In theory, the marriage of a Ferrari drive-train with an inexpensive Fiat body should have resulted in an affordable sports car with sparkling performance. Over the years, though, the initial promise of the Fiat Dino has simply not been kept. The Ferrari engine has proven expensive to maintain and the Fiat bodies have disintegrated.
By now, most Fiat Dino Spiders have been through the same wringer, or cycle, that 246 Dinos went through. In the late '70s and early '80s they were relatively worthless and often ended up in the hands of enthusiast owners with limited means. Proper maintenance was rare, let alone a correct restoration. But while 246 Dinos have developed a market value that allows for restoration investment, the Dino Spiders have not (we won't even discuss the poor Fiat Dino coupes).
There was a brief moment from 1988-89 when some Fiat Dino Spiders were advertised at $75k-$100k with the logic that if you couldn't afford a real 246 at $200,000, here was a poor-man's substitute at half that. Unfortunately, when the boom ended the 246 owners still had Ferraris, while the Dino Spider owners were stuck with fancy Fiats.
For all that, Fiat Dino Spiders, never officially imported into the US, are not without some merit.
The suspension system-especially on the later 2.4-liter models-was technically impressive, the engine performance glorious and the shape sexy.
Autocar, in March 1967, praised its 0-60 time of eight seconds and its overall drivability. Phil Llewellin waxed philosophic about how he always wanted one in the March 1989 issue of Supercar Classics. After reading Mike Morris's Fiat Dino: Ferrari By Another Name, the only little "Bible" on this car, you too might lust for one.
And with today's prices below $25,000, a perfect one might make some sense. Unfortunately, the number of perfect cars out there can probably be counted on one hand.
Rarely are these cars in great shape upon close inspection. Interiors are generally well worn and bug spray smoking engines are more common than not, due to prices for Ferrari engine rebuilds. Body part availability is elusive, and rust problems of Olympic proportions abound. Replacement steering boxes, bumpers and windscreen gaskets are nonexistent. If a car you are considering isn't complete, looking for the missing parts may be like searching for a CD of Pavarotti singing a Snoop Doggy Dogg tune.
If you spend $25,000 on an open Alfa, Porsche or MG, you're likely to end up with a restored car, a huge availability of parts, and a great club network. With a Fiat Dino Spider, you get a car whose engine is worth more than the car, a scarcity of parts and a small following. Yes, you can look in the mirror and say, "It's just like a Dino 246 but less expensive to buy," but at Cavallino Classic your chances of getting on the lawn next to the 246s is somewhere between slim and none.
More than almost any other car in this price range, buying anything but a perfect Fiat Dino is fiscal suicide. However, if you blow yourself up with a hand grenade, at least things are over in a hurry. Trying to make a ratty Dino Spider into a nice car is tantamount to letting yourself get pecked to death by ducks, one expensive invoice after another.