How the Ferrari Dino Got Its Name (And Why They Are as Legit as the V12 Cars)
These days, Ferrari uses all types of engines in both its race cars and road cars. But early on in the Italian automaker’s history, it was primarily known for its V12s. While those symphonies of mechanical wizardry are the basis for Ferrari’s racing endeavors, the truth is that the brand was much more diverse, even before the Dino came along.
Why was the Dino not considered a Ferrari?
In a Road & Track interview (Seen here in Curbside Classic) regarding the Dino 308 GT, a bit of hearsay cast doubt over the entire Dino brand lineage. Stating, “Enzo Ferrari once told me, ‘a Ferrari is a 12-cylinder car.’”, reviewer Paul Frere immediately painted the Dino as a lesser product. One that Enzo would be ashamed to have his name on. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
Never mind that to that point, Ferrari had already produced four, six, and eight-cylinder engines throughout its history.
Enzo Ferrari’s unfortunate family history
While we know a lot about Enzo Ferrari’s racing pursuits, his personal life is often ignored. But in the case of the Dino, Enzo brought his family tragedies into the limelight with an entire series of cars.
Both Enzo Ferrari’s older brother and father were named Alfredo, and to differentiate, his brother was then nicknamed Alfredino. Unfortunately for the then 18-year-old Enzo, both Alfredo and Alfredino fell victim to a severe flu outbreak in 1916 and passed away.
Moving ahead, Enzo wanted to pay tribute to his departed family members by naming his first son Alfredo as well. Tragically, the youngest Alfredo (also nicknamed Alfredino) was born with Muscular Dystrophy and lived a difficult life. Ultimately, Enzo’s son died at just 24, leaving Enzo heartbroken.
However, Alfredino wasn’t in such dire straits that he couldn’t help his father’s company. Early in his career with Ferrari, he helped develop the brand’s 750 Monza race car. But by 1955, he was hospitalized and facing down the final days of his life.
It was during this time that Alfredino began discussing the concept of a 1.5-liter V6 engine with both Italian engineer Vittorio Jano and Enzo himself. Sadly, Dino would never get to see his concept in action, as he passed in 1956.
The Dino is a pure-bred Ferrari, not a Fiat
For his part, Enzo carried out the construction of his son’s vision. Just a few months after his son’s death, the Dino V6-powered Formula 2 race cars hit the track.
By 1957, Ferrari dedicated an entire line of mid-engine V6 sports cars to the combined memories of his son, brother, and father. The first road-going car, the Dino 206 GT, went on sale in 1967. It sold units before the updated 246 GT and GTS debuted.
This model used a larger 2.4-liter V6 that produced 192 horsepower. And by 1971, it was available both as a coupe and a Targa-top convertible.
Later, the Dino 308 GT4 hit the streets as Ferrari’s first V8 production car. Both bigger and more powerful, the 308 was the last car to exclusively wear the Dino badge until 1976, when the model was finally given Ferrari branding.
While Fiat assisted with the production of the Ferrari V6, both the engine and vehicle designs of the Ferrari Dino models were entirely Ferrari’s. However, in exchange for its help, Ferrari allowed Fiat to utilize the V6 in their own, front-engine sports car, also named “Dino”.
The Dino Ferrari legacy lives on
While the demise of the V12 isn’t anything to celebrate, Dino’s contributions to his father’s company far outlived the man himself. Little did he know at the time, but Dino Ferrari ushered in a new generation of sports car that lives on to this day.
Affordable V6 and V8-powered grand touring sports cars are among some of the most enjoyable to drive. And in many ways, we all have Dino to thank.