Intended to be the poor relation, the Dino 246 GT transcended many of its illustrious half-siblings through sheer accomplishment.
Ferrari - particularly when Il Commendatore was still running the show - was a company defined by pride. Pride that determined that nothing but a V12 was good enough to power Il Cavallino Rampante. That customers had to be contented with paying enormous sums of money just for an engine (the car’s body and chassis were considered a give-away). That the road car business was just a sideshow. That the competition would never play a significant role in Ferrari’s considerations.
Bearing this in mind, it’s not surprising at all that the Dino 246 GT is not a Ferrari. It’s not V12-powered (its Ferrari-designed engine was actually built by Fiat), it was merely expensive when new, rather than obscenely pricey, and it had been designed with an eye firmly on the opposition.
On more than just this particular occasion, pride has the habit of standing in the way of innovation. And innovative the Dino did turn out, due to these aforementioned factors.
The opposition Ferrari obviously wouldn’t fear, but notice of which was nonetheless taken, came from the north. At Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Porsche built and sold its 911 model in such numbers that it became obvious that there was a considerable market for sophisticated sports cars designed for everyday use. And somewhat closer to Ferrari’s Modenese home was a new player, intent on spiking the Cavallino with its horns: Lamborghini. Where Ferrari was conservative, Lamborghini was daring. Where Ferrari was aloof, Lamborghini listened. The heat was on.
Yet these factors alone wouldn’t have been good enough to persuade proud Enzo to build something other than what he deemed a Ferrari autentica. It took a Sergio Pininfarina, dashing heir to the Pininfarina design empire, to persuade the old man to take a good look at that mid-engined sports car layout that had caused such a stir in motor sports (and was about to turn into a sensation with the unveiling of Lamborghini’s revolutionary Miura). Without Pininfarina’s insistence, there simply would have been no Dino 206 Berlinetta Speciale concept car in 1965 - and no Dino 206/246 GT four years later, for that matter.
Despite the Dino’s sophisticated engineering, the little sports car cannot hide its roots as a design-driven exercise. For in stylistic terms, the Dino may well be considered the apex of sinuous post-war styling, before Giugiaro and Gandini came up with the wedge shape and changed the sports car idiom in record time. The Dino’s shape is a romantic one, but lacking any kind of superfluous decorum. It’s agile, yet completely non-aggressive. Even its packaging is superb, as any tall driver, who is so often excluded from truly enjoying sports car motoring of this vintage for purely spatial reasons, would attest. And, to add insult to injury (from the established sports car set’s point of view, that is), the Dino even boasts a usable boot.
Built at Carrozzeria Scaglietti, the Dino’s bombastically beautiful body was so obviously designed at Pininfarina that its badging could appear almost superfluous. It was actually penned by none other than Aldo Brovarone, one of those outstanding Italian artisans that created more masterpieces over a few years than most car manufacturers could ever hope for.
Supervised by his superior, the enterprising Leonardo Fioravanti, Brovarone humbly went about creating one of the all-time greats in a class of motor car that is not particularly short of covetable entries. The lack of grandstanding in Brovarone’s work process manifests itself in how disciplined the Dino’s embellishment is executed though: any bulge is there for a reason; not a single detail is overdone. Even his love of aeronautic detailing never got the better of him.
Speaking of details, it must be said that this is where the Dino’s Pininfarina origins are most obvious. The arrow-shaped side vent, the outline of the side windows, the recessed front lamps and twin round rear lights are all cues that could be found on other designs originating from Cambiano, as well. But nowhere else were they combined in as exciting, as tense a fashion as on the car that wasn’t a Ferrari.
Aldo Brovarone may originally have intended to make the Dino even more daring in its appearance (as can be deducted from studying the differences between the Berlinetta Speciale concept car and the production version), but thanks in no small part to its muscular, yet fluid stance and surfacing, the Dino 246 GT utterly enchants as it stands. Its Ferrari-like detailing (which was foisted upon Brovarone, as the decision not to market the car as a Ferrari was taken late in the development process) certainly doesn't do the car any harm, but it didn't prevent the Dino from developing a peerless stylistic quality all of its own.
With its cabin seemingly hanging between its bulging wheelarches, the Dino could easily have turned out as an overly aggressive, almost caricature-like mock-sports car, what with its minuscule size and condensed forms. But instead, its nimble, agile delicacy renders most other machines, which are usually much bigger and far less artfully styled, rather blunt devices.
The joy of the Dino is shared in equal parts by the driver and the environment. Both, of course, get to enjoy the aural pleasures of its 65° V6 engine, whilst enjoyment of the Dino’s forms is the privilege of the bystander. From the inside, one is presented with a very pleasing set of Veglia gauges presented in an oval frame right in front of the driver; further ahead, the view through the windshield is defined by the towering wheelarches, which not only reflect the surroundings in an intriguingly distorted manner, but also help place the car on the road tidily. Looking aft, one can not only appreciate the kind of excellent rear view visibility that’s rather unusual among mid-engined cars, but also appreciate the fine detailing of the rear window, which is sinuously shaped to mimic the engine cover’s outline. Bearing these stylistic refinements in mind, it’s rather easy to forgive the Dino’s originally strictly vinyl upholstery. It was, lest we forget, the base model. The poor relation.
There is a sense of justice being served, as far as the Dino’s fate is concerned. After having literally spent decades as the poor man’s/poseur’s Ferrari, the plucky little sports car has seen its price rise to astronomical levels in recent years. Which is, of course, a shame for non-plutocrat enthusiasts, but comes as a bit of relief in an age when many far less worthy automobiles are being appreciated for the wrong reasons. In the Dino’s case, it’s simply a matter of justice.
Hopefully, the recent rising appreciation of the Dino (not just in monetary terms) also gratifies its designer. Back in the day, Aldo Brovarone got to drive the car just once - it was the prototype Dino. He was relegated to the passenger seat.
© auto-didakt.com, all rights reserved