The second fiddle to a Ferrari still waits for its day in the sun
Fiat's Dino was the result of a famous collaboration between Ferrari, which needed V-6 engines in sufficient quantity to homologate them for Formula 2 use, and Italy's largest automaker, which was interested in a new sporting flagship for its sprawling range. Both the new Ferrari road car and the Fiat that resulted from the partnership would share the 2-liter, all-alloy, four-cam V-6 engine and the Dino name.
For its part, Fiat produced two distinct Dinos: a Spider, with voluptuous lines styled by Pininfarina, and a graceful, Bertone-bodied four-seat Coupe. The original 2-liter cars were followed by a 2400 series, equipped with a 2,419cc, iron-block version of the V-6. Over six years, production didn't amount to much, just 1,557 Spiders and 6,043 Coupes, all equipped with left-hand drive.
In the decades that have passed since, collectors have treated these offspring of the extended Dino family very differently. Maranello's road car, the mid-engine Dino 206GT, has soared in value, while the Dino Spider has become one of Fiat's more coveted products, thanks to its folding roof and saucy lines. But for the Fiat Dino Coupe, it's a different story, as the value trend line shows.
Why is the Dino Coupe languishing in collector-car limbo? Yes, it's true that it boasts the race-bred V-6, and was heralded as "a driver's car par excellence" on its introduction. But on the other hand, there's that Fiat badge on the nose, and the presence of lots of components from Fiat's teeming parts bins, all of which make the car difficult for collectors to take seriously as an exotic, Ferrari engine or not. In the U.S., Fiats have developed a reputation as cheap, fun sports cars that rust away before their time.
"Actually, the Fiat Dino Coupes have come up in values over the last several years," said Dino expert Wally Clark, publisher of The Other Dino newsletter. "A good 2.0 Coupe will go for $12,000 to $18,000; 2.4 Coupes are higher, up to around $20,000. The 2.4 cars are rarer and, of course, have the iron block V-6, ZF five-speed and independent rear suspension (from the Fiat 130)."
If you can look beyond the label on the box, this makes the Dino Coupe an appealing bargain. Though the V-6 is supposedly detuned from the version used by Ferrari, many consider the Fiat's lower rated output simply a way to placate Maranello; the only differences between the engines being their carburetor jets and exhaust systems. The Fiat boasts power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes and a five-speed transmission, too, as well as the kind of hand-assembled quality you might associate with the cavallino rampante. Although it's not as rare as its open-air counterpart, many enthusiasts consider the styling of the Coupe at least as successful as that of the Spider, partly as a result of the closed car's longer wheelbase. On the downside, though it's a Fiat, the Dino will accumulate Ferrari-sized bills when it comes time for engine work.
"Unlike any previous sports car of advanced racing design, the Dino will have the worldwide service organization of Fiat behind it, so it can be regarded as thoroughly practical transportation rather than a pampered status symbol," Autosport magazine noted in 1967. It's been 32 years since that was written, and the Dino Coupe is still not a status symbol. But what's bad news for investors is good news for enthusiasts who have their eye on owning one of these quick and entertaining Fiats.
This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Hemmings Motor News.
September, 2009 - David LaChance