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