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Arriving just before the mid-engined British upstarts took centre-stage, Ferrari’s Dino 246 was the last front-engined GP winner

By Doug Nye

It all began – and in essence it all ended – thanks to the influence of Formula 2. It all goes back to the governing CSI’s decision to institute a new 1500cc unsupercharged Formula 2 class to take effect 50 years ago, in 1957. The new category was intended to form an adequate stepping stone in single-seater racing between contemporary 500cc Formula 3 at the bottom, and 2½-litre Formula 1 at the top.

Forward-thinking Mr Ferrari had already briefed his ailing son Alfredo – ‘Dino’ – and his senior engineers late in 1955 to prepare a new Formula 2 engine under the direction of veteran consultant Ing Vittorio Jano, freshly inherited from the collapsed Lancia empire. 

In his agonised memoirs My Terrible Joys, Mr Ferrari told how he and Jano spent long hours at the ailing Dino’s bedside during the deep winter of 1955-56 discussing potential engine configurations. The grieving father in Mr Ferrari recalled ‘…for reasons of mechanical efficiency, he (Dino) came to the conclusion that the engine should be a V6, and we accepted this decision.’ In view of Jano’s towering technical stature The Old Man’s account is hard to believe. Poor Dino was a very pleasant and popular boy, but he was losing his battle against muscular dystrophy, and when he went into renal failure and died on June 30, 1956, the entire Ferrari team grieved. The long line of Ferrari V6 engines which subsequently carried Dino’s signature cast into their cam covers became his epitaph. 

Jano designed an unusual 1.5-litre V6 four-cam engine with a 65-degree included angle between the cylinder banks. Five months after Dino’s death the first such V6 ran on a testbed at Maranello. Where the British F2 cars then being developed by Cooper and Lotus used the in-line four-cylinder Coventry Climax engine, producing about 140bhp at 7000rpm, Ferrari’s new baby V6 gave nearly 180bhp at 9000rpm. Or at least that’s what Ferrari claimed: where horsepower was concerned the theatrical Italians always liked to win the schoolboy measurement contest – either in fact, or in fiction.

They also produced a new car to use the ‘Dino’ V6 engine. In effect it was a scaled–down version of their 1957 Lancia-Ferrari 801 V8. Its tubular chassis comprised two large-diameter bottom main tubes braced by a welded-on superstructure of thinner tubing – not by any means a true ‘spaceframe’.

At the front, the V6 engine was angled across this frame, to pass its propshaft low to the left of the driver’s seat, then into a four-speed and reverse rear-mounted gearbox-cum-final drive. Front suspension was by wishbones and coil-springs, and rear suspension by de Dion tube and transverse leaf-spring. Drum brakes and Houdaille lever-arm friction dampers were used all round. Scaglietti fashioned a lovely slipper body in aluminium alloy, sprayed in Ferrari Chiaro Rosso. Ferrari named the new car the Dino 156 – for ‘1.5-litre 6-cylinder’.

This new Formula 2 Ferrari Dino – chassis ‘0011’ – made its racing debut on April 28, 1957 in the Naples GP in which Luigi Musso flogged it home third behind team-mates Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn in F1 Lancia-Ferrari V8s. On July 14, Maurice Trintignant drove the Dino to a dominant first victory in the Reims F2 Coupe de Vitesse.

In Formula 1 that season the Lancia-Ferrari V8s played second fiddle to the dominant Maserati 250Fs. Meanwhile, the power of the sponsoring fuel companies led to special-brew methanol fuels being banned for 1958, to be replaced by AvGas aviation spirit. Formula 2 was already a petrol-only class and, in the Dino V6, Ferrari had the makings of an AvGas-burning 1958 F1 engine ready-developed.

Late in 1957, therefore, Ferrari enlarged two V6 engines to a claimed 1877cc for Dino ‘Formula 2’ chassis ‘0011’ and ‘0012’ and entered them in the non-championship Modena GP to face full 2½-litre F1 competition. Ferrari records show internal dimensions of 77x71mm, displacing 1983.72cc and an output of around 220bhp at 8500rpm. In Monza testing against a Lancia-Ferrari, this V6 ‘F1’ hybrid proved both slightly quicker and much easier to drive. 

At Modena on September 22, Musso finished second in ‘0011’ and Collins fourth in ‘0012’. On October 27 the non-championship Moroccan GP at Casablanca saw Hawthorn drive ‘0011’ with an 81x71mm, 2195cc V6 while Collins ran ‘0012’ with an even larger 85x71mm unit, of 2417cc. The ‘Dino 246’ had been born. These engines gave around 240 and 270bhp respectively. Collins led briefly before spinning while Hawthorn retired, both men suffering from Asian ’flu.

Mr Ferrari’s far- sightedness now began to pay off. For 1958 the CSI not only replaced rapidly burned alcohol fuel with economical AvGas, but also slashed GP minimum distances from 500km or three hours to just 300km or two hours. Shorter races permitted smaller fuel tanks and smaller cars. The fuel change enabled them to shrink further still. British F2 constructors like Cooper and Lotus saw that F1 now lay within their reach. The writing was on the wall for the traditional front-engined configuration.

But first Ferrari revised its Dino chassis design, with more nearly same-size tubing used throughout the basic ladder-frame and superstructure. This ‘small-tube’ frame saved a claimed 25lb. To start the season in Argentina a third ‘big-tube’ frame was built for Hawthorn, with new short-nose 1958 bodywork. It was numbered ‘0001’.

The prototype small-tube frame ‘0002’ was shipped out for Wolfgang von Trips but it proved too flexible. Meanwhile the engines had been standardised around Collins’ 2417cc Casablanca spec. In Argentina, Hawthorn’s new car featured turbo-vaned brake drums as Ferrari clung to this system despite British disc-brake development, further evidence of The Old Man’s fascination for engines, and engines alone…

In Buenos Aires on January 19, 1958 these spanking new Dinos were defeated by Moss, the rear-engined Rob Walker 2-litre Cooper-Climax, and tyre tactics. At Goodwood on Easter Monday, Hawthorn then won the Glover Trophy in ‘0003’, the car rolling excessively and understeering too much on its Englebert tyres which were inferior to the Dunlops used by BRM and Vanwall. On paper, if the 1958 Dinos had run nylon-cased Dunlop R5 tyres, they might have walked the World Championship. 

Six days after Goodwood, Luigi Musso won the Syracuse GP from pole position in ‘0001’ and on May 4 Peter Collins won the International Trophy at Silverstone in ‘0002’. Three wins in a row for Dino’s memory. Monaco then saw the Ferraris beaten – unreliability leaving Musso second and Collins third – while Zandvoort and the Dutch GP exposed poor handling through Zandvoort’s unsettling back-stretch curves. Hawthorn told team manager Romolo Tavoni the car was useless, and if Ferrari really wanted to win the championship something drastic had to be done.

But Spa for the Belgian GP then put the emphasis on sheer top-end speed, something the Dinos could do just fine. Hawthorn qualified ‘0003’ on pole, set fastest lap and finished second, behind Tony Brooks’ Vanwall which was almost as powerful, had better tyres (and a better shape) – and won.

At Reims – another power circuit – Hawthorn won in ‘0003’, touching 180mph (290kph), but poor Musso crashed his Dino ‘0004’ and was killed. Collins drove a Dino 156 in the supporting Formula 2 Coupe de Vitesse but was beaten into second place by Jean Behra’s centre-seat sports Porsche RSK with its wheel-enveloping body. This 156 used the lighter ‘small-tube’ frame but supposedly carried the old 1957 prototype serial number ‘0011’.

Silverstone exposed the Dinos’ poor handling but Vanwall failed, leaving Collins and Hawthorn to dominate, finishing 1-2. Two weeks later at the Nürburgring Vanwall triumphed, Collins crashed fatally and Hawthorn retired. Three men had now died in Dinos – Musso, Collins and promising young Ferrari chief engineer Ing Andrea Fraschetti (testing at Modena on August 29, 1957).

Ferrari sent just two Dinos to the Portuguese GP, Hawthorn second and setting fastest lap –which in those days scored an extra Championship point. Trips was fifth in a special new Dino with coil-spring rear suspension which had raced in the Monzanapolis speedbowl event, re-engined as the Formula 1 ‘246MI’ chassis ‘0007’.

Now Hawthorn was adamant he must have disc brakes, so Dunlop engineer Harold Hodkinson fitted a set to Dino ‘0005’ for the Italian GP at Monza. A 71x86mm, 2474cc ‘Dino 256’ V6 engine delivering a claimed 290bhp at 8800rpm was ready. Mike lost the Monza lead with clutch slip, but finished second, with new team-mate Phil Hill dutifully backing off for third. Olivier Gendebien bent the MI’s suspension. 

Five weeks later, the Moroccan GP at Casablanca decided the 1958 World Championship. Moss won the race for Vanwall, but Hawthorn was second in his disc-braked Dino ‘0005’ – to become Britain’s first World Champion driver, by just one point. Phil Hill drove his heart out in Hawthorn’s cause, finishing third again in ‘0004’ while Trips and Gendebien went out. Vanwall’s 1958 season race wins split between Moss and Tony Brooks earned the team the inaugural Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship title – foiling Ferrari.

Hawthorn immediately retired from racing, only to die within weeks on the Guildford Bypass when he crashed his Jaguar saloon. The front-engined Ferrari Dino V6s screamed on through two more seasons of Formula 1, but in constantly developing form. The 1959 variants wore more voluptuous bodyshells by Medardo Fantuzzi, clothing big-tube frames with coil-sprung de Dion rear ends, Dunlop disc brakes and tyres and Armstrong telescopic dampers replacing the unreliable old Houdailles, which some team members blamed as the cause of Collins’s accident in Germany.

Tony Brooks, Jean Behra, Cliff Allison and Dan Gurney joined Phil Hill and von Trips in the team and Tony won the French and German GPs – the latter on the high-speed AVUS circuit in Berlin – and only lost a chance of the title in the deciding US GP at Sebring when he was rammed by his team-mate Trips. The season had begun with Behra and Brooks 1-2 in the non Championship Aintree ‘200’, while little Behra then placed second in the Formula 2 Syracuse GP, driving Dino 156 ‘0011’ rebodied by Fantuzzi. He spun and dinged the front-engined car’s nose while Moss won in the fuel-injected, rear-engined Cooper-Borgward.

Brooks finished second at Monaco and Phil fourth, the Dinos of Behra, Hill and Allison were outclassed in Holland, finishing 5-6-9, but then Tony Brooks revelled in the Dino 256’s horsepower to win at Reims with team-mates Hill and Gendebien second and fourth. The German GP ended with Brooks, Gurney and Hill 1-2-3 for Ferrari, their power and reliability triumphing once more.

In Portugal tall Dan finished third, while Monza saw Phil Hill second – setting fastest lap – and Gurney and Allison 4-5. In the deciding US GP at Sebring Tony finally finished third and Trips sixth, while Hill and Allison both retired. Phil drove a short-wheelbase Dino there powered by a two-cam – not four-cam – V6 engine.

For 1960 lightened Dino 246/60s were built with engines angled across the frame the opposite way to 1959 and with the transaxle gearboxes turned around to match, which confronted the drivers with a reversed gearchange gate – on the other side of the cockpit. The 246/60s also featured pannier fuel tanks without separate covering body panelling, smaller tail tanks and all independent coil-spring and wishbone suspension – Ferrari’s old faith in de Dion systems having finally been filed under ‘S’ for Storica (history).

But by that time both BRM and Lotus had followed Cooper’s World Championship-winning lead into rear-engined configuration, and on most circuits the front-engined Ferrari Dinos were out-handled, out-braked and out-accelerated. 

For the opening race of the 1960 season at Buenos Aires, Phil Hill’s 2220mm (87.4in) short-wheelbase Sebring chassis ‘0006’ had its experimental two-cam V6 engine mounted some 250mm (9.8in) further back from its 1959 position, closer to the centre of the wheelbase.

The long pannier fuel tanks and smaller tail tank – concentrating the changeable load amidships – were adopted to improve handling consistency, and in Argentina the new panniers on  ‘0006’ were exposed, without side body panelling to cover them. Trips and Allison both ran four-cam cars, these engines similarly moved back and now angled from left-front towards right-rear, passing the propshaft through steady bearings along the right side of the cockpit. Both these cars shrouded their new pannier tanks within bulged Fantuzzi body panelling very reminiscent of the old 1954-55 Squalo Ferrari’s. Guest Ferrari driver José Froilán González drove Brooks’ Sebring car. Allison inherited second place, Trips fifth.

A gorgeous final front-engined F2 Ferrari Dino 156 was assembled – again numbered ‘0011’ but with an ultra-short, 2160mm wheelbase frame – in which Trips won the Syracuse GP, on March 19. 

At Spa, Phil Hill was at last able to use the four-cam V6’s surviving horsepower advantage, but he was overwhelmed in the Belgian GP by a Cooper-Climax 1-2 and finally finished fourth. In the absence of British works entries that were boycotting Monza’s banked circuit, Phil finally won the 1960 Italian GP for Ferrari.

But the day of the front-engined Grand Prix car had reached its close, and the loyal American’s Monza victory – in chassis ‘0007’ which became the V12-engined Pat Hoare/Neil Corner/Tony Smith car so well known today, followed by team-mates Richie Ginther second and Willy Mairesse third in chassis 0003 and 0006 respectively – became the front-engined Formula 1 Ferrari’s swansong.

At the end of 1960 the 2½-litre Formula 1 era was superseded by an upgrade of 1½-litre Formula 2 to full premier-formula World Championship status. 

Not one of the 1958 nor 1959 Ferrari Dino single-seaters is known to have escaped the scrap-man’s torch, but of the 1960 cars the ex-Hill Italian GP-winning ‘0007’ escaped captivity by selling to New Zealand, as mentioned above, while the ex-Ginther second-placed Monza car ‘0003’ went to Luigi Chinetti in America as NART’s New York Show car, selling many years later to Anthony Bamford here in England. The third survivor is the 1959-60 side-tanked chassis ‘0005’ donated by Ferrari to the Biscaretti Museum, where it was displayed for 40 years without bodywork but unspoiled beneath a generous layer of protective dust. This is the car displayed in the Maranello museum today, wearing 1960 Argentine-style Fantuzzi ‘semi-Squalo’ bodywork as indeed clad ‘Taffy’ von Trips’ chassis ‘0005’ that long-gone day in Buenos Aires.

The Ferrari Dino V6 family of F1 and F2 cars certainly starred in a dramatic period of Grand Prix racing revolution. And equally certainly no other 1957-60 Grand Prix car was campaigned by so many of major-league motorsport’s most charismatic stars: Hawthorn, Collins, Brooks, Musso, Phil Hill, von Trips, Behra, Gurney, Trintignant, Ginther, Gendebien, Mairesse and Allison, not to forget ‘The Pampas Bull’. 

Study the photographs, sit back and close your eyes. Can you hear the keen-edged wail of that four-cam V6 powering along the Masta or Soissons? 

As ever, that sonorous exhaust note was – and remains – entirely distinctive to the memory of The Old Man’s number one son, Dino.

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