The Ferrari 250 series cars seem to get all the press. This is probably because they were built for so many years and had so many variations. Ever heard of a Ferrari Dino, though? Few people have because they don’t get a fraction of the press that the 250s and their variants get. Yet, the Dino was one of the best-selling cars Ferrari S.p.A. ever built. And, for the first few years of its existence, it was not even officially a Ferrari at all because it was built by Fiat! Here’s the story.
History of Ferrari
Let’s start by looking at how the Ferrari company started.
Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena, Italy, in February 1898. After a stint during the First World War as a mule-shoer for the Italian army, he become a racing driver for Alfa Romeo. In 1929, he founded “Scuderia Ferrari” as the factory-sponsored Alfa racing team. In 1938, he left Alfa and established his own manufacturing firm, Auto-Avio Costruzioni di Ferrari Enzo. In 1940, he constructed a pair of racers for the 1940 Mille Miglia, Italy’s 1,000-mile road race. Although neither won, they did very well.
Scarcely six weeks later after the 1940 Mille Miglia, Italy was plunged into World War II. Enzo Ferrari’s company was put to work manufacturing war materials. He was later forced to move his works from Modena to Maranello in hopes of evading Allied bombing. After the war, he launched into the car business again.
By most accounts, Enzo was a difficult man to get along with. He had a monstrous ego, a ferocious temper, and an insatiable appetite for self-promotion. Like many domineering men, Enzo’s primarily sentimental focus was his son, Alfredo. Known as Alfredino, or just Dino, Enzo saw him as the one who would carry on his legacy.
As a young man, Dino was quickly integrated into the inner sanctum of Ferrari and soon was involved in major projects. Perhaps his finest was a radical new V6 engine he developed in 1957. Unfortunately, Dino didn’t live to see the finished product. He suffered from muscular dystrophy, which left him weak and often bedridden. He finally died on June 30, 1956, of kidney failure at the age of 24.
Inevitably, the six-cylinder engine was dubbed the “Dino V6.” It was an unusual 65° configuration (wider than the ideal 60° to allow a better angle for engine valves), the engine initially displaced just 1,490 cc. A bigger 2,417 cc version was later developed for Ferrari Formula 1 cars.
The sixties saw a shift in Ferrari sports-car design philosophy away from front-engine designs toward mid-engine layouts. Mid-engine configurations improve handling by moving the mass of the engine closer to the car’s center of gravity. Our tech consultant at Lustine Chrysler of Woodbridge, VA, explained that by reducing its moment of inertia with a mid-engine configuration, it makes a car that handles better. It can also allow the car’s body to be shorter and lighter.
Enzo, however, was concerned about this trend. Apparently, he considered mid-engined cars too dangerous for his non-racing customers. Such concerns about may have originated with a horrible accident in 1957 when a Ferrari driven by Count Alfonso de Portago crashed during the 1957 Mille Miglia race killing Portago and injuring more than two dozen spectators, some of them being children. The legal battle concerning this accident, dragged on for about eight years, earning Ferrari considerable bad publicity.
The FIAT Dino
In late 1964, Ferrari approached Italian automaker Fiat and made a deal with its new president, Gianni Agnelli, to mass-produce the new mid-engined Dino V6. This made obvious commercial sense because branding the car as a Dino rather than a Ferrari would forestall any purist complaints about what constituted a true Ferrari. Yet the Dino was almost entirely a Ferrari design.
Fiat showed the Dino 206 at the Paris show in late 1965 and at Turin in 1966, but these were essentially new bodies on the chassis of the earlier mid-engine sport-racer prototypes. A more definitive prototype appeared at the 1967 Turin show, but the first production Fiat-built Dino 206 didn’t go on sale until 1968.
The FERRARI Dino
Meanwhile Ferrari was working on its own version of the mid-engined sportscar and called it the 206 GT. Unlike the earlier prototypes, which had longitudinal engines ahead of the rear axle, the production 206 GT’s engine was transversely mounted, sitting on top of the transaxle. To keep the engine’s center of gravity as low as possible, the top of the transaxle case actually formed the engine’s sump. All of this made the powertrain far more compact than the earlier efforts.
Unfortunately, the 2.0-liter Ferrari V6 proved to be less than reliable in civilian hands, suffering problems with low oil pressure, vapor lock, and plug fouling. In 1969, it was mildly redesigned. Its displacement was expanded to 2,418 cc and the aluminum block was recast in iron rather than aluminum.
Today both the Fiat-built 206 and Ferrari -built 206 GT are highly collectable sportscars. Probably because both cars are heavily associated with the Ferrari name, resale prices are extremely high, typically several hundred thousand dollars or more.