This car is so utterly beautiful that I actually considered not bothering to write anything about it. I mean, just look at the thing …
It’s breaking my heart to tear my eyes away, but sadly I must in order to write something about it. Counting the Ferrari 125S as the first car Enzo Ferrari built entirely his way (the preceding Tipo 815s were built using Fiat parts), the 166 was the second-ever Ferrari model. It was a successful piece of kit, winning the Mille Miglia twice and even the Le Mans 24 hours in 1949. A number of coachbuilders made bodywork for them and the car you see here was originally one of just two cars originally clothed with a Berlinetta body by Vignale.
In 1952, it was delivered new to a Belgian called Jaques Herzet who immediately pressed it into full-on racing duty, finishing second in his first-ever outing with it at Spa. He continued to race it extensively in 1953 in events like the Rome-Liege-Rome rally where it won its class. The Tour de France followed and it even raced several times in Brazil that year.
After such a hectic year’s racing the delicate Vignale body was presumably somewhat the worse for wear, so it was taken to Martial Oblin’s workshop in Belgium for a replacement body. This time it would have a topless Barchetta design – the one you see here – which was fitted before Monsieur Herzet once again went racing.
Between 1954 and 1956 it scored a string of strong finishes at events like the 12 hours of Spa, the Tour de France and the Grand Prix des Frontieres at Chimay. Testament to the handiwork of the Oblin coachworks was that in the middle of this frantic period of competition it was painted ‘matt charcoal’ with a central, varnished burgundy stripe, as it appears today, and was shown at the Brussels Motor Show. Not surprisingly it caused a sensation and was sold in 1957 to another Beligian who enjoyed it for 10 years before shipping it to the States where it was enjoyed and maintained by several owners before benefiting from a full restoration in 2012. Apparently the work carried out warranted a bill of $400,000.
That pretty much brings us up to date. This year it was sold by Artcurial at its Retromobile sale for a shade over £2.1m. As we speak, Artcurial’s 2015 catalogue is being compiled and, as you can imagine, we can’t wait to see if anything in it matches up to the 166M.