The 1967 Ferrari Dino was created as a tribute to the automotive icon’s lost son

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If he hadn’t died, Dino Ferrari would have had the racing world in the palm of his hand. As Enzo’s son, it was Dino’s destiny to one day take over the reins of the business his father had founded, a business with a closet full of exotic automobiles and checkered flags. Instead, a young man died after living only 24 years.

Dino never ruled the Ferrari kingdom, but his father, as a tribute to his son, commissioned a rolling automobile monument. In the end, Dino would become more famous in death than in life.

Even still, arguments continue to this day as to whether Enzo Ferrari’s magnificent Dino sports car is, in fact, a real Ferrari. On the one hand, none have the Ferrari name or its famous logo. Il Commendatore, as Enzo was respectfully called, made it clear that only a simple “Dino” nameplate was to be displayed on the nose of his creation. And what could it be called a real Ferrari when the engine – a V-6 and not the usual V-12 – was largely the creation of Fiat, the giant car conglomerate that would end up buying Ferrari in 1969?

On the flip side, Enzo ordered the Dino in the hopes that a whole new line of smaller, lighter exotics would bear his son’s name. When it comes to the powertrain, Ferrari engineers handled all of the design work and built many of its key components at the plant in Maranello, Italy. Fiat simply supplied the block and a few other accessories to Ferrari’s specifications.

To prove this point, some Dino owners have gone so far as to place Ferrari badges on what they believe to be the genuine item. Whether they do it out of pride or to counter criticism is hard to say. In the end, the ongoing controversy would probably not amuse the founder of the company, who held the memory of his son sacred. In the years following Dino’s death in 1956 due to his failing health, his father was rarely seen without a black tie, a sign of perpetual mourning.

When the first mid-engined Dino was presented at the 1965 Paris Auto Show, the world was just beginning to discover the benefits of manipulating engine positioning behind the passenger compartment. The body, designed by Italian studio Pininfarina, was a knockout. It featured curved front fenders, deeply recessed headlights, a steeply angled windshield, and a “flying buttress” rear roofline that surrounded the integrated rear window with a plunging sail on either side. It was a real beauty.

Two years later, the Dino 206 GT (the numbers represented the engine’s displacement of 2.0 liters and its six cylinders) entered production. Among the many innovations were its transversely (sideways) mounted engine, fully independent suspension, five-speed gearbox, four-wheel disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering. These characteristics had been harvested from Ferrari’s vast racing experience and converted to road use. The unique frame was made from tubular steel, to which hand-formed aluminum body panels were attached.

The finished product was small, but visually appealing nonetheless. Unfortunately, it was also noisy and uncomfortable to sit on, and some semblance of luggage space was missing. More importantly, the alloy engine required almost constant maintenance. Intended for the European market, only 100 of these 180 horsepower Dino were made during its short lifespan.

But Enzo refused to give up his derivative brand and in 1969 released the improved 246 GT. Not only did it have a longer wheelbase (and more cockpit space), but it offered a 195-horsepower 2.4-liter V6 with a cast-iron engine block.

Weighing just 1,000 kilograms, the Dino could reach 60 mph (96 km / h) at rest in seven seconds and reach a top speed of 140 mph (225 km / h). Those numbers weren’t even close to the 12-cylinder Ferrari Daytona coupes (zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 170 mph-270 km / h) that were sold alongside the Dino at dealerships. Ferrari in Europe and, by that time, North America.

In its defense, the Dino was at least $ 5,000 cheaper (about 25%) and could easily outperform its faster parent. It was also, in the minds of many people, more beautiful. As a result, Dino’s sales crushed those of its more expensive rival.

In 1972, the car’s cuteness factor was on the rise with the arrival of the targa-roofed 246 GTS. With its top panels removed, the sports coupe turned roadster was more practical and even more beautiful.

Critics continued to harass the Dino’s hoarse engine and mechanical noises that could stifle normal conversation in the cockpit, but their complaints were never addressed. To purists, these sounds were like a concerto to the ears and a necessary and desirable part of the Ferrari experience.

Production ended in 1974 after the construction of some 4,000 cars. Like the son Enzo Ferrari had lost years earlier, there would only be the one and only Dino.

Whether or not they bear the name of a modernized Ferrari, the Dino remains one of the company’s most grandiose accomplishments – and one of the proudest of a father.

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