Monday, 13 January 2014

Oblin 166MM

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The 166 was Ferrari's racy 1950s barchetta/coupe; like the 125 that came before it, it had a Lampredi-designed tube frame and double-wishbone suspension, and in its various forms became something of a motorsport legend. The 'MM' in the name of the updated model that replaced the low-volume 166S stood for 'Mille Miglia' - a statement of intent, and proof of Ferrari's seriousness in cramming race-proven tech into light, diminutive forms.
In the case of this satin black example, we're looking at 130bhp from the 1,995cc V12 - with the car weighing comfortably under 700kg, that triple-carbed unit enabled a 0-60mph sprint of ten seconds dead, and a top speed of 125mph; the lithe shape and agile chassis shimmied it to victory time and time again. This was a new era of sporting barchettas too - you could see various angles that were cribbed by AC for the Ace, for example, in the standard Touring body. But that's not the body we see here; in a time of chassis being routinely farmed out to coachbuilders, 166s were bodied by all manner of styling houses - this one was originally clothed by Vignale in 1953, in which guise it was campaigned by amateur racer Jacques Herzet. But after competing at Spa, the Rallye des Alpes, and all sorts of events in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and even South America, the original coupe body was looking a little battle-scarred. On returning to Belgium in early 1954, Herzet commissioned local carrosserie Oblin to rebody the car as a lightweight barchetta - and that is the body you see here.
As well as tidying up the aesthetics, Herzet wanted something unique, and that's certainly what he received - Oblin is recorded as only ever rebodying two other cars (a Talbot-Lago T26 and a Jaguar XK120). Herzet continued racing across Europe with the new body, and the 166 then found itself on Oblin's show stand at the 1955 Brussels Motor Show
The car's passed through many hand since then, and is due to be auctioned at Artcurial in February - the estimate is €2,900,000-3,500,000.
These photos were taken at the 2013 St. James's Concours - click here for more.

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