The Colonel's little trooper

Ferrari’s Dino-badged ‘F2 sports car’ fired Col Ronnie Hoare’s enthusiasm, but this battle was lost before it began

Nissan has one. Toyota has one. Mercedes has one. Sub-brands, we call them now, where the manufacturer can create a fresh image for one section of its produce. Ferrari too had one, long before Infiniti, Lexus and Maybach were created (or revived in the latter case). Only Ferrari’s sub-brand wasn’t designed to upscale the name, but the opposite. ‘Dino’, the diminutive of Alfredino, for Enzo’s beloved but doomed son Alfredo, was applied to the small stuff – V6 and V8 instead of V12, smaller, lighter, cuter than big brother, destroyers to Maranello’s battleships. When it came to the later road car Dino’s was the only name visible – the word Ferrari took a back seat. And there was no back seat. This parallel line of second-rank machinery bore the Dino name from the Fifties into the Seventies, but perhaps the most exquisite embodiment of it was in the mid-Sixties, when the car on these pages was created, the 206SP. A car which was intended to wrest trophies away from Stuttgart, but which through no fault of its own found itself up against tougher competition than it was meant to handle.

To Enzo, anything less than a V12 seemed only half a car. But Dino, the son he was grooming to take on the Ferrari mantle, saw wider opportunities.

Trained in engineering and now in his twenties, Dino suggested to his father during 1955 that to contest the 1.5-litre Formula 2 due to begin in two years they needed a smaller, lighter engine, and despite its inherent balance problems a V6 would be ideal. How much involvement Dino had in the actual design is unclear, as the detail work is credited to Vittorio Jano, the brilliant Hungarian engineer whose career had intertwined with Enzo Ferrari’s since the Twenties. The original unit probably also owed a certain amount to Aurelio Lampredi who had recently left Ferrari. In the meantime, though, Dino was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy for which there was no cure. A stricken Enzo Ferrari would later write that he and Jano sat by Dino’s hospital bed discussing the design, so the new engines and the cars they powered became known as Dinos, though Dino himself never saw this expression of paternal affection; he died in June 1956, aged 24.

Dino’s name would gain a new glory through the succeeding years. Conceived for Formula 2 racing, the compact V6 would expand, contract and mature, garnering trophies and world championships not only in F2 but in Grands Prix and sports cars. Enlarged by stages, it brought Mike Hawthorn a world title during the 2.5-litre years; reduced once more it proved to be the only power plant fully developed in time for the 1961 introduction of the 1500cc cap in Formula 1. Cue another championship.

Whether it’s fair to view it as the same engine is debatable: no racing team stands still, Maranello least of all, and the V6 in Phil Hill’s title-winning 156 had moved a long way from its conception. Right at the beginning new engineering arrival Carlo Chiti opened it out from 60deg to 65 to improve airlow down the inlets, and then in ’61 introduced a shorter, lower 120deg engine which was 10hp stronger.

But the nomenclature stuck with the layout as smaller V6s appeared in Maranello’s first rear-engined car, the shark-nosed 246P sportsracer of 1960, Enzo’s tentative way of trying out this reversal of good sense, which added Targa Florio and Nürburgring 1000Kms victories to the Dino story. Once the V6 had test-driven the layout the V12 stepped in, and through the Sixties the battle with Ford in the Prototype classes meant that the 12-cylinder sports-racers overshadowed the smaller cars.

But when a 2-litre prototype called 206P romped up Germany’s Freiburg hillclimb in 1965 ahead of its Porsche and Lotus rivals, the junior Ferrari was about to take off again.

There were two angles to this. First, the FIA planned to simplify its regulations for 1966, with a new Group 6 which was perfect for Ferrari and other racing manufacturers – make as few as you like and as big as you can go. But to slot in below came Group 4, with a 2-litre limit and its own championship – an arena where with some high-proile victories Ferrari could sell cars to privateers, gaining glory and cash low. Second, 1967 would bring a new 1.6-litre ‘production-based’ Formula 2 into being. Both of these new classes required a degree of production: 50 of the Gp4 machines, and 500 of the F2 engine. Ferrari would need to contrive both angles to gain homologation.

Ah, homologation – the trickiest game in racing, where the poker face and the double-bluff can see off a straight production run.

Enzo was the biggest bluffer of them all, often threatening not to play if he didn’t get his way: he’d claimed the GTO was just a rebodied 250GT, but that was a bluff the FIA called
when presented with the 250LM, whose very name was sleight-of-hand to obscure its toolarge engine. So for the new Dino, Enzo had to play it straight. He contracted with Fiat to build at least 500 small V6 engines which the huge combine could also use in a car under its own badge, and he buckled down to building the 50 Dinos that Gp4 demanded. He didn’t make his half-century, but this time it wasn’t light-fingered book-keeping but industrial strife which curtailed the run in ’65.

Both Fiat and Ferrari suffered through that summer of discontent, so both engines and chassis were affected and only 18 found their way to Drogo’s Carrozzeria Sports Cars in Modena. Instead of privateers swamping Gp4 grids with a model called 206S, showing up all those Porsches which had had their own way in the 2-litre classes, Maranello was forced to run the car itself as a prototype, labelled SP. What a difference a ‘P’ makes. Now, instead of contesting the International Championship for Sportscars, the trophy for
the new ‘production’ 2-litre Gp4 cars, the dainty Dino was squaring up to the unlimited engines and minimal build requirements of the prototypes, cars built for victory at Le Mans and the Nürburgring.

Built in traditional style of tubes skinned with alloy sheet, the 206 was hardly a technical advance, and nor was the double-cam 12-valve motor fed through three twin down-draught carbs, which claimed 218bhp. It was pretty, though. Styled by Pininfarina, it was clearly from the same stable as the 330P3, but slimmer, slighter and smoother, with scarcely an extraneous slot on its alloy and glass-fibre curves. With its optional roof panel it could be a spider or a coupé, depending on which event the eager buyer planned to enter.

Some buyers, though, were rather too eager. In prototype form with both 2-litre and 1.6 versions, the revived Dino looked promising: one placed fourth in the ’65 Nürburgring 1000Kms, and Lodovico Scariotti lifted that year’s European hillclimb title, so it looked a good prospect when Col Ronnie Hoare wanted a car for the new Gp4 trophy. The car he ordered was the one in these photos, chassis 006, third to be produced. Ferrari has always had enthusiastic agents, and Hoare’s Maranello Concessionaires was one of the keenest, not only selling the cars in the UK but employing top names to race them. Once 006 had gained the distinctive pale blue stripe sweeping off the nose, Hoare booked Mike Parkes to contest the Tourist Trophy at Oulton Park – where trouble in the final drive halted it. But it was ready for the Nürburgring 1000Kms, so Hoare rang up David Piper and Richard Attwood to see if they were free. David Piper remembers the car with mixed feelings. “It handled beautifully but it was a bit of a disappointment, really. It was one of the first and it only had the two-valve engine because the three-valve wasn’t available and it just wasn’t competitive against the works car with three valves and fuel injection; there was a huge difference in performance. The works version was virtually half a P4 unit, and frankly it was nearly as quick as a P4.”

Nearly as quick as a Chaparral 2D, too: the works Dino was beaten only by the Texan technical tour de force. Suddenly being made to run among the prototypes didn’t seem such a no-hope prospect for little brother, especially as it also had a remarkable second place in the Targa Florio to boast about. For Piper and Attwood at the ’Ring, however, the pain didn’t last too long; the blue and red machine broke a half-shaft.

For Attwood it was a relief: “I hated driving it. It just wasn’t fast enough. Very underpowered for its handling. It looked great, yes, but I wasn’t after 2-litre titles. I wanted the top prize, so I suppose I was rather against it from the start.”

Once again chassis 006 went back to the shop, but its next outing would be more fruitful, with Parkes inally taking the 2-litre class in a support race at the British GP that year.

And Attwood got to experience how it should have felt: “Spa was my best result in a Dino – sixth – but that was a works car and it just felt very different. Typical of the day: Concessionaires was dealt with shoddily. NART and Ecurie Belge got better spec cars. I think Ronnie Hoare just went along with what the factory wanted him to have. As long as he was representing them he was happy. One year we went to Le Mans to drive a P2. It had just been sitting in storage and they sent it to the track without putting a spanner on it. It didn’t last long.”

Nor did the Dino project. Ferrari came out of that year cowed, beaten in the small category by Porsche but, much worse, seen off in the big class by Ford. From that point it concentrated on snatching Le Mans laurels from the US firm.

The Dino, and the privateers who had bought one, would have to look after themselves. There was another chance of glory for the little car, though. For 1967 the Targa Florio course had been resurfaced, and on the smoother surface the nimble machine had a real chance of victory against the 2-litre Porsches. Backing the works car were four private examples, but again Porsche swept the board, a 2.2 eight-cylinder 906 heading a pair of sixes. Stuttgart was gearing up for next year’s 3-litre rules, when there would be nowhere for the junior Ferrari to play – or at least nowhere Maranello was interested in. The works Dinos were sold off, and for the next few years appeared in events around Europe and even the US. Notable over here was Tony Dean, whose ex-works car won many smaller events.

Ronnie Hoare’s car went to Gustaf Dieden, a Swede who raced it in Sweden and Denmark before sending it back to the factory after a minor accident. Next it was bought by Hans
Wangstre who for the next year used it in some of the major sports car races, achieving a finish in the Targa Florio and 15th at Oulton Park.

Wangstre, who entered races under the banner ‘Team Bam Bam’, had previously raced Volvos, which may account for what happened in 1969 when the Dino’s ageing block finally gave way under the vibration that a 65deg V6 inevitably creates. Unable to afford a factory replacement, Wangstre fitted a Volvo four instead, just to keep the car mobile.

There would be no more racing for the eager little brother. Ayear later 006 found a new owner, and it hasn’t changed hands since. For much of that time it patiently awaited its heart transplant, but no affordable donor turned up. Instead, its guardian acquired another Dino 206S with another damaged crankcase, which persuaded him to invest in casting four new blocks at Ferrari’s foundry. To conclude its long restoration 006 arrived at Tim Samways’ workshops, and has finally re-appeared looking as it did at the ’Ring in 1966, complete with race number 14 and Concessionaires’ pale blue swathe.

Dino might have remained insider shorthand for a historical by-way if two Pininfarina concept cars on the 206 chassis had not caused a motor show stir in 1965 and ’66. They would sire the 206GT and 246GT, the mid-engined road car that most people think of when they hear the word Dino, a car that did not carry the Ferrari name. Fiat, too, would extol Alfredo’s nickname in the public domain with two cars called Dino. But those four letters also appear inside all these cars, cast into the cam covers, on the heart of the machine. That’s where the story began, and its inest expression must surely be the simple and beautiful 206SP.

Our thanks to RM Auctions; the car shown here will be auctioned at its Grand Prix de Monaco Historique sale on May 11-12.