When is a Ferrari not a Ferrari? Generally speaking, when it’s a Dino.

These vehicles were created because Ferrari needed to build a production V6 in sufficient numbers to homologate the engine for racing in the mid-1960s. However, Ferrari didn’t want to offer a downsized engine in its own road-going cars, so another solution had to be found.

The answer was to produce the Dino as its own marque. Check the Ferrari Profile “1974 Ferrari 246 GTS Dino Spyder” by Steve Ahlgrim in the October 2018 issue of SCM (p. 76) for an excellent backstory on the Dino brand.

The Fiat-rrari

Another part of the answer was to outsource production to Fiat, who put the new V6 in a front-engine, rear-drive configuration into a Pininfarina-produced spider and into a handsome Giugiaro-designed sport coupe built by Bertone. The first years of these models used the same 2.0-liter aluminum-block V6 found in the Dino 206 GT, but in 1969, Fiat took a 50% stake in Ferrari and made some major upgrades to their Dino platforms.

The original Fiat Dino cars produced from 1966 to 1968 used solid rear axles, but in 1969 they received an independent rear suspension. Other upgrades included larger disc brakes and a new 5-speed manual transmission. But the biggest change was a shift to an iron engine block and a displacement increase to 2.4 liters. Where the old engine was rated at 158 horsepower, the new V6 made 178 horsepower.

One final change in 1969 was that production moved from the Fiat facility in Turin to the Ferrari line in Maranello. The Fiat-branded Dino models were then produced right alongside Ferrari’s Dino-branded 246 GT. That arrangement continued to the end of Fiat Dino production in 1973.

Respectable numbers

These days, Ferrari claims the Dino 206 and 246 as its own. No one mentions the separate Dino brand much anymore, and many owners have been known to retrofit Ferrari badging to those cars. They’re trading in the mid-six figures with other Ferraris of the era. The Fiat Dino spiders are also trending skyward, with only one auction sale over the past two years just barely missing the $100,000 mark.

But banish despair, because there were a lot more Fiat Dino coupes than spiders built. Fiat built 3,670 of the 2.0-liter coupes to 1,163 spiders. Of the 2.4-liter cars, there were 2,398 coupes and just 420 spiders. Those numbers, plus the less-sexy appearance of the coupes, have kept prices under control and made this car eligible as an Affordable Classic. At least for now, these not-quite-Ferraris are still within reach.

That’s encouraging because time has been extremely kind to the Dino coupe. Its lines are definitely reflective of Giugiaro’s work in the era, and you don’t have to use your imagination to see the influence on other sport coupes of a few years later. Inside, you’ll find a familiar steering wheel, a set of Fiat gauges in a new arrangement, and attractive seats. If you like Italian cars of this period generally, you’ll enjoy the Dino quite a bit.

Very well bought

Most Fiat Dino coupe auction sales in the past four years have been right around $60,000, and that matches the median price of $61,000 in the SCM Pocket Price Guide. That makes the subject sale all the more amazing, because someone took this very clean Dino coupe home from Gooding’s auction in Pebble Beach for just $44,000. It was a no-reserve sale, and that’s what the winning bid was on that day.

This particular Dino is well kept and comes with full provenance back to the factory and a commendable set of original documentation. Even the toolkit is complete, and the spare tire sits on a fifth virgin-appearing Cromodora alloy wheel. Those aren’t cheap these days. About the only flaw visible in the auction photos is a pronounced trunk lid misalignment.

The bottom line is that someone got a fantastic deal on this car. Even at a high-end event like Gooding & Company, everything depends on having enough bidders at a given auction who are interested in a given car. If there aren’t at least two bidders who really want the car, some lucky buyer goes home happy and the seller ends up disappointed.

This car was one of the best buys of Monterey Car Week 2018.

There are more Fiat Dino coupes out there, and they come up for sale every year. Keep your eyes open and an ear to the ground, and you could claim a piece of that vintage Ferrari mystique for a bargain price. ♦