The original 1 1/2 liter Ferrari 125 V12 was successful but postwar racing regulations soon adopted a two liter limit for Formula 2. Ferrari increased the 125's 55x52.5mm bore and stroke to 60mm bore and 58.8mm stroke, bringing the Ferrari V12 to nearly the optimum two-liter displacement: 166.25 cc per cylinder, 1,995 cc in all.
First produced for Scuderia Ferrari with cycle fendered Spider Corsa bodies adaptable to both Formula 2 and sports car competition, Ferrari also built two long wheelbase (2620mm) 166 Sports one of which, coupé-bodied by Allemano, was driven by Clemente Biondetti and Giuseppe Navone to a stunning overall victory in the 1948 Mille Miglia. Ferrari then added "Mille Miglia" to its model name, leaving potential clients no doubt whatsoever that their new Ferrari carried within it the spirit and performance of Biondetti's winner in the most demanding and prestigious sports car race in the world.
The 166 chassis was simple, effective, reliable and easily adapted to different requirements. The frame was based upon two oval tubes with X-members for torsional strength and outriggers to support the body. Ferrari turned to Felice Bianchi Anderloni's Carrozzeria Touring to create lightweight bodies for the 166. Enzo Ferrari's relationship with Touring had begun years before when Touring supplied bodies for Scuderia Ferrari's Alfa Romeo competition and sports cars and for the two Auto Avio Costruzione 815's which Ferrari created for the 1940 Mille Miglia.
Two versions of the series-production Ferrari 166 MM debuted at the 1948 Turin Motor Show in November. On the Touring stand was a long wheelbase "coupe 2-3 posti". On Ferrari's display was the similar Touring-bodied two-seat roadster, the "Spider da Corsa". Both were daring departures from conventional designs. Touring's design for the 166 MM "Spider da Corsa" was so cohesive, dramatic and evocative that it belies the 166 MM's diminutive size. Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni observed that the design was so different from conventional spider style sports cars that observers were challenged to describe it, eventually coming up with the name barchetta, or "little boat", to encompass its concept. It is one of the most influential designs in automotive history, contributing its elements to literally hundreds of automobiles from Ferraris to the Shelby Cobra. The Barchetta style became so recognized and so thoroughly integrated with Ferrari's history that today Carrozzeria Touring's original name, "Spider da Corsa", has been all but forgotten.
From its introduction in 1948 until the first series 166 MM production ended early in 1951 26 Touring Barchettas were built. The 166 recorded the first of many Ferrari victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949 driven by Luigi Chinetti and Lord Selsdon. Biondetti had already scored his third consecutive Mille Miglia victory in his 166 earlier in 1949 and Chinetti, this time with Jean Lucas as co-driver, captured overall victory in the Spa 24 Hours.
Only six 166 MMs were employed by Scuderia Ferrari; the others were snapped up by private entrants like the Marzotto brothers, Franco Cornacchia and Inico Bernabei who raced them enthusiastically, frequently and with great success well into the mid-Fifties.
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