Cars

Britain's oldest Ferrari is a star in London

Britain's oldest Ferrari is a star in London

This Ferrari 166 Inter is the UK's oldest road-going GT car from Maranello
Words

Richard Aucock

“Ferrari road cars all started here.” Peter Holloway is a Ferrari fanatic who is incredibly proud of his perfectly beautiful 166 Inter. Launched in 1948, it was Ferrari’s very first grand touring road car, a coupe developed to take the increasingly famous marque’s competition success from racetrack to road. Ferrari had, by then, already achieved numerous high-profile racing victories; it was the ideal time to build upon them with a new sports car for the street.

Britain's oldest Ferrari is in immaculate condition. The London crowds celebrated the chance to see it up close
Britain's oldest Ferrari is in immaculate condition. The London crowds celebrated the chance to see it up close

The engine, the heart of all Ferraris, was a race-derived 2.0-litre V12, which had proven very successful in sports car and Formula Two racing. In road-going guise, it produced 110 horsepower, enough for a top speed of over 100mph (170km/h) – a thrilling figure for the late 1940s. The engine was even paired with a five-speed gearbox. “This was a real rarity; even many competition cars only had four speeds. It helped grow the car’s exotic appeal,” said Peter. The beautiful bodywork was built by Touring of Milan, atop a rolling chassis from Ferrari in Maranello.

We spoke to Peter at the London Classic Car Show, at which he was exhibiting his car, and driving it in the live showcase runs. “I bought her in 2014 and she has never sat unused for long. I believe cars are built to be driven: they thrive upon it, and so she is no garage queen. I’ve previously toured Europe in her, and she proved such a wonderful companion, I’m doing same with her this year, too.” A marshal interrupts us – Peter is up again for another run in front of the crowds; he jumps into the 166 Inter, starts it up with puff of exhaust smoke and a gloriously high-pitched howl, and is away. Every smartphone and camera in the hall is quickly pointed at him. The Ferrari is the star.

After watching the crowd savour the 166, we catch up with Peter again later. “She’s part of a collection, you know: I love front-engined, manual-gearbox V12 Ferraris – I have one from every era, from the 166 Inter to the 575 Superamerica. A Ferrari V12 is an incredible thing, I’m lucky enough to have seven… and you can link each one to the 166 Inter.” Peter’s is a particularly special car as it wears chassis number 17S (with a matching engine number). “Ferrari gave its racing cars even numbers, and its road cars odd numbers – meaning mine is the ninth Ferrari road car ever built.”

It’s the oldest Ferrari in Britain, but Peter tells us this isn’t the reason why it’s right-hand drive. “Most race circuits at the time were anti-clockwise: sitting on the right gave drivers better sightlines through the corners. As she’s derived from a racing car, she is right-hand drive as well.” As for the name, says Peter, this relates to the engine size. “The Tipo 166 had individual cylinders of 166cc, while the early Tipo 125 motor had 125cc cylinders.” The body, Peter tells us, was the final one to be built by Touring, with other coachbuilders later constructing 166 Inter bodies. “And mine is the sixth 166 Inter – the previous three road cars were 166 Sports.”

The Superleggera signature at the back honours the 166 Inter's famed coachbuilder
The Superleggera signature at the back honours the 166 Inter's famed coachbuilder

As we speak, someone from the crowd shouts over: “Beautiful car, mate!” Peter smiles, walks on over and tells them a little of the car’s history. He explains that, with fewer than 40 built, it’s not only one of the earliest Ferraris, it’s also one of the rarest. They walk away beaming. “She gets that sort of reaction wherever I go in her. That’s why I’ll never leave her laid up in the garage for long. She’s 70 years old, but shows no signs of wanting to retire just yet. Besides, I have no right to keep her hidden away – she’s a very special car and I’m merely her custodian, looking after her until the next stage in her life.”

It is almost time to depart. The show is about to close, and we have spoken for hours. And still, Peter is showing me details, pointing out little features Harry the videographer absolutely must capture. I didn’t dream I’d be able to get so close and hands-on with such an amazing piece of Ferrari history; neither can the crowds Peter is thrilling with every run. “I could just have come for the opening day here in London, and left her on a stand for the rest of the event,” he tells us. “Not a chance: I’m here every day, and plan to do as many runs as I can.” The Ferrari story started with this 166 Inter and, seven decades on, its current owner is making sure as many enthusiasts as possible get to enjoy it.

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