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Ferrari Dino Company History

Published: 3rd Nov 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ferrari Dino
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Ray Potter

My past and present threesome have given me plenty of excitement, both good and bad starting with my first and most memorable Ferrari bought nearly fifty years ago. Not that I have always had one in the garage, but it seems an emptier place without an example around once you have owned one to either drive, compete with or simply admire – or occasionally swear at when things go on the blink.

Most aged classic enthusiasts like me have stories to tell about regrets of selling their cars too soon or at the wrong time. This wasn’t the case with my first Ferrari having had something like a ten-fold return on my outlay but had I kept it until now, I would be an exceedingly rich old chap. For readers that might have missed my ‘What are they worth now’ feature a few issues back, I will briefly explain.

It was in the ‘60s that interest in old sports car racers began to take off. Many a historic single-seater racer, such as me fancied entering both GP and sports cars where there were races both. Support races at International events such as the British GP were also favouring legendary sports racers rather than the older Grand Prix cars that quite often would to leave oil around the circuit! So I looked around for a good one.

A friend in the States found me a 1955 Ferrari 121LM, ex-Le Mans Team Car that led that disastrous race for a lap or two in the hands of Castellotti, retiring before the tragedy happened. Found languishing in an Ohio saw mill in a tired and Americanised state, (chrome roll-bar and bumpers!) it ended up there after a few years of racing driven by the likes of Honest John Kilborn, Loyal Katskee and Jim Kimberley.

It’s hard to believe now but I had it shipped over, imported with duties paid all for less than three grand! I restored everything I could myself including to my regret, the lusty 4.4-litre engine. My first race at Snetterton in 1974 resulted in a second place behind David Ham in his Lister-Jag. That was definitely a ‘high’ for me because at the very next one at Silverstone’s Daily Express International Trophy Meeting when quite high up on the grid, I blew it up after a few laps having not spotted zero oil pressure. The engine actually seized sending me off when going flat out at Maggots Curve!

I was lucky to find a buyer and for considerably more than I paid. Value now though? Well, it was last reported to be in a Swiss collector’s hands. Probable value? – £20M plus…

It was some 35 years before I bought my next Ferrari, a ’72 Dino 246GT and unlike several of the many classics, racers and others that I had acquired, restored and sold in the meantime, this was in pretty good nick having bought it privately from a collector.

The ‘highs’ were the delights of the Dino’s performance and handling, the constant admiration it got everywhere it went, and the belief that rising values would outweigh the running costs. Mechanical and electrical problems or even routine servicing for the 246 or any Ferrari come to that, are completely beyond my capabilities, so I was glad to use the same man who knew the car intimately for jobs when needed, not to mention his kinder labour rates than some Ferrari specialists.

I remember one downside was the cost of a new pair of front discs costing nearly a grand from an official Ferrari source when I felt sure there must be a Fiat equivalent out there if I could find them. Italian electrics are notoriously ‘iffy’ and so faults were expected with the most memorable being when it nearly caught fire when rallying in France. A loose wire behind the dash resulted in a burnt out wiring loom. But the good news was that the replacement from Superformance off the shelf cost just a few hundred quid. Fitting it was another story…

Apart from electrical gripes, the Dino was a memorable car for me but I decided to move on. It was sold at the Goodwood Revival sale five years ago along with my other two classic garagemates at the time – five years too early perhaps the way Dino values have gone!

With two down, one to go, it’s time for my third and hopefully not last Ferrari. The F355 was not a difficult choice. Financed by some of the proceeds of my garage clear-out a couple of years later, it was still a relatively affordable model praised by the Classic press, including Classic Motoring of course, as being one of the best ’90s V8 models to go for, far superior than the 348 predecessor – and it’s drop dead, drophead gorgeous!

I went for a RHD manual Spyder in Rosso red and Nero black interior, not only for personal choice but tipped as being the likely price leader. Bought from one of the smaller Italian car specialists, it came with a full service including belts change, new MoT and the reassuring knowledge that it had been their own car and maintained by them for the past six years.

Apart from the slightly limited accommodation for my six-foot frame, driving it home was a definite high. A stop on the way home to put the roof down was an amusing reminder of the lack of room. The operation is a part manual affair by releasing a single catch, pushing the hood back a little and then electrics take over. First movement is the seats go forward – in this case pinning me against the steering wheel when sensor or something stopped further action.

I opened the door to try and squeeze past the steering wheel and promptly fell out dangling by forgetting to undo the seat belt! I have since had the driving seat re-programmed to give me more leg room.

The F355 has even more electrical idiosyncrasies than the Dino. The battery is even less accessible being situated behind a panel in the front wheel arch. And the fuse boxes are hidden under carpets in the bulkhead and foot-wells as I eventually discovered on a rally in France in the pouring rain when the wipers decided to pack up! At the same time, the hood refused to go up; a lack of hydraulic fluid turned out to be the reason.

Fellow rallyists stopping to help were unable to find the fuses despite a handbook so sandwiched in close convoy we pressed on to the overnight hotel with no wipers, no hood up and no brake lights as we were informed later by the following car! The rally back-up mechanics found the fuse box but as I discovered soon after a replacement, every time I turned the wipers on, it blew – and guess what, the fuse was shared with the brake lights!

A loose wire in the wiper stalk was eventually found to be the cause. That saga was definitely a ‘woe’.

There has been plenty of ‘wows’ however, mainly due to the car’s superb handing and (because it’s a modern) ease of driving. The engine is effortless in delivering power and far more flexible in the lower revs than I expected. But, like many 20-year-old cars, a few woes as I write this are coming into the picture.

A breaking up ‘cat’ that has fouled the exhaust system and consequently affected the clean running to name but one.

It’s also time for another belt change with the necessary engine-out routine. Why I ask, when the car has done less than five thousand miles since they were replaced last? The car has been mollycoddled and kept in dehumidified garage. Surely the belts don’t deteriorate in that time? But to ignore it would affect its history and consequently its value should I sell. I’ll just have to put that one down to the negative side of owning a classic Ferrari. Look out for it in our regular Running Reports features.


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