In late 1964, Enzo Ferrari approached Fiat patriarch Gianni Agnelli about working together on a new engine. Behind the collaboration was a rule change in Formula 2 racing for 1967: To qualify an engine for the series, it had to be used in an automobile with a production run of at least 500 units. That sort of volume would be impossible for Ferrari to accomplish alone.
“A visit by [Fiat managing director Gaudenzio] Bono to Maranello made the contracts official and marked the start of full collaboration,” Fiat chief engineer Dante Giacosa recalled in his autobiography, Forty Years of Design with Fiat. “[Vittorio] Valletta, Giovanni Agnelli and Bono thought it a good idea to accept Ferrari’s proposal and made arrangements for the design of a sports car with the Dino engine.”
And so was born Fiat’s most prestigious model since the 8V of the 1950s. The first Fiat Dino, a spider designed by Pininfarina, broke cover at Turin in 1966. Several months later, at Geneva, Bertone presented a coupe. Both cars used a front-mounted Ferrari-designed 1987cc V-6 that produced 160 horsepower at 7200 rpm.
The Dino’s pressed steel chassis had a shorter wheelbase on the spider, an independent suspension up front, and a live axle in the rear. The gearbox was a five-speed, and brakes were discs. Top speed was listed at 130 mph.
Henry Manney was one of the few journalists to test the exclusive model; he drove the Spider. “The Dino is a real sports car,” he wrote in Road & Track, “with lots of rasp from its ... V-6. [It also has] a lovely 5-speed gearbox, supreme comfort for the driver, sleek Italian lines, and instruments for every contingency. Under way [it] felt ... Ferrari-like in spite of the Fiat construction ... ”
An updated version of the car was introduced in 1969. The V-6 now displaced 2418cc and produced 180 horsepower. The five-speed ZF gearbox was new, and an independent suspension replaced the live axle in the rear. Assembly of the cars also moved from Turin to the Ferrari works in Maranello.
Production continued into January 1973, the popular Fiat Dino vastly exceeding the original 500-unit requirement for F2. In total, 7,651 Fiat Dinos were made.