The Fiat That Was Actually a Ferrari
In some ways, buying a vintage Ferrari offers more freedom than buying a new one. Not to mention the potential savings. But even in the classics market, there are some Ferrari models that are often overlooked and under-appreciated. And some, although they never wore the Prancing Horse badge, were built with Maranello-derived tech. One of these is the Fiat Dino—and without it, quite a few classic Ferraris wouldn’t exist.
How the Fiat Dino is related to the Ferrari Dino (and other Ferraris)
The Fiat Dino, and the subsequent Ferrari Dino models, are all named after Enzo Ferrari’s son, Alfredo, aka “Dino”. In the early 50s, Hagerty explains, Alfredo was experimenting on a lightweight aluminum V6 engine that Ferrari could use for Formula 2 competition. At the time, the Italian carmaker exclusively used V12s. Sadly, though, Alfredo never got a chance to see this engine in action: he died in 1956 from muscular dystrophy.
However, to honor his memory, the company continued developing the V6. And by 1966, it was ready to go racing. But to do so, Petrolicious explains, Ferrari had to build at least 500 examples in road-going cars. To make sure enough were produced, Ferrari asked Fiat, which had a significantly larger factory and production line, to build it.
As part of this agreement, Silodrome explains, the V6 would go into two cars: one badged Ferrari, one badged Fiat. And in another nod to Enzo’s late son, both cars would be named ‘Dino.’
Initially, both the Fiat Dino and Ferrari 206 Dino used a 2.0-liter aluminum V6. That’s where ‘206’ comes from–2.0-liter, 6 cylinders. Because Ferrari reported horsepower differently than Fiat, the 206 was reported to make 180 hp and the Fiat 160 hp. However, both cars have the exact same engine.
The 2.0-liter V6 lasted from 1966-1969. Then, from 1969-1973, the cars used a cast-iron 2.4-liter V6, which, according to Fiat, made 180 hp. The Ferrari model changed names, becoming the 246 Dino. But that wasn’t the end of the Dino engine’s lifespan.
After 1973, the V6 was expanded into a V8, which was first used in the 308 GT4. But the basic design was so impressive, Ferrari kept evolving it for successive mid-engine models. The last Dino-derived engine was built in 2004, for the 360 Challenge Stradale.
That’s why, without the Fiat Dino, Ferrari would look very different.
Fiat Dino features and driving experience
Although the Ferrari and Fiat Dino shared engines, the two were fairly different. The Ferrari Dino had Pininfarina bodywork and was also the first mid-engine Ferrari.
The Fiat Dino, on the other hand, had the V6 in the front. And unlike the 206, the Fiat Dino could be had either as a coupe or a convertible, Road & Track reports. Pininfarina also designed the convertible (aka ‘Spider’), though the coupe was Bertone’s handiwork, RM Sotheby’s reports. But the Fiat’s evolution involved more than just the engine.
The 2.0-liter cars had a 5-speed manual, along with independent front suspension, a limited-slip differential, and 4-wheel disc brakes. The 2.4-liter models, meanwhile, received independent rear suspension, which improved handling.
Although the Spyder had its convertible top, the Fiat Dino coupe had a few extra luxuries, Hagerty reports. These included power windows, leather upholstery, and split-folding rear seats. The 2.4-liter cars also had larger radiators and an electric brake servo.
Hagerty reports that, despite the Fiat badge, the Dino was “essentially Ferraris underneath, but at a fraction of the cost.” And that still holds today.
Pricing and availability
Although 246 Dino values have dropped recently, Hagerty still reports the average price of a “Good” condition example is $245,000. And on Bring a Trailer, a restored 1972 model went for $400,000 in 2019.
The Fiat Dino, in contrast, is significantly more affordable. As of this writing, there’s a 1967 model with a swapped 2.4-liter going for $20,000 on BaT. A “Concours”, aka perfect, condition one, Hagerty reports, generally tops out at $71,500. Even the most expensive example on BaT, a 1972 2.4-liter Spyder, sold for less than half what the average 246 Dino goes for.
Turns out, the Fiat Dino may actually be the best secret Ferrari bargain.
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