The fixed-head version of the Fiat-badged Ferrari offers astonishing value for money
There can be no more affordable way to connect with Ferrari racing bloodlines than the Fiat Dino coupé, which was conceived to homologate the classic Ferrari V6 engine for Formula 2 racing.
That in itself brings you into contact with Vittorio Jano, who designed the alloy V6, and Enzo’s son Alfredino, who inspired it. And, of course, the motive power provides kinship with the Ferrari Dino 206/246GT, not to mention the immortal Lancia Stratos.
In the case of the Fiat Dino coupé, crisply styled by Bertone, you can buy into those associations for a tenth of Ferrari money. Yet for all that, the Dino coupé is a car apart, for what was there to compare it with in the 2+2 class at the time of its launch in 1967? The Aston Martin DBS and the Ferrari 330GT 2+2 were much pricier; the Jaguar E-type 2+2 was considerably cheaper in the UK when new, but which classic car enthusiast ever weighed up the Fiat and Jaguar as alternative buying options? The same goes for the Dino and Porsche 911: they’re different beasts; in fact the Fiat isn’t a beast at all. Other attempts at comparison are either bogus, insult the Fiat, or flatter the impostors – I’m thinking Ford Capri, MGC GT, Alfa Romeo 1750GTV.
And this is where the Dino coupé scores, for although comparison with the DBS and 330GT 2+2 is a stretch, it’s not totally absurd. The outright 140mph-plus performance isn’t there, but perhaps if it weren’t for the stigma of the Fiat name tag, in terms of perception the Dino coupé could just about hold on to the coat-tails of the slipstream of the Aston and Ferrari.
I’m not kidding, for none other than LJK Setright, that great independent-thinking motoring commentator, thought the 2.4-litre version of the Dino coupé one of the finest cars in the world. And Autosport road tester John Bolster wrote of the Dino: ‘This is a driver’s car par excellence, yet it is also a luxury coupé of delightful appearance…Unlike any previous sports car of advanced racing design, the Dino will have the worldwide organisation of Fiat behind it, so it can be regarded as thoroughly practical transportation rather than a pampered status symbol.’ Well, ish. It makes my point about the 911 comparison, because for all its virtues the 911 is not a ‘luxury coupé’.
In its initial incarnation, with the all-alloy quad-cam 2.0-litre V6, the Dino produced around 160bhp and returned eight-second 0-60mph performance and a 120mph top end. In 1969, the second iteration, assembled by Ferrari, appeared with a 2.4-litre iron block and around 180bhp, as well as a tougher ZF five-speed box and improved independent coil-sprung suspension from the Fiat 130 saloon.
As for the downsides, the Dino coupé was made of Italian rust-easy steel, but most survivors will now have been remedied; and of course the engine is Ferrari-expensive to maintain. All examples are left-hand-drive. On the other hand, there’s probably no other coupé that offers such huge price benefits when compared with its convertible stablemate, as the Pininfarina-styled Dino spiders are typically three times the money, or more. Finally, dare make the comparison with the Ferrari 330GT 2+2, or even more heretically with the 365GTC/4. Do it.
When new In 1967 the Fiat Dino coupé cost £3737 in the UK, placing it in its own market segment. The Alfa Romeo 1750GTV then cost £2248; a Jag E-type FHC 2+2 was £2458, and a Porsche 911L £2996. In a far higher bracket were the Ferrari 330GT 2+2 at £6516 and the Aston Martin DBS at £5718.
Boom and bust In the boom of the late 1980s, Dino coupés were generally fetching low-teens money, and cars with wants sometimes less than £10,000, while the best were nudging towards £20,000. Dino spiders were twice the money, while Ferrari 330GT 2+2s were at least four times as much at £85,000 and more. Interestingly, the Aston DBS could be had for less than two Dino coupés. In the depressed market of the 1990s, no Dino coupé made more than £10,000 at UK auction.
Today With around 6000 built, buying opportunities aren’t commonplace. The market favours the later 2400, but 2000s, which are slightly more fragile, have a certain purist appeal, what with the Ferrari Dino 206 connection. Most recently, a 2000 coupé with £12,000 worth of invoices for an engine rebuild and a re-spray made £21,150 at auction. Most offered privately or at auction are pitched at £20,000-30,000; however, a 1967 2000 coupé is currently on offer in the trade at £44,995. That should want for nothing, but even at that money it’s less than a third of a Dino spider, and small change compared with the Ferraris et al, in whose company the classy Fiat really need not be embarrassed.
Words: Dave Selby/Octane Magazine