Skip to main content

Was “Dino” short for the Ferrari Dinosaur? It’s not that Ferrari hasn’t had some questionable names in the past—looking at you, Ferrari La Ferrari. Still, in this instance, the famous “Dino” name comes from a far more emotionally significant place. Let’s explore the history of the Dino name along with its ties to another Italian brand: Fiat. 

If it’s not a dinosaur, where did the name ‘Dino’ come from?

A Ferrari Dino during the 2022 RetroMovil Madrid Fair in Spain
A Ferrari Dino | Atilano Garcia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many historic automotive nameplates are named directly after animals/living creatures. The first one that comes to mind for many is undoubtedly the Volkswagen Beetle. Come to think of it, the Ford Mustang is literally branded with a horse on the front—not exactly subtle. Just a few minutes on this topic, and most would be able to come up with names like Viper, Barracuda, Raptor, Bronco, Rabbit, Ram, Stingray, Charger, Cobra, etc., reports Zero to 60 Times. The Dino name, however, comes from Enzo Ferrari’s late son, Alfredo Ferrari. He was nicknamed Dino for his “energetic, ambitious, and proud character,” reports Rosso Automobili. Tragically, Alfredo died from muscular dystrophy in 1956; he was only 24 years old. 

Dino the V6 

Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari was very interested in V6 engines. Dino and lead engineer Vittorio Jano helped design a V6 engine for Formula 2. Unfortunately, he never got to see his designs come to fruition before his death, reports MotorTrend. To honor his son, Enzo gave this unique V6, which was successfully implemented in F2, the designation “Dino.” It was so successful, in fact, that the brand ended up using a V6 during its win in the 1958 Formula 1 season.

A decade later, Ferrari needed a 2.0L engine for Formula 2 but could not meet the homologation requirements. Ferrari needed 500 production cars with a variation of the 2.0L engine to enter the 1967 Formula 2 Championship. Given the Italian company’s total annual production at the time was just 750 units, it had to reach out to Fiat for help producing these road cars.

Dino the brand 

As the story goes, Sergio Pininfarina presented Enzo Ferrari with some sketches of a beautiful mid-engine road car that he thought would be a great addition to the lineup. This came at a time when the mid-engine layout was a growing interest for potential luxury car buyers.

The Lamborghini Miura was released to great fanfare in 1966. Still, it took a positive response to the Dino 206S concept at the 1966 Turin Motor Show to convince Enzo to give his customers a mid-engine car, reports Rosso Automobili. He didn’t trust his customers not to get into trouble with a mid-engine layout, so he insisted the vehicle not be too powerful. He also made “Dino” the brand under which the V6 cars would be sold. Enzo claimed they couldn’t sell cars with half the cylinders under the Ferrari brand, so the Dino brand was created.

The Dino brand was made official in 1968, along with the release of the Dino 206 GT. The brand aimed to offer an “affordable” sports car to compete against the Porsche 911. The 206 GT had the 2.0L V6, which made 180 horsepower and was paired with a five-speed manual. Impressively, because the car weighs just under 2,000 lbs, it managed to hit 60 mph in only 5.8 seconds, reports AutoEvolution. Other model iterations came in the following years, including the V8 powered 308 GT4, which came out in 1973, making 255 hp. The Dino brand name was dropped in 1976, and the final years of the 308 and 208 are branded as Ferraris. 

There’s a Fiat Dino too?

The reason the Dino exists at all is because of Fiat. Ferrari was unable to produce 500 road cars to fulfill the homologation requirements for Formula 2, and Fiat stepped in to help out. In return for the help, Fiat got to put the 2.0L V6 into one of its road cars as well—a “halo” car, if you will.

Fiat built the engines, so they are the same as the “Ferrari” Dino and the Fiat Dino, but the cars themselves are entirely different. Unlike the Pininfarina design of the Dino 206 GT, the Fiat Dino was designed by the famous Giorgetto Giugiaro. Unlike the 206 GT, which had its engine mid-mounted, the Fiat model was also a front-engine layout. Fiat ended up producing 1,557 Dinos between 1966-1973.

The Fiat Dino may not be as pretty or capable, but the sweet sounds of that V6 and Giugiaro styling make it a desirable classic. That and without it, we’d never have that incredible Ferrari engine in a road car.

Related Only 1 American Truck Is Named After a Dinosaur

Only 1 American Truck Is Named After a Dinosaur