Ferrari 212 Inter

ferrari inter 212 by vignale
This Ferrari 212 Inter by Vignale is one of only 78 such cars ever produced.
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The Ferrari 212 Inter was a development of the Ferrari 166 Inter.

The 166 Inter used the same basic mechanical setup -- tubular chassis, V-12 engine, independent front suspension, rigid rear axle -- as the competition-oriented Ferrari 166 MM. But it was a larger, more civilized package intended for the street, not for racing.

Wheelbase was stretched 11.8 inches (300mm) for an overall span of 98.4 inches (2500mm). That provided enough additional interior space for two small rear seats, and the 2.0-liter V-12 was detuned to 110 horsepower, making it more tractable. Enzo Ferrari took a strong interest in his new four-seat model, and with good reason.

“You must remember,” explained his son, Piero Ferrari, in 2001, “that my father was then 50 years old. While his name would become famous with our sports cars, he had a very strong affinity to the 2+2 because of their comfort and room.”

Ferrari used “Inter” to identify cars not built specifically for competition, though many did find their way onto racetracks in the hands of private owners. This was, after all, a day in which sports cars were supposed to be capable of such dual duty.

The first 166 Inter was designed by Carrozzeria Touring’s great styling chief, Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni. It took appearance cues from the 166 MM Barchetta, and Touring used its patented Superleggera coachbuilding system for the body’s construction. Recognizing that Enzo Ferrari was quite tall and was fond of Lancia’s cute-but-roomy Ardea sedan, Anderloni used that car’s cabin dimensions for this new 2+2.

Touring’s Ferrari 166 Inter made its debut at the 1948 Turin Auto Show and was well-received. “Coachwork by Touring and V-12 2-litre-engined chassis by Ferrari, combined, make a high- performance car typifying the present day Italian style,” said England’s The Motor.

Always eager to maximize his cars’ performance reputation on the road, and recognizing that the Inter was in fact being used in competition, Enzo took a page from the American bible of “no substitute for cubic inches” and followed the original with a more-powerful version. Introduced in 1950, the Ferrari 195 Inter had a 2431cc 135-horsepower V-12, which was itself increased to 2562cc in 1951 to identify the Ferrari 212 Inter.

With larger, more-powerful engines came additional race victories and prestige. That made Ferraris ever more desirable to Italy’s burgeoning coachbuilding industry. Postwar raw-materiel shortages were easing, and the relationship between auto manufacturers and coachbuilders was closer than ever. There was immense pressure to introduce new models quickly. The easiest way to accomplish that was with a new body style on an established chassis, a solution made possible in great part by an abundance of inexpensive skilled labor. Coachbuilders flourished.

ferrari 212 inter by vignale engine
The Ferrari 212 Inter by Vignale boasted a 150 horsepower V-12 engine.

Adding fuel to the fire was a change in mentality of the average Italian.

“The Communist threat continued through most of 1948,” Anderloni explained. “After they were defeated, everyone felt a tremendous release. We were all happy and wanted to amuse ourselves. This created a great desire to work, which made the concept of work very exciting.”

Laborers and craftsmen flocked to Turin, Milan, and Modena -- cities at the heart of Italy’s expanding auto industry. Coach-builders responded with a burst of creativity and, by the early 1950s, Italy was the trendsetter in automotive design. Recalling the period, second-generation coachbuilders Sergio Pininfarina and Nuccio Bertone noted that their fathers were preoccupied during the war with what they would build when hostilities ceased. Once peace arrived, it was as if a giant spring released.

Stablimenti Farina was then in its fourth decade, and the handful of Ferraris it made were among its last before closing its doors in 1953. Many more Inter coupes and cabriolets (approximately 25) came from another Turin-based coachbuilder nearly as old, Carrozzeria Ghia.

But most prolific on the Inter chassis was Carrozzeria Vignale. This house was established in the second half of the 1940s by Alfredo Vignale, who had a homespun way of designing. “He just knew what he wanted, so he would kneel down and sketch cars on the factory floor,” recalled Francesco Gavina, a Vignale worker.

Vignale’s designs were simple until the early 1950s, when he teamed with stylist Giovanni Michelotti. Then just 30, Michelotti was an incredible talent and would be among the industry’s most active designers over the next two decades. Michelotti’s ideas flowed at an amazing pace, and Vignale, described by a former employee as “a magician with the hammer,” would turn them into car bodies.

The variety of Vignale bodies for the Inter series was staggering. They started out fairly conservative. By the time the series ended in 1952, they evidenced remarkable creativity -- and flamboyance.

Of note was one of Vignale’s final Ferrari 212 Inters, a red coupe encircled by a robust beltline of brightwork spearheaded by chrome front-fender “eyebrows.” That didn’t phase Enzo confidant and Ferrari promoter extraordinaire, Luigi Chinetti. This machine was the cover subject of the October 1953 issue of the American magazine Auto Sport Review, and the article quoted Chinetti pitching the Ferrari 212 to its eventual buyer, one Alfred Ducato of Atherton, California. “Mr. Ducato,” Chinetti said, “I am going to do something for you -- I am going to see that you get the most beautiful car in the world.”

ferrari 212 inter by vignale
The Ferrari 212 Inter by Vignale was one of the first Ferraris designed for road use.

Learn about these other great Ferrari Road Cars:

166 MM
250 GT SWB
365 CaliforniaTestarossa
212 Inter
400 Superamerica
365 GT 2+2
340 America
250 GTE
365 GTB/4 Daytona
375 America
250 GT/L Lusso
365 GTC/4
456 GT
375 MM
330 GT 2+2
512 BBi
250 Europa GT
500 Superfast
250 GT Boano
275 GTB/4
308 GT4
550 and 575
410 Superamerica
275 GTS
308 and 328
360 and F430
250 GT Coupe
Dino 246 GT
250 GT Spyder California
330 GTC
288 GTO
612 Scaglietti

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