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Why this Ferrari might be even moreexpensive then a 250 GTO

Updated: May 3, 2023

Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta s/n 0008M

The only car in the world that managed to win both the 24 hours of Le Mans and the Mille Miglia: the 1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta s/n 0008M. This exact car, with serial number 0008M, is seen by many as the most important car in the history of Ferrari.

Back in 1949 the brand with the prancing horse from Maranello, still was just one of those pioneers who tried to break through in motorsports. With the advent of the 166 MM, Ferrari impressively won two of the greatest races of all time. These outstanding performances of the legendary 166 MM have reinforced the status of Ferrari as a manufacturer of road cars and made sure the then still young brand could establishe a foothold overseas, in the big United States. That way Enzo Ferrari achieved what it always wanted to achieve: creating a brand that would boost the sales of the fast, elegant cars he wanted to build for the public roads, by winning races.

The first cars that Ferrari built were either pure race cars or pure street cars. Between these two categories produced in Maranello, there was insufficient coherence to create their own brand identity. The 166 series changed that, there was the normal 166 just for the public roads and then there was the 166MM (MM referring to the Mille Miglia victory) for racing. Due to its shape, the car quickly gained the nickname ‘Barchetta’ (Italian for little boat) of the Italian journalist Giovanni Canestrini. Perhaps this was Ferrari’s first attempt to create its own form language, an aesthetic identity that was eagerly sought after.

With a tubular frame, triangular wishbones at the front and a rigid rear axle, the 166 MM

basically was a further development of Ferrari’s first car, the 125S. With its 140 hp strong “Colombo” V12, the only 800 kg weighing car was not only a more comfortable road car then its predecessors, it also was extremely succesful as a race car; partly due to a top speed of more then 200 kmh. All this made it a very expensive car. Converted, the “Barchetta” had a price of 10.000 dollar in Italy and even 15.500 dollar in the US, which was a lot of money at that time. Despite the price, Ferrari built 25 Barchetta’s and 6 Berlinetta’s of the 166 MM and then there were even more 166-models: the S, the Spyder Corsa and the Inter. With these cars Enzo’s businessplan became reality: race on Sunday, sell on Monday.

Ferrari sold one of the 166 MM Touring Barchetta’s to the 36 year old, noble Briton Lord

Selsdon. For the 1949 24 hours of Le Mans, Selsdon teamed up with Luigi Chinetti, a great racing talent from Italy. Most of the competitors drove cars with much larger engines, so there was not much hope for Ferrari for a victory, but it was Chinetti who, by driving all 24 hours except for only 20 minutes(!), finally managed to cover the biggest distance. What a legendary performance! The reason Chinetti had driven almost the entire race was that Selsdon would have been ill. Nevertheless it could also have been a tactical move, as Chinetti had already won twice before. He already knew Enzo from his time with Alfa Romeo and would become Ferrari’s first importer in the United States, after competing nearly 20 years in a row in every edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans.

With the victories in the Mille Miglia and at Le Mans, Ferrari showed the car at the Salon of Paris, ofcourse accompanied by its trophies. The following year 0008M was sold to Peter Staechelin in Switzerland, who kept racing with it till 1952. Fifteen years later the car turned up for sale at trader Rob de la Rive Box, who sold it to the American Ed Bond. After the car had changed hands several times from 1972 onwards, 0008M ended up with Robert M. Lee from Nevada in 1996, who was one of the biggest car collectors in the world and who had already won twice at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. After Robert passed away in 2016, his wife Anne, for years as committed to the collection as Robert himself, made sure that the 166 MM was still occasionally displayed and even driven. On the occasion of Ferrari’s 70th birthday, 0008M travelled all over Europe to celebrate his great successes once again.

To sum it all up, the Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta serial number 0008M, helped put Ferrari on the map and opened the door for virtually every other model that has followed since.Although, you have to know that it would have been close or none of this would have happened at all. The night before the race at Le Mans, Enzo Ferrari called Luigi Chinetti because he was concerned the car would record a did-not-finish and asked him to withdraw the entry. Luckily, Chinetti assured Ferrari that he had worked day and night to fix everything on the car and guaranteed he would finish the race. A decision that has turned Ferrari into one of the most successful brands in motorsport, but at the same time also in the construction of sportscars for the road. Let exactly that, have always been the big goal of Enzo Ferrari himself.

Photo credits:

- John Lahm, Revs Instute

- Drew Gibson, Octane Magazine


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