Finding Dino

We conclude our 50th anniversary ruminations on Ferrari’s Dino by tracing its stylistic forebears.

1965 Dino 166P. Image: Ferrari.com

In December 1964 the press convened at Modena’s Hotel Real-Fini, where Enzo Ferrari would conduct his annual sermon on the mount. As the gathered press corps waited breathlessly as the ‘Pope of the North’ held forth regarding the Scuderia’s programme for coming season, the commendatore dropped a surprise, telling journalists Ferrari’s race engineers were advanced on a new ‘168 Dino GT’ to be campaigned the following season.

The wily puppetmaster wouldn’t be drawn on details, but the announcement was met with fervent speculation, especially given that the 168 designation in accepted Maranello parlance would denote eight cylinders.

Up to then, the Dino appellation signified a V6, specifically the 1.5 litre 65° alloy four cam unit which had previously seen service in Ferrari’s grand prix cars. This engine, posthumously bestowed upon the slender shoulders of poor, doomed Alfredo Ferrari, but almost certainly the work of both Aurelio Lampredi and Vittorio Jano, was in the process of being reworked for both endurance racing and road car use by Ing. Franco Rocci at Maranello and Lampredi at Fiat respectively.

Ferrari Dino 206SP. Image: legends automotive

The following April, Ferrari debuted the 166P prototype GT racer at the Monza 1000kms event, with a 1592 cc version of the Rocci ‘Dino’ V6 and for the first time, a prominent ‘Dino’ badge upon its nose. It’s race debut however was brutish and short, the engine expiring on the second lap. Later that year, the car received a larger capacity 2.0 litre unit and a new name, 206S. With the the bodywork redesigned in most aesthetic fashion by Piero Dragoni, the early seeds of the roadgoing Dino were laid.

1965 Dino Berlinetta Speciale by Pininfarina. Image: classicdriver

The same year, Carrozzeria Pininfarina, who carried out the bulk of Ferrari road car styling duties, prepared a study for the Paris motor show. The Dino Berlinetta Speciale was a styling prototype, using a 206S spaceframe chassis and running gear. Based on original styling sketches by Aldo Bravorone, it’s believed to have been the final Ferrari design Battista Pininfarina contributed to before his death the same year.

The diminutive, flowing and sensuous Berlinetta Speciale was rapturously received, prompting Ferrari to sanction the production Dino. Meanwhile, Sergio Pininfarina remained convinced Ferrari also needed to produce a mid-engined car with the full-fat V12 engine, but the reactionary Ferrari would not hear of such heresy.

Despite his latent conservatism being shown for what it was on Europe’s racetracks, it’s believed he stated his road car customers wouldn’t be capable of handling such a machine. Of course a cynic might suggest that if he was that concerned for his customers’ wellbeing, he’d have sanctioned more sophisticated chassis’ for the equally powerful front-engined cars he’d happily been selling them, but gave not a fig about.

1966 Ferrari 365P by Pininfarina. Image: velocetoday

Pininfarina took matters into their own hands, creating in conjunction with long-suffering US concessionaire, Luigi Chinetti the 365P prototype. Based on the chassis and running gear from the 365 P2 sports racer, Chinetti had Ferrari up the capacity to a full 5.0 litres and a stated 380 bhp.

Longer and wider than the now well-advanced 206 GT, owing to the longitudinally mounted V12, the 365P nevertheless was clearly an evolution of the Dino style and debuting at the 1966 Paris motor show, served as a teaser for what was to come, as well as a broad hint to Maranello as to what could be, with a little imagination – and a few billion lire here and there.

With the production Dino established in the marketplace, mid-engined Ferrari’s soon became the norm, even rather commonplace. The Dino name was phased out entirely in 1976; thereafter, all non-twelve-cylinder Maranello warhorses gained the Cavallino Rampante and all that went with it.

Lotus Elise. Image: classic and performancecar

And while the line can be traced through through a further five generations of mid-engined Ferrari road cars of varying ferocity and iteratively diminished appeal, perhaps the closest approximation to the Dino formula in styling terms, in broad engineering principles, in size, not to mention overall purity hailed not from Maranello itself, but those upstart garagistas of Hethel, with Julian Thomson / Richard Rackham’s delightful and delightfully lightweight 1996 Lotus Elise.

While the 1967 206 Dino GT was arguably the least cynical Ferrari road car of all, the more compact, significantly lighter and considerably less expensive Elise was (and today’s car remains), the Dino Ferrari would not have dared produce then and certainly will never make now. Because even without Enzo at the helm, the prancing horse remains as hidebound as it ever was in the commendatore’s day.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

11 thoughts on “Finding Dino”

  1. I’ve been enjoying both these Dino articles.

    As far as road cars went, in the mid-’60s Ferrari didn’t seem to know where they wanted to go, despite heavy hints from Pininfarina et al. Just as well Lamborghini appeared from nowhere to rattle them up. Even Maserati got the full-scale mid-engined road car act together a couple of years ahead of Ferrari.

    Does anyone else find the Berlinetta Boxer an odd thing? Fioravanti did a fine job on the styling, but all the centre of gravity benefits of a flat engine were squandered by perching it on top of a Greek Al-style bunk-bed transaxle.

    I’d have been more impressed if Ferrari had gone for a 120 degree V12 with a in-line transaxle.

    The Dino itself could have happened so much sooner. There was even another V6 in the armoury which might have been more suitable for larger scale production – the 1.8 litre unit derived from the Colombo V12 for the Innocenti 186GT, which came to naught, along with the car it was supposed to power.

    1. No, I don’t find the Berlinetta Boxer very odd, I find it to be a very pragmatical though ulitmately misguided solution on the problem of packaging a mid-engined V12. Doing it traditionally with the engine ahead of the axle and differential and with the gearbox behind it makes for a very long rear section and with parts of it outside the wheelbase. As seen on the 365P it also makes for a very long and extremely unproportional rear section. De Tomaso and Maserati avoided the problem by using V8-engines, Lamborghini solved it by mounting the engine and gearbox transversely. Ferrari solved it by splaying out the V12 (as you know the BB is technically not a boxer) and mounting it on top of the gearbox with the diff at the rearmost part of the package. It’s a highly pragmatical solution though with drawbacks of its own, namely a higher center of gravity. I think it’s a very clever solution to the packaging problem, and it’s interesting Ferrari went so great length to solve it.

    2. It wasn’t as if this layout’s limitations was news to Ferrari engineers either, the early ’70s 312-series F1 machines suffering from similar handling balance issues owing to the immutable laws of physics (not to mention vehicle dynamics) that were consequences of this layout. Forghieri eventually solved the problem with the 1975 312T, which saw the transmission re-sited transversely behind the engine.

      While it’s clear that the BB-series benefited from a compact powertrain – you only have to look at how tight the car’s proportions are (front overhang notwithstanding), but the original Dinos were far sweeter things from a handling and usability perspective. Of course the BB was already in production by the time Forghieri’s solution came to light, but it wouldn’t be until the mid-eighties that a roadgoing mid-engined Ferrari was fitted with a transversely mounted gearbox. (Correct me if wrong…)

      Speaking of Lamborghini, I believe the Miuras were a also bit of a handful, which does suggest Stanzani, Dallara & Wallace didn’t quite get their sums right either. It’s also worth pointing out that Sant’Agata subsequently went to an in-line installation for the Countach, one they have retained for subsequent V12 Lambos I believe.

  2. A little bit of lateral (literally!) thinking could have helped, an asymmetrical drivetrain with the gearbox aside of the V12, unfortunately it wasn’t until Stanzani’s EB110 that this layout was built

    1. That’s interesting, I always thought they did it the way of the Lamborghini Countach, with the engine turned around and the gearbox in front of the engine and with axle going backwards through the sump. It really is interesting how many ways this problem can be solved, and I wonder which solution is the one that is dynamically the best.

      I have seen some cars though I don’t remember which that has the engine and gearbix mounted in front of the differential, making the package longer but having it within the wheelbase. Is it a better solution to have a slightly longer car if most of the mass is centred within the wheelbase? How much does it really matter to have the gearbox sticking out the tail end behind the differential? On the Mercedes AMG GT they have separated the masses with the engine in front and a transaxle in the back, with the gearbox behind the differential.

      Then there are cars like the Monteverdi Hai with the engine stuck so far up the passenger compartment it sits in between driver and passenger. And then we have front mid engined cars like the Cheetah which has the engine up front but mounted so far back it don’t even have a driving axle, the rear differential is mounted directly on the gearbox without even an axle in between.

      Some of those solutions should be more rear biased than the others, and the question is which of them are better dynamically than the others? The DeTomaso Mangusta and the Ferrari 365BB are know to be very heavily rear weight biased cars. Are they dynamically inferior to cars like the Maserati Bora or the DeTomaso Pantera? Did Ferrari sort it out with the Testarossa and how does it stand against the Countach? And so on….

  3. Poor Eóin; the lovely Dino is being left ever further behind as we explore the drivelines of ’60s and ’70s mid-engined supercars.

    There’s much more to be said, but if trying to emulate Greek Al’s cleverness, and keep things straightforward, the ZF 5DS 25 was the whole of the law unto thee:

    Used in the Ford GT40, De Tomaso Mangusta and Pantera, BMW M1, Maserati Bora, Mercedes-Benz C111, Isdera Imperator, and Argyll Turbo GT. To name but a few, as they say. I’m probably just scratching the surface.

  4. To which I should add the Monteverdi Hai 450SS, although ZF didn’t get rich on the four examples produced.

  5. Richard, it appears to want for geartrains of any sort.

    Perhaps they’re not user-serviceable…

  6. The Countach’s in-line layout makes for a longer wheelbase relative to the Ferrari, which has dynamic advantages, but packaging drawbacks. I presume a transverse box in front of the engine would also pose issues regarding cabin space. Placing it longitudinally aft however puts it where you wouldn’t ideally want the mass, although I suppose that might be mitigated by the weight of the gearbox in question. It’s probable then that the unwanted effects inherent in such a layout (longitudinal or transverse) are considerably less onerous than those associated with placing the transmission beneath.

    Note that the McLaren F1 employed a transverse gearbox mounted aft of the power unit. Now, owing to the innovative engine mounting system employed by Steve Randle, it’s difficult to see where else it could have been sited, but the McLaren’s gearbox was likely to have been commendably light. I’d be inclined to view this car as being as close to optimum as we’re likely to get – if we’re talking about mid-mounted V12 supercars anyway. If we are to widen the examination, we’d also have to look at what Honda did with the NSX – the F1’s rear-engined benchmark, let’s not forget.

    1. Of course, Murray solved the packaging the only way a man that is his own director/engineer can do, in a highly pragamatical way by putting the driver at center and forwards of the engine, clearing an awful lot of packaging problems in between.

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