|M A R K E T R E V I E W||Pricing Reference Free PDF Subscribe Advertise Exotics 1984-2018|
| There was only one thing that Enzo Ferrari put
above his passion for performance automobiles. His son, Alfredino Ferrari, meant
the world to "Papa".
In 1956, while in the midst of developing a 1.5 Litre V6 Formula-2 race car, the younger Ferrari succumbed to nephritis at the age of 24 and passed away. Enzo was devastated and vowed that the work his son had began would be carried on. One of the top Italian engineers of the day, Vittorio Jano, eventually produced an outstanding V6 of 1.5 liters. Starting in 1957, this was the new powerplant for Ferrari's Formula-1 competition, while the legendary V-12 continued to dominate the Grand Prix circuits.
In the fall of 1965 at the Paris Auto Show, Ferrari unveiled the Dino 206-S. Named in honor of Enzo's beloved son, these cars were originally planned to be marketed as a separate marque and therefore did not carry any Ferrari badging.
As would be expected, these new cars were the hit of the show. With graceful styling from Pinninfarina, the aluminum bodied show car carried a 1986 cc, 65-degree four-cam aluminum block V6 mounted amidships that produced 180hp. Top speed was reported at 142 mph. It was announced that this would be the production or street version of Ferrari's Formula race car.
Initially, marketing was mostly limited to the home market, mainly due to favorable tax conditions for cars with engines under two-liters. Bodies were produced for the production cars by Pinninfarina, and sported a low-slung now all-steel body with accented wheel wells. The cockpit was comfortable, and because of the mid-engine placement, leg room was outstanding. One major change between the Formula cars and the production Dino was that the engine was mounted transversely rather than longitudinally. Significantly, for the first time since the company had been founded Ferrari went to the Italian automotive giant Fiat for assembly of the Dino's engine, while sourcing other locations for the five-speed manual transmission.
There were two major reasons why Fiat was selected for engine production. Most importantly, Ferrari did not have the production capabilities to produce the needed engines, nor did they have their own resources for certifying the engine. A bit more important, this agreement would be the first move that eventually saw Fiat end up owning controlling interest in Ferrari's street production vehicles. The benefits of mass-production, even if it was limited to four or five cars a day, was not lost on Enzo. Total production run for the 206GT is a bit fuzzy, but is most certainly somewhere between 100 and 200 before a new improved version was created.
Engineers at Ferrari went to work on enlarging the engine, eventually bringing it to 2,418cc. Next, the wheelbase was stretched a couple of inches and a few design changes were implemented -- and thus was
born the new 246GT. While the earlier 206 models had been aimed for the home market, it was the export market that was to be the destination for most of these cars. Both a left- and right-hand drive version was created, and production was geared up to meet demand. Ferrari announced that production would be limited to about 1,000 units per year.
The first edition 246GTs, or Series I models, continued to use the knock-off style wheels from the 206, but in 1970, the Series II introduced the Cromodora alloy knock-offs. A year later the Series III edition was announced, as well as plans to bring this new little car to America. There had to be several changes to these cars mainly concerned with emissions control, and in the fall of 1971 the Dino headed onto distant shores.
When the Americans got their chance to buy a Dino, they were ready. Even though it didn't have twelve cylinders and didn't have the name Ferrari anywhere on the outside of the car, everyone knew what it was. And for a base price of around $14,000, it was a lot more impressive to many than driving a similarly priced Porsche of the day. The press loved the car also, with Road & Track raving, "...it is a thrill to drive a car like the Dino, one whose capabilities are far beyond what even an expert driver can use in most real world motoring, and that is the Dino's reason for being." In spite being gaining weight due to the stretched body, federalization mandates and a cast iron engine replacing the aluminum one, the Dino still possessed lightening quick responses on all performance fronts. It was not, however, going to win any drag races. At around 8.0 seconds to 60 and 16.0 seconds in the quarter mile it was an easy mark for most any muscle car of the day. At least until the road turned curvy.
Simply put, the 246 GT and GTS Spyders are a lot of fun to drive. And ownership has another benefit in that the maintenance costs are often considerably less than a comparable model twelve-cylinder, more on a par with a Porsche 911.
Introduced as a 1972 model, the production run for the first season was soon sold out. This kept the plant at Maranello humming and provided some capital to help fund Ferrari's continuing (and expensive) racing efforts. Shortly after their introduction to the United States, a targa coupe or “Spyder” version was produced and marketed as the Dino 246 GTS.
Minor production changes were instituted during the three season run. These included relocating the deck-lid release, engine ventilation openings, lighting, as well as the windshield wiper pattern and parking light specifications. Several variations of parking and side marker lights can also be found, with these often giving clues as to the where the particular Dino was shipped when new as British, European and U.S.A. versions all had different requirements.
There were a few options that made the Dino an even better performer and looker. For an extra $680, one could add flared wells and 7.5” wide Cromodora Elektron wheels. 365GT Daytona seats could also be added. While these two options were separate items, they were often ordered together and have become known as "Chairs and Flares" and are greatly sought after. Other notable production changes revolved around stronger bumpers and the use of alloy body panels on a number of cars.
In July 1974 the last 246 Dino was shipped from the Maranello factory, making way for a new generation of cars that would carry on the tradition of "affordable" Ferrari, the 308 series. In total, 2,897 of the Series III cars were built between 1972 and the end of production, of which 1,623 were the 246 GT coupes, while the remaining 1,274 were the GTS Spyders. 1,275 were prepared for shipment to the U.S.A
Over the past several years, these Dino have had an up-and-down ride in the market place. In the late 1980s, they were enjoying the meteoric rise in prices of nearly every vintage Ferrari and approached the $100,000 mark on a regular basis. Then in the early 1990s when the bubble broke, they dropped hard -- as did most other cars that came from Maranello. Very good examples were trading in the $35-40,000 range. This was the time buy a Dino, and plenty of them were snapped up. Over the past five years prices on these cars have climbed back close to their peak of the late eighties. They have literally doubled their value in just a few years.
One of the more desirable Dinos are examples equipped with a "Chairs & Flares" combo. From research by Dino enthusiasts, it appears most of the "flares" were installed on Spyders bound for America. Still very limited in numbers, it is estimated around 90 of the 246 GTS models received this wheel opening treatment, while an estimated five coupes bound for America were fitted with this option. While a number of "add-on" flares have been seen over the years, factory installed versions can bring a five to ten percent boost in the value.
Apparently many owners have felt a little short-changed in buying a Dino. After discovering that nowhere on the car does the fabled "prancing horse" logo appear, some have taken it upon themselves to remedy the situation by applying a badge acquired from their local Ferrari dealership. These are not factory original. Other owners have added clear plexiglas headlight covers (the original 206 prototype had them) to give the car the appearance of being even more sleek and streamlined. Remember, while some of these “enhancements” do come off quite well, they are still not factory applied.
Interior plastics, long a Ferrari bugaboo, have been known to become very brittle and can disintegrate with a simple touch. A unique dashboard covering can take on a rather ratty appearance despite all attempts by owners to keep them looking good.
As for mechanics -- they’re frightenly expensive, although somewhat less so than V12 Ferraris. These are exotics after all, and you won’t get away with the “cheap” repair, restoration and maintenance costs of your Mustang (or even Corvette). Go in with your eyes open, and expect some healthy repair and maintenance bills. As long as you're willing to stay ahead of the repairs and maintenence, the rewards will be great.
While Dino values have climbed quickly in the past few years, CCTM believes that there is little upside left on most examples for the foreseeable future. Of course, spectacular examples can always be the exception. Update: Well, that held true until 2010, when values started climbing rapidly again. Current Valules
Regardless, the return on investment on one of these should be measured by the satisfaction you’ll get from driving a supremely responsive sports car that just happens to be enveloped by one of the sexiest designs of all time.
This profile originally appeared in the May 2002 issue of Collector Car & Truck.
|(C) Copyright 2002, VMR International, Inc., all rights reserved.|