Ferrari is best known for its V12 engines, but in the 1950s Ferrari needed a smaller engine for taking part in Formula 2 races. Vittorio Jano designed a neat aluminum V6 unit with 4 overhead camshafts, and Enzo Ferrari's son Dino contributed to its design. Unfortunately Dino died at an early age in 1956 and in remembrance Ferrari named all cars fitted with this small V6, which first appeared in 1957, "Dino". All Ferraris with a V6 engine bore his name since.
In the middle of the 1960s there was a rule change in Formula 2: the engines of the cars taking part in this class had to be produced at least 500 times to be homologated. Ferrari wanted to continue taking part in this class with the Dino engine, but felt that it wasn't able to produce and sell a series of 500 cars with this engine. And so Fiat was contacted with the intent to design and build a road car with the Dino engine in a joint-venture.
Fiat's big sport coupe at the time was the 2300 S (1961-1968), more of a sporty tourer than an exciting everyday racing car. Fiat could do with a replacement to boost their image and a connection to the Ferrari fame could be advantageous to general Fiat sales. So Fiat agreed and both companies set out to develop a car powered by a Dino engine with 2-litre displacement.
First to appear was the Ferrari Dino 206 S in 1966; this was not a road car but a racing car for the GT and Prototype class. Sixteen were built of these 218 hp @ 9000 rpm strong and 268 kph fast coupes with beautiful round shapes. This image-builder was followed later that year by the Fiat Dino spider, the model that's shown on this page and was introduced at the Turin motor show.
The Dino spider (Italian equivalent for "roadster") was designed and built by Pininfarina, the acclaimed Italian coachbuilder. Pininfarina usually supplied the bodywork for the Ferrari cars, so it was logical that the new Dino was fitted with bodywork by the same manufacturer.
It was a nice, modern design with a distinctive nose and a trendy cut-off rear end. Still, when it became available in 1967 it was a bit disappointing compared to its Ferrari-built brother, the Dino 206 GT of which the first production version was shown that year. The 206 GT also had Pininfarina bodywork (by Aldo Brovarone), which showed far more dramatic lines and ultimately became a design classic.
Another setback for the Dino spider was the lack of build quality. The first series was hurried into production and was bothered by reliability problems (failing oil pressure, sticky gearbox, plug fouling at low speeds, vapor-lock). In later series many of these problems were eliminated, but the reputation of the car was already tarnished.
This 2,0 litre Dino V6 engine was developed by Franco Rocchi. Though the engines in the Dino spider and the Dino 206 GT were the same, the performances differed: the Dino spider offered 160 hp @ 7500 rpm and a top speed of 210 kph, where the Dino 206 GT boasted 180 hp @ 8000 rpm and 235 kph.
Disappointing was the use of the outdated live axle construction of the Fiat 2300 S in the rear of the Fiat Dinos (albeit with no less than four telescopic dampers). This was faster and cheaper for Fiat in the development of the car, but did no justice to the car's potential.
The aluminum engine featured a 9 to 1 compression and 3 Weber twin-choke carburetors. It was connected to a 5 speed fully synchronized transmission produced by Ferrari and it drove the rear wheels by a limited slip differential. Front suspension was independent and disc brakes were used on all 4 wheels with vacuum servo assistance.
The Dino spider weighed 1150 kg and measured 411 x 171 x 127 (length x width x height). It was an attractive compact car with a lively performance, a typical Ferrari-like engine roar and lots of charisma. This 2-litre version was produced between 1967 and 1969 and 1163 were made. It was far more successful in sales than the Dino 206 GT of which only 150 were produced between 1968 and 1969 and which is much harder to find nowadays.
Though there are still quite a number of 2-litre Dino spiders around these days (mostly in Italy), it's difficult to find one which is rust free and in sound working order. The bodywork is rather rust-prone and the mechanics needs more than usual attention and an experienced driver. On the other hand a well-looked after Dino spider doesn't have to be expensive and is great fun to drive.