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FERRARI 166MM—ASK THE MAN WHO BOUGHT ONE (OR TWO)

LOTS OF FERRARIS have appeared here at SimanaitisSays: the cars of Enzo, Casablanca‘s Blue Parrot owner Signor Ferrari, and the charming Amati, Io Viso Dire of composer Benedetto Ferrari. 

But this article about the Ferrari 166MM from February 1973 R&T is special because it’s written by the man who owned two: none other that John R. Bond, the guy responsible for the good years at R&T.

This and other images from R&T, February 1973.

John and Elaine’s Joyful Event. “It was March 4, 1959,” John wrote. “On that morning my mail was delivered, and on the top of the heap was an interesting-looking envelope from Vienna, Austria. I opened it and found three snapshots of a Ferrari roadster.” 

John continued, “I slipped the letter and photos onto [wife] Elaine’s desk in the adjoining office and waited. Sure enough, when she found it I heard a yell. ‘John, did you see this Ferrari for sale?’ ” 

“So,” John said, “a check went off that day and we began behaving like expectant parents. Our very first Ferrari!

The Bond’s 1949 Ferrari 166MM Barchetta, i.e. “little boat,” roadster.

A Proper Blat. It took some work, paper and otherwise, to get the roadster actually roadable. But John noted, “We drove it for about a year, never very far from home, and never got any tickets though we were stopped a few times for excessive noise. The mufflers were barely expansion chambers and straight through—but stock! It sounded beautiful to us but not to neighbors or police.” 

The Ferrari’s V-12 engine displaces 1995 cc (166 cc per cylinder). The MM stands for Mille Miglia, Italy’s famed 1000-mile road race. Note the louvers in the side panels.

Crash Box Skills. “Most people,” John observed, “think a 5-speed crash gearbox (that’s with no synchronizers, for you who are too young to remember crash boxes) is difficult. It is, but then it isn’t if you know how.” 

John explained, “There’s a big gap between 1st and 2nd in this one [11:20 to 8.11 overall]. The correct procedure is to wind the engine up in 1st but not too much, pause a second or two and then go into 2nd firmly with no hesitation. From there on up, to 3rd, 4th, and 5th is (as the British would say) a piece of cake because the ratios are very close from one to the next [5.92:1, 4.66:1, and 3.96:1 overall, respectively].”

What About Downshifting? John said, “But downshifting is another matter. Going from 5th to 4th to 3rd doesn’t call for double-clutching, though it helps to avoid a crunch. But 3rd to 2nd requires double-clutching, and 2nd to 1st—don’t try it unless you’re Phil Hill.” 

John tactfully avoids the matter of heel-and-toe, downshifting and braking simultaneously. 

Restoring the Bond Barchetta. “Frankly,” John said, “it was a basket case.” And not without complicaions of dealing with later 166MM bits: “… you wouldn’t believe the differences between Ferrari 166 engines nos. 00018 and 00036.”

After significant refurbishing of V-12 internals, John said, the engine was fired up “and the throttles stuck wide open! It may have reached 10,000 rpm! There were three carburetors and Harry [Bond’s ex-Cunningham specialist] has only two hands; I suppose he should have used one foot, but finally he shut it off by pulling the fuel line. There was no damage, incredibly.”

Buy Another? You might think John would have learned.

The Bond Ferrari 166MM Barchetta and Berlinetta.

John wrote, “Skip to September 1972. Fred Leydorf, an engineer at American Motors in Detroit, offered to sell us a coupe [Berlinetta] version of the same model. Leydorf had given it TLC for eight years, and we just had to have it—after all, it and the Barchetta would make a matching His and Hers pair.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

5 comments on “FERRARI 166MM—ASK THE MAN WHO BOUGHT ONE (OR TWO)

  1. Bob Storck
    February 15, 2021

    In the late 50s, as a teen with no fear (or good sense) I was helping San Antonio friends like Ed Sweringen maintain their Italian Maseratis, Lancias and Ferraris which they liked to show off, but there were no dealers. There was a parts supplier for some items in St. Louis … all else came from Italy.

    When I got my first Ferrari gasket set, it was a do-it-yourself kit, of mostly cork or cardboard type gasket material sheets, imprinted with faint lines telling where to cut … and instructions, often hand written, in Italian telling which cuttings/holes fit which serial #s!

    It was an exercise of ingenuity, common sense and patience.

  2. Bob DuBois
    February 15, 2021

    So, don’t leave us hanging! Don’t just say he bought a berlinetta to have a pair! What happened with the berlinetta? Was it as good as, worse or better than the roadster? More details, please.
    We had a 195MM at the Blackhawk Museum for years. Supposedly it was the only new, factory-installed 195. Apparently, all others were conversion from 166’s.

    • simanaitissays
      February 15, 2021

      Here’s what else John said about the Berlinetta in the article: It was a Type 166MM 0066 built in 1951. Superleggera body by Touring. Same 88-in. wheelbase, but different wheels (as noted in the specs above). “Engine runs a little more quietly” than the Barchetta’s. Plus, “Leydorf has also put in a lot of extra soundproofing.”
      “Instrumentation is completed different from that of the roadster and there are two electric windshield wipers, each with its own switch.” The car is shown in FItzgerald and Merritt’s “Ferrari: The Sports and Gran Turismo Cars.”

  3. carmacarcounselor
    February 17, 2021

    I neither speak nor understand Italian, but in conversation with an Italian guest in the Vault at the Petersen, i was gratified when at least one who should know agreed with me that the translation of “Barchetta” to “little boat” is oversimplification. In reality, the word is a diminutive. You wouldn’t say that “kittie” means “little kitten (All kittens are little, after all.), but rather a cute kitten, or an endearing one. So when I introduced the Petersen’s Barchetta I usually gave both versions, while explaining that the Petersen’s is the only one on the longer Europa chassis and is therefore not as “little” as others of the type.

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