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Fiat Dino

Ferrari by another Name Published: 19th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fiat DinoOne of the most underrated sports cars around, the Fiat Dino is a virtual Ferrari but a lot cheaper and more practical

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 2.4-litre cars
  • Worst model: 2.0-litre models
  • Budget buy: 2.0-litre coupé
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 5507 x 1696 (coupé)
  • Spares situation: Good except trim
  • DIY ease?: Great; engine needs knowledge though
  • Club support: Good
  • Appreciating asset?: Slowly
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy
Coupe has great looks and better 2+2 practicality Coupe has great looks and better 2+2 practicality
Dino badge shared with Ferrari, lights from Fiats Dino badge shared with Ferrari, lights from Fiats
Rare alloy wheels – £100 centre caps more scarce Rare alloy wheels – £100 centre caps more scarce
Left hand drive only, there’s shades of Ferrari here but only gearlever gaiter is now available off the shelf Left hand drive only, there’s shades of Ferrari here but only gearlever gaiter is now available off the shelf
This is the real reason to buy this Fiat – that Dino engine! Generally sturdy but dear to keep sweet This is the real reason to buy this Fiat – that Dino engine! Generally sturdy but dear to keep sweet
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Built at Maranello, this Fiat is even rarer than its Ferrari namesake – and as desirable

Pros & Cons

Beautifully engineered, quirky, Ferrari link
Patchy parts availability, costly to run, good ones hard to fi nd

Mention that you’ve got a Dino to someone and they’ll coo over the fact that you’re lucky enough to own a mid-engined baby Ferrari. That’s always been the Fiat Dino’s problem; ever since it was unveiled more than four decades ago, it has always lived in the shadow of its more glamorous cousin. However, it’s a doubleedged sword, because you can buy this enigmatic sportscar with the same engine as Ferrari’s Dino, for a fraction of the price. Even better, you can choose from open or closed variants while also enjoying greater levels of rarity with consequently lower levels of familiarity. Perhaps the Fiat Dino is no consolation prize after all.


The Fiat Dino came about thanks to a Formula 2 rule change in the mid-Sixties. Any car racing in the series would have to use an engine built at the rate of no less than 500 units in total. Ferrari felt it important to be represented in the Formula, but at that time, it didn’t have the necessary factory capacity. There was no way it could expand dramatically to fi t in with the new rules, so a tie up with Fiat was arranged. Ferrari had a suitable engine to use as a start point; originally penned by Vittorio Jano in 1956, this highly stressed racing V6 was redesigned by Aurelio Lampredi to make it more suitable for road use. With an initial displacement of 1596cc, Lampredi settled on a production capacity of 1987cc, which was expanded to 2418cc in 1969. Design and production would be outsourced; it’s no surprise that the Spider and coupe look so different, as dropheads were styled and built by Pininfarina, while Bertone was responsible for the fi xedheads. Although the Spider was unveiled fi rst, at the 1966 Turin salon, Bertone had been working on its coupé design since 1963, with the car initially intended to replace Fiat’s 2300S; the coupé debuted at the 1967 Geneva motor show. While the Spider is something of an acquired taste stylistically, the clean understated lines of the coupé are universally admired. Not only is it less fussy, but the proportions are better too thanks to a stretched wheelbase to accommodate full-sized seats in the rear. The drophead has a more limited 2+2 confi guration instead, which in reality means space for two people plus a bit of extra luggage room. Dino production lasted six years, ending in 1972. By then, just 1557 spiders had been built, and 6043 coupes – all left-hand drive. Of these, 1133 Spiders and 3629 coupes featured the smaller engine. Over the years many cars have been scrapped, but it doesn’t happen any more; they’re too sought after for that, even if they’re not especially valuable.


Independent front suspension by double wishbones means the Dino is a fabulous car to drive – as long as it’s in fi ne fettle. Which engine you choose is also important in terms of the driving experience; usability, running costs and reliability are all affected with the larger unit being the better one in all respects. The 2-litre unit is more free-revving however, while the car is less prone to understeer thanks to the lighter nose – this was an all-alloy unit while the 2.4-litre block is cast-iron. The earlier cars, developed in a hurry, make do with the live rear axle and half elliptic leaf springs of the 2300 coupe. The 2.4-litre cars are blessed with the independent set-up of the fl agship 130 though, and handle rather better as a result. Practical transportation rather than a pampered status symbol is how one UK road test summed up the Fiat Dino.


People are starting to overlook the Fiat badge; The rarest of the bunch, it’s the 2.4 Spider that’s most valuable; it’s also rarer than the Ferrari. Hard to fi nd, you’ll pay £22,000-£36,000 for one while a 2-litre edition is worth £20,000-£32,000. Coupés are worth even less; a 2.4-litre edition is £9000-16,000 while 2-litres fetch £7000-13,000. The key thing to remember though is that while purchase costs are low, running costs are in Ferrari territory – something that buyers often overlook. This isn’t a poor man’s Ferrari; it’s a rich man’s Fiat.


The Dino was the fi rst car ever to be fi tted with electronic ignition; the Dinoplex system was once state of the art but is now fragile and costly to fi x. That’s why most systems have been swapped for modern upgraded electronics within the original Dinoplex housing; a cost-effective solution to the problem at £300. Engine upgrades are popular for both types of engine, with displacement increases possible on the 2-litre units. Bigger valves, uprated camshafts, high-capacity oil pumps and oil cooler kits all may have been fi tted, along with a lightened fl ywheel and uprated radiator – all things that make the car more usable. A stainless exhaust costs up to £1800 from Dino experts.

What To Look For

  • Whether you’re looking at a 2-litre car or a 2.4-litre edition, the potential problems are much the same, although the latter unit tends to be more reliable. The most likely issue is with camshaft wear, especially if the engine hasn’t been allowed to warm up properly before being revved to high heaven.
  • Things are made worse by not keeping on top of the valve clearances, which need to be checked every 6000 miles. It’s a time-consuming, fi ddly job that’s frequently put off, which can prove expensive. There’s the potential for a lobe to get knocked off the camshaft if clearances are way out; that’s when things start getting really costly. Genuine Ferrari cams are around £1200 each (there are four), but Superformance does a set for £970, offering better mid-range torque.
  • Listen out for worn timing chains, which rattle; fresh ones cost around £850 if replaced by a specialist. On 2-litre engines the chain itself is less problematic than the tensioner, which needs to be adjusted every 6000 miles. Failure to do so can result in the chain jumping a cog, wrecking the engine in the process.
  • Also watch out for blue smoke when accelerating, betraying worn cylinder bores. This is especially likely on a 2-litre powerplant, but all Dino engines suffer from unreliable sender units for the oil pressure gauge. You should expect 50psi at 3000rpm, but if that’s not indicated it could be a worn engine or faulty instrumentation.
  • The distributor wears readily. They’re not easy to revive, with a rebuild costing around £250or £800 new. Dino was fi rst car ever to use electronic ignition but the Dinoplex set up isn’t too durable and probably replaced by now.
  • The 2.4-litre engine potentially suffers from a few affl ictions that don’t affect the smaller unit. The fi rst is broken exhaust valves, which are brittle sodium-fi lled items that can be quite fragile. Core plugs are also prone to weeping, and if left unchecked this can lead to the coolant level dropping to the point where the engine overheats.
  • The 2-litre car has a gearbox and differential which are both weak. In the case of the former, the fi rst things to go will be the synchromesh on second and third. Putting it right costs at least £1750, as long as no gears are needed.
  • Worn ball joints in the front suspension are common. They’re sealed units that rapidly deteriorate once the rubbers split; replacing them is easy though. They’re cheap too at less than £25 each; even a full suspension bush kit is £63 (rear) and £126 (front). A lot of the suspension parts are common to the 124, 125 and 2300, which means many bits are available from specialists.
  • The Dino’s steering is by worm and roller; it’s a sharper system than you might think. It’s reliable too, although its damper sometimes loses an oil seal, leading to all the lubricant leaking out. Feel for steering kick back over bumps, betraying the fact that there’s no oil in the system; fi tting a new seal is an easy task if it’s needed. New worms for the steering box are now unavailable.
  • The Dino is as badly affl icted by rot as most of its contemporaries and replacement panels are unavailable and so rare fi nds. The Ferrari factory-built Spider is the more vulnerable of the two; fi ller was routinely used on the production line if panels didn’t fi t properly whereas the Bertone-built coupe was built to slightly more exacting standards.
  • The two areas most likely to corrode are the A-posts and sills, both of which are essential to the car’s strength. In the case of the former, open the doors and check the shuts along their forward edges. Also take a look from the back of the inside of the wheelarch; this is where the metal starts to corrode when it gets battered by debris from the front wheels.
  • If the outer sill looks tatty, the inner and intermediate panels are likely to be history, with repairs involved and costly. If the sills have been left to rot, the car’s structure could have beencompromised as a result – so check that the doors close and fi t properly. This is particularly important in the case of the Spider, which canalso suffer from lacey fl oorpans as a result of water leaks into the cabin.
  • All cars can suffer from rotten jacking points andoutriggers, but inspecting these is easy as you only have to stick your head underneath. It’s the same with the bottoms of the doors, while the trailing edge of the boot lid and leading edge of the bonnet need close inspection where the coupe is concerned; the Spider’s boot lid and bonnet are aluminium.
  • The rear valance also needs close inspection; once rust takes a hold it eats its way into the structure and repairs are not straightforward. The same is true of the front bulkhead, so lift the bonnet and make sure there’s no corrosion or bodged repairs. Things aren’t helped by rust often breaking out in the windscreen surround; when the glass was originally fi tted, the paint was frequently damaged in the process.
  • The electrical system is generally reliable. Some parts are hard to find, but much was common to other contemporary Fiats. Most of the instrumentation and switchgear falls into that category, but not the exterior lighting; the rear lights are especially hard to fi nd and they’re handed too. Look hard enough and you’ll track down what you need; if you can put a Fiat 125 or 130 part number to something instead of its Dino one, you’ll invariably pay a lot less.
  • It’s reckoned there are just 30 Spiders and 70 coupes here, so there are nothing like enough Dinos to go round – especially when it comes to really good ones. Restos rarely surface; German and Swiss cars the best.

Three Of A Kind

Ferrari Dino
Arguably the closest thing to a Fiat Dino is its Ferrari namesake, but you’ll need a lot more money to buy one of these than the Fiat. There were open (GTS) or closed (GT) variants, with both being very costly to buy; nearly £100k for something good although values are softening. The GTS is the rarer and more valuable of the two, while 2-litre cars (GT only) are unusual with just 150 built. most have now been restored; some better than others.
Fiat 130
Enzo Ferrari’s daily driver was a 130, so consider that an endorsement of the greatest magnitude. It’s no wonder he liked the 130 so much; this was the most luxurious and technically advanced Fiat ever, with a twin-cam V6, all-round independent suspension and a disc brake on each corner. The saloons are all but extinct now; coupés are more common but you’ll still have to search hard to fi nd one, let alone a good one
Lancia Gamma
Another large, quirky Italian classic, it’s debatable whether or not the Gamma rally rivals the Dino. There was no opentopped derivative, but the sort of die-hard Italian car fan who would buy a Dino would consider only other Latin tin as an alternative. If you’re tempted, you’ll have to search for a decent one asthese cars are very fragile; most have been thrown away because of wrecked engines and rotten bodywork.


It makes a big difference whether the Dino you buy is open or closed, because the Spider and coupe are quite different beasts. The latter is more of a cruiser, with more compliant suspension, greater levels of refi nement and higher comfort levels. However, both cars allow you to delight in the sounds generated by the quad-cam V6 in the nose. Ultimately though, your decision may be made based on what you can find. The biggest problem is fi nding a Dino that’s been properly restored or genuinely cherished all its life. It’s the usual story of restoration costs being way beyond what the car will be worth in the foreseeable future that leads to bodges being all too common. However, there are good cars out there; you just have to be patient and be prepared to look at several before you buy. Once you’ve found a minter, look after it and its value can only increase – but you’re unlikely to make your fortune from it.

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