You won’t find a Ferrari badge anywhere on a Dino 246. Not on the GT coupé nor the GTS spider. But there should be no doubt that the little car is one of the Italian marque’s machines, and is a significant one at that. Today’s 488 and tomorrow’s F8 Tributo — and the mid-engined 308, the 355, the 430 et al — are the spiritual heirs to what is possibly one of the prettiest cars ever to roll out of the Maranello gates.
It has been claimed that Enzo Ferrari chose not to endow the 246 — and the short-lived coupé-only 206 that paved the way for it — with Prancing Horse insignia because the car had neither 12 cylinders nor the engine mounted up front, as was traditional for the marque.
Yet the ‘Old Man’ had been calling his V6 racing engines Dinos from 1957 in honour of his late son ‘Alfredino’, who had died the previous year when aged just 24 from a severe form of muscular dystrophy. The 206 and 246 Dino road cars, also powered by V6 powerplants, followed in that line.
The 206 and 246 shared the same intrinsic genes: Pininfarina design, Scaglietti coachwork and, of course, the engine behind the driver. But they are distinct motor cars. The 246 is longer, in both the body and wheelbase, is clothed in steel rather than aluminium panels, and has a different engine, iron being employed rather than aluminium for the block, and is 2.4 litres in capacity rather than two litres.
Just 152 206s were built in the two years after 1967, but over the five-year life of the 246 design from 1969 to ’74, a shade more than 3500 Dinos rolled off the assembly line at the Maranello factory.
“Old Man Ferrari had been calling his V6 racing engines ‘Dino’ since 1957”
And there was a proper line on which to build a car that can be regarded as the first volume-production Ferrari, a machine conceived as a rival to the Porsche 911.
The 246 was launched at the Turin show in 1969, although full production of the model had already started. The 2.4-litre transversely-mounted V6 engine — designed by Ferrari but built by new 50 per cent stakeholder Fiat — pushed out a genuine 190bhp, a significant increase on its predecessor, thanks to an increase in both bore and stroke. The claimed 180bhp figure for the previous 2-litre 206 version was regarded as somewhat less genuine.
The GTS version, with a lift-off targa roof, came on stream in 1972. Apart from the arrival of the open-top car, the 246 evolved only in detail through its life cycle, with three distinct generations of car being developed, codenamed 607L, M and E.
The original L version carried over the knock-off centre-lock wheels of the 206, before five-bolt Cromodora alloys arrived with the M version introduced in 1970. The biggest percentage of total 246 production was made up of the E-spec car that arrived in 1971 and was then bolstered by the spider version.
The steel-bodied 246 design was notoriously prone to rust, plus its engine could prove troublesome if timing chains and valve clearances were neglected, and the synchro on second gear could also be temperamental. The care and love that tends to be lavished on such high-value cars today means such problems should be a thing of the past.
There are few, if any, unrestored cars remaining today, such are the prices that Dinos command in the modern market. But marque specialists will equally tell you that there are plenty of poorly reconditioned cars out there also. The classic lines of the design can be easily corrupted during inexpert restoration, which many cars received in times when values were lower.
The Dino sub-brand lived on with the launch of the 308 and 208 GT4 in 1974. These 2+2 cars did eventually gain their Ferrari badges after a couple of years, but never the quite same level of affection and appeal of their predecessor.
Ferrari 246 GT
• Price new £5485
• Price now £225-400,000
• Engine 2.4-litre DOHC V6
• Power 192bhp
• 0-60mph 7.1sec
• Top speed 146mph
• Rivals Porsche 911, Jaguar E-type
• Verdict A timeless classic that is now very much regarded as a proper Ferrari – wherever its engine was built
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