The Greatest Generation

Enzo Ferrari, Gioacchino Colombo and Carlo Felice Anderloni all contributed to the magic of the 166 MM Berlinetta.

March 2, 2012
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When the discussion turns to Touring-bodied 166s, the car that invariably comes to mind is the legendary 166 MM Barchetta. But in 1949 and ’50, Touring also bodied six 166s as Berlinettas, which are more handsome, more purposeful and much rarer than their open siblings. Yet, six-plus decades after it was born, this particular example (s/n 0066M) is still being driven the way its creators intended.

The 166 Berlinetta (and Barchetta) was the product of Enzo Ferrari’s long-term relationship with Carlo Felice Anderloni, owner of Carrozzeria Touring. It began before World War II, when Scuderia Ferrari raced Touring-bodied Alfa Romeos in the 1930s. In 1940, Touring built the coachwork for Ferrari’s first car, the Auto Avio Costruzioni 815 that ran in that year’s Mille Miglia. Then, after the war, Enzo called upon Anderloni to build the bodywork for many of his eponymous machines.

The reason Ferrari used Touring was most likely the latter’s innovative Superleggera (“superlight”) body system, which was invented by Anderloni in 1937. The Superleggera setup comprised a lightweight aluminum-covered tubular-steel sub-skeleton. This was similar in concept to the then widely used Weymann system, which featured a wooden frame covered by leatherette, except that the Superleggera’s aluminum skin could be shaped where the Weymann’s leatherette skin could not.

Touring’s craftsmen built up the lightweight steel skeleton from small-diameter tubing, which was first shaped on jigs and then gas welded. This structure was then fastened to the chassis, and the shaped aluminum skin was attached. There was some attempt to separate the dissimilar metals with felt pads to avoid galvanic corrosion, although, as later owners and restorers would discover, these efforts were not always successful.

The 166s featured ladder-type frames with an X-member built by Gilco, a prolific supplier of Ferrari chassis. Suspension was independent in front with a transverse leaf spring. Rear suspension consisted of a live axle with leaf springs, a Ferrari convention that would continue for more than a decade. Ferrari chief engineer Gioacchino Colombo designed the lever-type hydraulic dampers that were used on all four corners. Large drum brakes were fitted both front and rear and provided excellent stopping power, a factor that kept Ferrari from switching to disc brakes until well into the 1950s.

The 166 engine was Colombo’s famous 60-degree SOHC 24-valve V12, which had been first issued in 1947 in 1.5-liter form as the Type 125. (The 125’s 55.0mm bore and 52.5mm stroke worked out to 124.73 cubic centimeters displacement for one cylinder, hence the 125 designation; this is how all the early Ferrari V12 models were named.) In 166 guise, the V12’s bore and stroke grew to 60.0mm x 58.8mm, giving a cylinder volume of 166.25cc and a total engine displacement of 2 liters, good for 140 horsepower in competition guise. This power was sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed transmission, in which fourth gear was direct and fifth a slight overdrive.

The Ferrari 166 was introduced at the Turin Salon in September 1948, and various versions were built into the early 1950s. In total, 33 or 34 166 MMs were produced, most of which were Barchettas, but six were Berlinettas. One of the latter (s/n 0062M) wore a Vignale body, while the other five were Touring’s “Le Mans Berlinettas,” so named to commemorate Ferrari’s 1949 victory in that 24-hour race. (Somewhat ironically, the winning car was a Barchetta.) The Touring-bodied Berlinettas carry serial numbers 0026M, 0042M, 0048M, 0060M and 0066M.

Also from Issue 117

  • 312 PB track test
  • F1 rivals go head-to-head on the street
  • Patrick Tambay interview
  • 360 Buyer's Guide
  • Ferrari 458 Grand-Am takes on the Rolex 24
  • Ferrari unveils its 2012 F1 car
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