In 1949, the Ferrari 166 MM won the three most famous races in the world. It was the car that put Ferrari on the map
The 166 MM Touring barchetta was the car that, in 1949, delivered Ferrari an extraordinary year that truly put Enzo Ferrari’s young company on the map. Launched at the 1948 Turin Motor Show in September, the 166 MM (the letters stood for ‘Mille Miglia’) had already impressed the critics with its beautifully curvaceous and delicate lines.
But few could have predicted just what this sports racing car would go on to achieve in the heat of competition during 1949. At the exclusive 2019 Hampton Court Palace Concours of Elegance, the 70th anniversary of this landmark Ferrari was celebrated.
Success for the car came quickly. In April, as the motor racing world woke from its winter slumber, two Ferrari 166 MM barchettas scored a breathtaking 1-2 at the iconic Mille Miglia. Then, at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Luigi Chinetti put in a world class performance to win this legendary race, Ferrari’s first victory at Le Sarthe. Just weeks later, Chinetti was in front again, winning the Spa 24 Hours.
Three world class victories, from Enzo Ferrari’s still-new sports car firm. The Prancing Horse had arrived. Ferrari was in the ascendancy, and it was one amazing car that had accelerated its rise to the top: the 166 MM. Seventy years on, its unprecedented feats were celebrated at the annual Concours of Elegance, to which today’s owners of the original racers brought their priceless machines.
The cars’ custodians did not want to miss the unique opportunity to gather their beautiful Ferraris for such a high-profile event. “Seventy years ago”, explained noted motoring historian Simon Taylor, “endurance races were more important than Formula 1 – and the 166 MM won all three Great Races in the space of three months: Mille Miglia, Le Mans 24 Hours, Spa 24 Hours. It was genuinely a bombshell moment”.
Perhaps the most legendary Ferrari 166 MM is car number 22, chassis number 0008M, the machine that won both Mille Miglia and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949. Its current owner, Anne Brockington Lee, saw her famous Ferrari take centre stage at the Concours of Elegance, telling Ferrari Magazine how she and her late husband came to buy it back in the 1990s, after years of trying.
“We got the call it was for sale and dropped everything. We jumped on a plane, flew to Oregon, and bought it on the spot”. The other 1949 winner, at the Spa 24 Hours, was chassis number 0010M. Current custodian Jon Shirley, a former Microsoft president, has owned it for many years.
He too attended the 2019 Concours with his 166 MM, which proudly wears the unmistakable vertical ‘22’ number after he returned it to the specification it raced in 1949. He, along with other proud owners of Ferrari’s beautiful sports barchetta, joined in to raise a glass to the 166 MM. For them, it is the most significant Ferrari in the world.