferrari’s incredible history, no less – is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Outside of the Ferraris, Aston Martins will be to the fore at the show: a special display will feature an example of every Aston Martin Zagato variant ever built, as the coachbuilder celebrates its 100th anniversary.