Right from the start, the Ferrari 166 S was a grand success. Debuting in 1948, a Berlinetta-bodied 166 took top honours in the same year’s Mille Miglia race. Besting all comers at one the world’s most gruelling and dangerous road races is about the best debut a car could have. Proving that this wasn’t a fluke, however, would be the car’s next test. And it wouldn’t take long for the new Ferrari to rise to the challenge.
A 125 S Redux
At its core, the 166 S is essentially a modified version of Ferrari’s first model – the 125 S. Under the bonnet lies a 2.0-litre V12, a bored and stroked version of the 1.5-litre Colombo-designed engine from the 125. Output started at 110 bhp but opting for the triple-carburettor setup netted buyers an extra 30 ponies. Prospective owners were also given the choice of two body styles, both built by Carrozzeria Allemano: Berlinetta or spider. Both styles used the same 2420-mm long wheelbase, and both were incredibly dominant performance machines, on both road and track.
Off to the Races
While that early Berlinetta found success in Italy, it wasn’t the only 166 S to make a splas, especially if we include the later 166 MM versions of the car. In 1949 alone, the 166 S won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Spa 24 Hours, the Targa Florio, as well as the Mille Miglia again. Suffice to say, the Ferrari 166 S was quickly establishing a reputation for the brand as the world’s premier race car builder.
In its 2-year lifespan, 39 examples of the 166 S were built. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that Ferrari had built just two of each of its first two models; the 125 S and the 159 S. So, along with the 166 Inter, the Ferrari 166 S represented the brand’s first real foray into mass-produced automobiles. Thanks to its amazing engineering, the brand’s esteem flourished quickly, a foreshadow of the incredible success it would go on to achieve.