Ferrari Club of America - Southwest Region

Oldtimer's Corner - Norm Blank's 166 Corsa

By: Ed Niles

When I experienced my Ferrari epiphany, in 1959, it was considered quite normal to drive old Ferraris on the street. Mind you, owning a Ferrari was not that common. In fact, it was quite extraordinary. That was part of why it was such a high, sweet adventure.

If one were lucky enough to own a Ferrari, one certainly drove it. Everywhere. It didn't matter that the car might have been designed for racing (we didn't distinguish). It didn't matter that the car was cranky or fussy or difficult to drive (well, in those days, weren't they all?).

It was like that old army admonition: "Smoke if you got'em". Only with us was only: "Drive'em if you got'em". They had their 4-cylinder MG's and Triumphs, or their 6-cylinder Jags. We had the sweet soprano song of the V-12! We were somebody!

One such guy was Bob Peake, who had a neat little roadster that he used to drive down from his home in Santa Barbara to Ferrari meets around the West side of Ellay. It looked sorta like a 750 Monza, but we knew it wasn't, 'cause it had a V-12 engine. Beyond that, we didn't spend a lot of time puzzling over the car's exact heritage, serial number, or anything else. We were just getting together to have a good time. We used to see Bob driving the car in the early 60's. Then it disappeared for a year or two. In 1964, the car showed up in the hands of Chuck Betz, of Orange County. Chuck was "taking bids" on the car. I think maybe Chuck may have had it on consignment from Bob, but that part is a little unclear.

166 Sypder Corsa s/n 014i 166 Spyder Corsa/Barchetta s/n 014i as it appears today.

Now, Norm Blank enters the picture. Norm is a really neat guy, and one of the most stable you'll ever meet. During the entire time that I have known Norm (over 30 years now), he has lived in the same house, and has the same Ferraris (yes, he has more than one).

O.K., let's pull the story together. Yes, Norm bought Bob Peake's roadster. (In those days, we were all a bunch of overgrown hot-rodders, so we called them Roadsters, not the current terminology of "Spyder", which after all is not even an Italian word.)

Norm drove the car to a few meets, but he had another Ferrari, (a short wheel base Berlinetta) that was really more driveable. So, with the passage of time, we saw less and less of the roadster. Of course, it helps to remember that, as cars got more modern and more pleasant, these old Ferraris became less and less fun to drive. So the old roadster fell into disuse.

You know what happens when a car isn't driven regularly: The brakes sieze up. The carburetors get plugged up with that red STUFF. The rubber starts to go to rubber heaven. In short, the car becomes unsafe, if not downright undriveable. During the great Ferrari madness of the 80's, I used to ring Norm on the tele every once in a while, to see if I could pry the car loose from him. But I think we both knew he was not going to sell. Ever. That car was a lot more than just a piece of merchandise that was escalating in value to Norm. He loved that little car.

Engine of 166 Sypder Corsa s/n 014i The engine compartment in all its unrestored spendor.

And Norm used to list himself in the roster as "Investor", which I guess means that he has a little money and doesn't have to work for a living. So money was not any particular inducement to Norm. He hung on.

But we never got to see the car anymore.

That's why I was jumping up and down with joy when I spotted it at Monterey last year. Yes, God bless his soul, Norm had cleaned out all the fluid-carrying passages, got the car running, and hauled it up to Monterey for all to see. And the beautiful part, for me, was that he had not restored it! The car was exactly the way it was when he bought i

For a complete look at Sempre Ferrari, you may want to check out the rest of the articles from Volume 2, Issue 7 - August 1995