Model history: Ferrari's first production racing car, the 166 MM, was introduced late in 1948. In the following years the model evolved into the 195 Sport, 212 Export, 225 Sport and finally the 250 MM. For anyone familiar with Ferrari nomenclature, it will not come as a surprise that each of these cars had a slightly larger version of the Colombo V12 engine. Starting in the 166 MM at a discplament of 2 litre (a unitary displacement of 166 cc), the engine grew in size to 3 litre (250 cc) within five years. The chassis remained virtually unchanged, while the various coachbuilders added plenty of variety.
The origins of the single overhead camshaft engine lay with designs penned by Gioacchino Colombo way back in 1946. With Grand Prix racing in mind the initial displacement was just 1500 cc. In Naturally Aspirated form the big successes came once the V12 was enlarged to two litres with victories at Le Mans and in the Mille Miglia. This gain in cylinder size was achieved by increasing both the bore and the stroke to 60 mm and 58.8 mm respectively. The bore would grow further, but the stroke remained the same in all future applications of the Colombo engine.
The first evolution came in 1950 with the displacement lifted to 2.3 litre on four existing 166 MMs to create the 195 S. The following year the bore was raised to 68 mm for a swept volume of just under 2.6 litre. Fitted to the 212 Export chassis, it was good for a healthy 150 bhp. A total of 27 examples were constructed and during the year a shift in favoured coachbuilder became apparent. All but five of the 166 MMs were bodied by Touring, yet less the Milanese worked on less than half of the 212s. Vignale of Turin handled as many cars as Touring and that trend would continue with the next customer racing Ferrari.
In 1951 there also was a slight evolution in the chassis design. The original elliptical-section tubular frame was, for a select few models, replaced by a smaller diameter tubular frame with additional cross braces. Known as the 'Tuboscocca', the new chassis was slightly lighter and more rigid. What remained the same was the very short wheelbase, the double wishbone front suspension with a transverse leaf spring and the live rear axle. Stopping power was provided by drum brakes all around and the engine's horses were transferred to the rear wheels by a five-speed gearbox.
Competition from other manufacturers as well as the larger engined Ferrari Works cars had really picked up in the early 1950s. The smaller customer cars were now rarely in contention for overall victories in major events, but still remained highly competitive in local races, particularly in Italy. In 1952 the cylinders were bored out a further 2 mm, raising the displacement to 2.7 litre. Compression was also increased, which helped bump the power to a very impressive 210 bhp figure for the 225 S. All but one of the twenty-one examples built received a Vignale coachwork, fittingly the one exception was a Touring Barchetta.
Ferrari's annual increase in engine size ended that year. The company's engineer settled on a bore and stroke of 73 mm and 58.8 mm respectively, which yielded a displacement of 2953 cc. This engine was first fitted to the 1952 Mille Miglia winning 250 S, which would form the basis for a whole range of Ferrari road and racing cars that would win every major race. So the 166 MM, 195 S, 212 Export and 225 S were not only a commercial and competition success for the fledgling company, they also laid the foundation for a very bright future for Ferrari.
Although built on a competition chassis this Ferrari 212 never saw action on the track. It instead served as a show car for Vignale at the 1951 Turin Motor Show. And rightly so as the Giovanni Michelotti penned Coupe design fitted to chassis 0080E was one of the most elegant produced by Vignale for Ferrari. Shortly after its show duties the black and silver machine was sold to an enthusiast in Rome. It changed hands several times more before it was sold to the United States in 1956.
Like so many Ferraris, it soon lost its original colours in favour of 'resale red'. Chassis 0080E nevertheless remained in the same hands between 1958 and 1992. The new owner had it fully restored by Steve Tillack and had it finished in an attractive red and black. In this guise it was shown at many events The current owner acquired the Vignale Coupe in 2007 and had it repainted in its original black and silver finish. In 2010 he showed the 212 Export at the Cavallino Classic and it was subsequently featured on the cover of Cavallino Magazine. In August it was brought to Pebble Beach where it won the Ferrari Grand Touring class.
Sold new in 1951 to Italian gentleman racer Franco Cornacchia, this 212 Vignale 212 Export did see some early racing action. No noteworthy results were scored and within a year the small Coupe was sold to Ferrari's American importer Luigi Chinetti. He loaned the car in May of 1952 to Ferrari Works driver Alberto Ascari to use on the road while competing in that year's Indy 500 for Ferrari. Chinetti subsequently sold the car to an American amateur racer, who used the car with some success. It was also campaigned by Bill Devin.
In the late 1950s chassis 0092E disappeared and was not seen in public again until the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The current owner had acquired the car a few years earlier in completely disassembled state. Restoration of the 212 Export was entrusted to Wayne Obry's Motion Products. The result was stunning and rewarded with the 'Best in Class' award for Ferrari Competition cars. Coincidentally, one of its sister cars won the top prize in the Ferrari Grand Touring class.