Model history: For many enthusiasts a proper Le Mans racer should have a roof. It may come as a surprise to them that the very first 'fixed head' win in the French classic came as late as 1965 with the Ferrari 250 LM. Alfa Romeo together with coachbuilder Touring, almost upstaged the roadsters nearly two decades earlier. The coupe bodied 8C 2900 had an enormous lead in the 1938 edition before technical problems forced it to retire. Touring continued to create coupe bodies for racing cars during the following years. One of the most famous was the 1940 Mille Miglia winning BMW 328.
After the War, Touring was commissioned by fledgling manufacturer to build simple roadster bodies for their first customer racing cars. This resulted in the now legendary Carlo Felice Anderloni penned 166 MM Barchetta. Using the 'superleggera' construction method, the aluminium body was very light. The beautiful racing cars were very successful, winning many races including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949. To continue that success, Anderloni penned a fixed head, 'Berlinetta' body for the 1950 season. Although heavier, the cleaner design was considered to be an advantage particularly on high speed tracks like Le Mans.
Touring's 'Le Mans Berlinetta' was fitted to the same 166 MM chassis that was used for the competition Barchettas. Like all early Ferraris the 166 MM used a simple frame constructed from two oval-tube side-members. Suspension was by double wishbones and a transverse leaf spring at the front and a live axle with leaf springs at the rear. The all-alloy engine was an upgraded version of the original V12 drew up by Giacchino Colombo for Ferrari late in 1946. The '166' in the type-name is a reference to the unitary displacement of the SOHC V12. With 166 cc per cylinder, this brings the total displacement to just under 2 litre.
The first 'Berlinetta' bodied 166 MM was completed early in 1950. Before being delivered the engine was upgraded to '195' specification, which included a displacement increase to 2.3 litre. This lifted the horsepower from 140 to 170. This was a common upgrade that at least two of the other four 166 MM Berlinettas received in the factory. First owner Giannino Marzotto successfully debuted his 166 MM Le Mans Berlinetta in the Mille Miglia. He led the race almost from start to finish, only having to give up the lead briefly to Luigi Villoresi at Pescara. Eventually he crossed the line eight minutes ahead of the second placed car. At just 22 years old, Marzotto remains the youngest ever Mille Miglia winner.
A few weeks later the Mille Miglia winner stood proudly on the Touring display of the Turin Motor Show. One of the other Le Mans Berlinettas had already been shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March of that year. The glorious Touring lines worked clearly worked as well under the spotlight as it did on the track. That was until the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June of that year. A single car was entered in the race the car was pretty much built for. Unfortunately an electric failure prevented the Raymond Sommer and Dorino Serafini entered car to ever challenge for victory. The Le Mans Berlinettas did win some minor races later in the year.
While the Touring Berlinetta had proven quite successful, Ferrari continued to campaign open sports cars for many years to come. In 1951 several other Ferraris were fitted with the Berlinetta body but then Vignale and later Fantuzzi and Scaglietti took over as the coachbuilder of choice for Ferrari's racing cars. While Touring's Barchetta have long since achieved legendary status, the rarer Berlinetta has been mostly forgotten. Arguably more beautiful than the Barchetta, the Le Mans Berlinetta ranks amongst Touring's finest work.
The featured example was the first of five Le Mans Berlinettas built. Fitted with a slightly larger '195' engine, it was sold new to Giannino Marzotto, who immediately drove it to a Mille Miglia win. The car was subsequently shown at the Touring stand during the Turin show. Marzotto sold his Mille Miglia winning racer to the United States at the end of the decade. Little over a decade after arriving on the American continent, the highly significant racing car was left at a scrapyard, although still complete. Despite being completely disassembled, it was sold for a stunning $2 million in 1998. A few years ago, the bits were acquired by the current owner, who promptly delivered it to Paul Russell's restoration shop. In 2007 the Mille Miglia winner 'debuted' during the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Although looking absolutely spectacular, it missed out on the class win, but not surprisingly clinched the 'Mille Miglia' trophy. In 2008 it won the Trofeo BMW Group (the best of show picked by the jury) at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este.
Like almost every Le Mans Berlinetta, chassis 0066M was upgraded to '195 S' specification by enlarging the V12 engine to 2.3 litre. The fifth and final example was hardly raced in period. Before the end of the 1950s, it was sold to the United States. Apart from a lengthy stay in Japan during the 1980s and 1990s, it has remained in North America ever since. The current owner acquired the car for a hefty $2.2 million during Gooding's 2008 Pebble Beach auction. Still in very original condition, it seen here during the 2009 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.