Enzo Ferrari had no interest in building road-going cars at all. Scuderia Ferrari (literally ‘Ferrari Stable’) existed as an entity as early as 1928. But it would be nearly 12 years before Enzo would build the AAC815, a whole car of his own, and another 8 years before the first car carried the Ferrari name - The 1947 Ferrari 125 S. Ferrari was a racer himself, and he knew how to prepare race cars. He’d done both for Alfa Romeo for a decade, until 1938. After that success, Alfa named Ferrari as their head of motorsports.
When Alfa Romeo was taken over by the Mussolini regime in 1941, Ferrari’s small division was largely left alone. It allowed his to become more autonomous, and ultimately form Auto Avio Costruzione Ferrari. His company produced machine tools and aircraft parts, but managed to produce the previously-mentioned 815. The factory relocated to Maranello in 1943, and was later bombed by Allied forces in 1944. When it was reconstructed in 1946, the new factory included much better car-building capabilities.
Ferrari built only 2 examples of his first namesake car, the 125 S, before revising it into the 159 S, of which he built only one. Then came the 166 S (Sport). Essentially an evolved 125 S mechanically, the 166 S shared its Aurelio Lampredi-designed tube frame and double wishbone/live axle suspension with the 125. The first 166 S models were powered by the 1.5 liter Gioacchino Colombo-designed V12 engine.
The coach building house Carrozzeria Touring was hired by Ferrari to design the car’s body. They built the car bodies using their patented Superleggera technique - aluminum-alloy panels directly riveted to a lightweight and rigid tubular space frame.
The use of integrated front fenders, the egg-crate grille, and body lines below the headlights gave the car such a smooth, simplistic design, that it compelled an Italian journalist to reference the car as a Barchetta, translating to ‘small boat’. A name that has since stuck with many small, simplified form car bodies.
The 166 S immediately won the 1948 Italian Mille Miglia. This inspired Ferrari to name the 1949 variant the 166MM. The 166 MM engine was an upgrade 2.0 liter version of the same Colombo V12, now producing 140 hp.
In 1949, the 24 Hours of LeMans resumed for the first time since 1939, awaiting French reconstruction after the conclusion of World War II. Luigi Chinetti piloted his Ferrari 166 MM at that race. Chinetti drove the car for all but 20 minutes of the 24 hour event, handing the car over ever so briefly to Baron Selsdon, simply to comply with the rules. Chinetti won the race, his third victory at LeMans. In doing so, he handed Ferrari their first international race victory as a manufacturer. The very same car, chassis 0008M, later that year won the 1949 Mille Miglia with Clemente Biondetti and Ettore Salani.
For 1950, in preparation for LeMans, the 166 MM was modified by Touring to be more wind and weather resistant. The outcome became the first coupe Ferrari ever produced.
Considering the importance Ferrari places on it’s racing pedigree to it’s reputation and brand to this day, it amplifies the importance of the 166 MM. It is essentially the car that thrust Ferrari into international visibility as a world-class race-pedigreed car maker. The 166 MM is arguably one of the most significant, and possibly the single most important car in Ferrari history.