A Sports Car from Turin
The whole basis of the Fiat Dino car is the V6 engine which is a production version of the interesting 4-o.h.c. Ferrari engine, which dates back to 1957 when Enzo Ferrari produced the first of his successful V6-cylinder engines in a Formula Two car. Ferrari built various capacity versions on this V6 theme, the original engine being named after his son Dino (pronounced Deeno) who died from an illness as he was beginning the development of this new line of engines. V6 engines were not new in Italy, for Lancia had been building the narrow-angle V6 Aurelia for many years and the 3.3-litre racing/sports Lancia of 1953/54 was a wide-angle V6 with four overhead.camshafts. Two years ago Ferrari approached Fiat with the request for help with a view to Formula Two racing in 1967, the new Formula requiring a production cylinder block to form the basis of any engine. He had developed a 2-litre version of the Dino engine to a fine pitch, using it in sports cars for long-distance rating and hill-climbs, and he gave Fiat one of these engines. The Fiat engineers took it apart and studied it closely, redesigning it to suit mass production methods and then set about building a car to take this engine. The Fiat Dino was announced at the end of the 1966 season and was seen to be a handsome 2/4-seater with a Ferrari-like frontal treatment. From front to back the car was a new Fiat design, the Turin engineers at last being able to design a car with sporting characteristics rather than for economy or family purposes. The engine is is 65-degree V-6-cylinder with two overhead camshafts to each bank of cylinders, the four camshafts being driven by duplex chain from the front of the crankshaft. In the vee of the engine are three double-choke Weber carburetters, fed by a large air box on top. The engine has a bore and stroke of 86 x 57 mm. and a capacity of 1,987 c.c., developing 160 b.h.p. (DIN) at 7,500 r.p.m. on a 9-to-1 compression ratio. The engine is coupled to a Fiat 5-speed and reverse gearbox using Porsche-patent baulk-ring synchromesh on all gears. The chassis consists of a floor pan that is integral with the body and front suspension is by double wishbone system with separate anti-roll bar, and coil-springs mounted above the top wishbones; there being telescopic shock-absorbers within the springs. Rear suspension is unusual in that it is non-independent, the rigid back axle being mounted on long leaf-springs, these leaf-springs each having only one large wide leaf. The springs are mounted well below the axle housing, while above it are radius rods running backwards to the rear spring-hangers and there are two telescopic shock-absorbers on each side. This layout causes the back of the car to rise on hard acceleration, thus pressing the wheels on to the ground, rather than the usual rigid rear ends that wind up and cause the car to sit down at the back and lose traction. Radially slotted ventilated disc brakes are used on all four wheels, and the splined hub wheels are of cast magnesium,with three-eared knock-off hub caps.
The bodywork is styled by Pininfarina and is in effect a sporting two-seater, with two small seats behind the driver and passenger, while all-weather equipment is provided, with wind-up windows and an easily erected and very rigid hood, there being a large boot in the tail. A recent trip to Italy provided the opportunity to drive the new Fiat Dino for a day, and the car used was a green one, chassis number 00093 of this TiPo 135A. Fiat provided a closed autostrada for speed testing, with timing boards for a standing 500 metres and kilometre, and a flying kilometre. The Dino engine revs like a dynamo with 8,000 r.p.m. the prescribed limit in the gears, and using the first three gears of the 5-speed box saw 16.6 sec. on the standing 500-metres, and an average of 29.5 sec. for the standing kilometre, the latter figure matching up well with production sports-car times at Brighton speed trials. On the standing kilometre four gears were needed, the rev-counter nudging 8,000 rpm. at the end of the run. Taking a long run and winding things up to 8,000 in 4th gear, 7,600 r.p.m. came up in top gear and this gave a timed flying kilometre or 125.7 m.p.h. (202.3 k.p.h.) from an average of two-way runs. A rev-counter check at 6,000 r.p.m. gave a calculated 202.8 k.p.h. at 7,600 r.p.m.
The speedo. was about 10 k.p.h. fast at maximum speed. After flogging this Dino up and down the autostrada the engine showed no signs of stress and the day being cold the oil temperature stayed below 80 degrees C. Having recorded figures that satisfied the Fiat engineers I was given the freedom of the road, so motored smartly out of Turin and headed for the mountains where you can really throw the car about on empty roads and indifferent road surfaces. On the flat roads leading to the mountains 100 to 110 m.p.h. was a normal gait, the general handling and road manners of the car being delightful. The gearbox is controlled by a short stubby central lever with 1st and 2nd to the left, 3rd and 4th in the middle, and 5th away to the right and forward, with reverse back to the right. The lever is strongly spring loaded in the 3rd and 4th positions and the change is completely foolproof, there being no tendency to go too far across the gate when changing upwards rapidly. The power is very constant from 2,000 r.p.m. onwards and 6,500 to 7,000 r.p.m. is more than enough for pleasant road motoring. With Porsche baulk-ring synchromesh the gear-change is the best, the movement being as fast as a 911 Porsche but a little heavier and more precise (or foolproof!). When approaching curves at around 100 m.p.h. it is sheer joy to pull the lever smartly back into 4th gear, to steady the car and be ready for accelerating round the curve. The handling was strictly neutral under all normal conditions, there being a slight tendency to understeer, or “plough-in ” at the front, on sharp corners in the mountains when large weight transfer effects were generated. On the autostrada the straight-line running at over 120 m.p.h. was truly outstanding, and this directional stability proved to be equally impressive under all types of cornering, the steering being light and precise. The only vice that the car seemed to have was a tendency to give a longitudinal ” shudder ” when hitting bad patches of surface at high speed. This did not affect the ride or the steering and will probably disappear on the forthcoming fixed-top coupé model. Over all manner of surfaces the level ride was impressive, in spite of the seemingly archaic rear suspension, and even on bumpy corners the wheels kept contact with the ground. The rear axle has a limited-slip differential so that hairpins could be taken with a wild flurry and no spinning of the rising inner rear wheel, the very fat Michelin 185 HR I4-in. XAS tyres holding on splendidly, these being standard equipment.
This new Fiat Dino is in no sense a competition car, but equally it is not a touring car, though it can be ” toured ” at 2,000 r.p.m. in 5th gear through traffic, but it is a very usable sporting car with all the right characteristics and an engine that must make everyone’s mouth water. The normal run of Fiat cars does not fit into my way of motoring and I find the hordes of little Fiats a tiresome part of modern motoring, every gap in Italy being filled by a 500 or 850 saloon. This new Fiat is another matter altogether and is definitely on my short list of desirable cars, by any standards. Being a 2-litre it will surely cut into Porsche sales for it can match up to Porsche standards on almost everything, while its handling and general road-going manners are well in the Lotus Elan category. In the Fiat Dino the Turin firm have not only helped Ferrari (500 have already been built) but they have produced a winner.—D. S. J.