Tipo 166: The First Road-Going Ferrari

The Tipo 166 stands among Ferrari milestones because it triggered the evolution from the artisan workshop focusing on racing machinery to a full-fledged factory of high-image cars for the road. By Aldo Zana

One day in early 1948, the Manufacturer sat down with the Chief Designer in a small office nested into a mechanical workshop lost in the foggy and chilly Italian countryside. “We have to develop road-going models for the customers who seek prestige driving our cars.” “You know I’m here for racing cars” was the answer “Yet, you’re right. We de-tune the engine and supply the chassis to coachbuilders. Bugatti, Rolls-Royce, Delage, Alfa Romeo did so already.”

Quite a demanding strategy for a new brand which recorded an output of less than a dozen units in the first full year of operation. The cars became instantly a winning proposition thanks to the reliable and high-performing engine: a 60° V12 for an overall capacity of 1.5 (Tipo 125), then two liters (Tipo 166).

Ferrari 166_0060M

The Manufacturer in our fictional dialogue – yet, quite close to reality – was a forward-thinking man, a genius of self-promotion, a hardened team manager if not yet a ruthless entrepreneur: Enzo Ferrari. The Chief Designer was Gioachino Colombo, called to Maranello to draft the first racing Ferrari.

Despite the basic agreement on business matters, the two men didn’t get along well: the clash of their stubborn personalities was inevitable. Colombo stayed with Ferrari for three months in 1945, just to design the Tipo 125, and was back from early 1948 till year’s end 1950, when he left after having refused the position as head of the road-going cars department. He rated the position as second-tier, a punishment following another personality clash with Aurelio Lampredi. And Lampredi was soon to become the Chief Designer of Ferrari.

It is well known that the development of Colombo’s Tipo 125 was driven by Giuseppe Busso during his short spell in Maranello on leave from Alfa Romeo. On the contrary, the Tipo 166 doesn’t have a clearly identifiable father. The engine was already running when Busso was there, but it was Lampredi who made it a commercial proposition out of the Colombo’s preliminary work.

The victory of the cumbersome 166S Allemano Coupé in the 1948 Mille Miglia boosted the development of the Ferrari Gran Turismo models. To offer a civilized drive out of a racing machine, the engine power output was cut to a domesticated 90 bhp at 5,600 rpm running on pump gasoline, fed through a single Weber carburetor. The frame, built by Gilco, was stiffened by additional spars and braces.

Ferrari 166_0068M

The body was outsourced. The natural choice was Carrozzeria Touring in Milano: Enzo Ferrari knew Bianchi Anderlonis, who was in charge of the shop, well. He commissioned two bodies for the Tipo 166: one was to become the immortal “Barchetta” roadster, the other a 4-seat coupé on the 2,620 mm wheelbase chassis. (The racing versions were usually built on the short wheelbase of 2,420 mm). Both were unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in October 1948.

Ferrari wanted the same level of comfort in his maiden GT vehicle by Touring as in the Lancia Ardea saloon he used as everyday drive: he rated it as quite comfortable even for his burly size. The result, on the 005S chassis, was a rather bulky four-window coupé which had a marginal similarity with the Barchetta in the front. A second, smoother hatchback version was delivered in 1950. Touring manufactured bodies for 48 Tipo 166 until 1951, no one 100% like the other. Some units had the Aerlux full transparent roof.

Alfredo Vignale of Turin made 19 bodies, with a stronger personality, yet lacking the brand image: its definition was still in progress for the road-going models, while it was already established in the racing two-seaters.

Ferrari 166_Anderloni

Eclectism was the keyword with the early GT Ferrari: Stabilimenti Farina’s body proposition was simply the exploitation of available dies and wooden body bucks. The Tipo 166 had the same wheelbase of the more mundane Fiat 1100 sedan: not by chance, both bodies, designed by Giovanni Michelotti, show a striking similarity. And they are also close followers of the Pininfarina Cisitalia 202 Coupé.

At Ghia, Felice Mario Boano showed his personality in two coupes sporting a grille with a bulge at the top: unusual, when the horizontal grille with rounded edges was becoming an essential fixture of the brand image.

Abarth, Allemano, Bertone, Pininfarina, Zagato did a body each, mostly for racing service.

It is believed that 97 Tipo 166 have been sold: some of them are still lacking a complete recap of their history, while the mix-up of the suffixes S for sport, M as shorthand for MM-Mille Miglia, I for Inter (maybe, another shorthand for “Internazionale”) doesn’t help in identifying the career of each car.

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