The cars we loved.
Labels are everything. On clothes, furniture and gadgets, we often buy brands based on whatever appeal they conjure up in our minds. Cars are no different, but in today’s modern production environment, many products share the same assembly line and get infused with a brand identity at the end of the process, sometimes leading to confusion.
One famous example of this was the Ferrari Dino. Made at the request of Enzo’s son Alfredo, the Dino (a nickname for him) would become Ferrari’s first V6 powered car. Alfredo dreamed of an more affordable V6 Ferrari. The concept would go racing, with homologation rules requiring Ferrari to build 500 examples of cars with the new V6, so naturally they would end up in at Fiat. As a major shareholder of Ferrari, Fiat would test the concept in a sporty V6 powered GT coupe of its own while Alfredo’s dream had become a reality at Ferrari. Had there been no resistance from US dealers, there could have been other V6 Ferrari and Fiat built cars sold under the Dino brand.
Today there remains some confusion over the name Dino. As a reluctant Ferrari, the Dino was a famous exotic. Overlooked and unknown to many, was it less glamours step sister the Fiat Dino. The Fiat would be a conventional front engine car with rear wheel drive as opposed to the mid-engine car that was branded a Ferrari. They were not the same thing, but shared more parts that you might have imagined, mainly the V6 engine.
The relatively light weight, fast and comfortable Dino (still named for Alfredo Ferrari’s nickname) would be a hardtop coupe and spyder. The handsome coupe would be designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone. Its long hood and sloping roof profile gave way to a big rear window ending in a trunk. A somewhat more elegant spyder, designed by Pininifinari featured sloping wheel arches, making it more like Ferrari’s Dino .
Both cars had similar front ends, but the coupe would be more angular and have rectangular tail lights while the spyder’s curves had more appropriate round tail lights. The spyder clearly evokes the look of Ferrari’s Daytona Spider. Dino’s had either a Fiat made 2.0 or a Ferrari sourced 2.4-liter. Both six cylinder engines were DOHC designs rated at 160 and 180 hp respectively. Choosing the smaller engine was no performance penalty as it was capable of a 7 second 0 to 60 time and could reach a top speed of 130 mph – as a spyder.
Unknown too many was the fact that the 2.4 liter cars were built in Ferrari’s Maranello factory. Its 2.4 V6 was the same one in the Ferrari Dino. The Fiat Dino shared other parts with Ferrari and essentially was a Ferrari with Fiat badges on it. Ferrari was not the only company the Dino shared common parts with. Components like the 2.4 car’s Girling brakes were could be found in the De Tomaso Pantera and Lamborghini Miura. The Dino’s only transmission, a ZF 5-speed manual was also used by Aston Martin. While those associations were good for the Dino, it’s the relationship with Ferrari that made this car a closet Ferrari at less than half the price.
The Dino got better quickly, starting with its rear suspension. Early cars were fitted with live axel rears, until they were replaced with a sophisticated coil sprung independent system. This improved the Dino’s ride while enhancing its performance on less than ideal road surfaces. Already popular in Europe, the Dino quickly made a name for itself amongst those in the know.
Cars fitted with the 2.0 were the most common. They were usually hard tops and were all assembled by Fiat. The most rare of the Dino were the 2.4-liter Spiders. Only 424 were made between 1966 and 1969. All 2.0 spyders were built by Pinninifanari for Fiat. Very few coupes or spyders ever made it to the United States. Fiat would focus its assault on the American market with the 124 Spyder, the Dino’s replacement.