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The Fiat Dino Spider

The Fiat Dino Spyder may yet enjoy a revival, much as the mid-engined 206GT and 246GTs already are. Amazingly, the styling hasn’t aged that much on the Spyder, but your author thinks the Coupe is looking old. Those interested in a 12″ x 18″ print of the Spyder can contact the author/artist at photojournalistpro@hotmail.com.

The Fiat Dino Spyder

Painting & article by: Wallace Wyss

Long story short, Enzo Ferrari wanted to name a car after his prematurely deceased son, Alfredino who died at age 24 (his nickname was “Dino” for short.) The V6 engine needed to be homologated for racing and to do that you had to make over 100 cars powered by that particular engine.





Enzo didn’t think there was a big enough market for 100 mid-engined Dinos. Solution? Have Fiat make a lower priced front-engined car and call it the Dino. The engine then becomes legal for the mid-engined Dino.

As far as the styling goes, the coachbuilder/designer was Pininfarina and to its credit, the design of the Spyder hasn’t aged at all, other than the headlights are round, which few headlights are these days.

Pininfarina’s rival, Bertone also got a contract for the coupe version, which is credited to Giorgetto Giugiaro, now the world’s most famous designer but back then just another young man on the boards. Curiously, it is one of his designs that have aged most while the Pininfarina Spyder looks far more relevant almost four decades later.

The car came with a 2.0-liter V6 originally rated at 158 hp. Later there was a 178 hp, 2.4- liter version. The larger engine was cast in iron, the smaller in alloy. One website says the Spyders in 2.0 liter size were made from 1967 to 1969 with 1,133 made. The same source says the 2.4-liter versions were from ’69-72 and only 424 were made (another source says 420).

Fiat made the engine to a design from Ferrari. To his credit, the real Dino Ferrari did design a much smaller engine years earlier and supposedly it inspired this engine. The original engine was a racing engine, which Fiat had to redo for reliability.  Aurelio Lampredi is credited with the design of the street engine. Doubtless, he would have liked to see Ferrari build it but somehow when Fiat got a hold of it, they wanted to do the production, so the best you can say is that it’s a Ferrari-designed engine farmed out to Fiat. The engine is a little jewel with twin overhead cams and no less than three Weber DNCF 40 carbs.

According to the site DinoSpider.com there is a later model 2-liter meaning that the valve adjustment shims are on top of the cams so one doesn’t have to remove the cams – called the Dinoplex System. This was a change from the earlier Dino’s that had shims underneath and required removal of the camshafts to set valve clearances.

Apparently, the Dinoplex System was problematic, so some owners removed it and replaced it with MSD and a Crane Electronic ignition. Wikipedia says “The Dinoplex C electronic capacitive discharge ignition was developed by Magneti Marelli in 1968 for the high revving Dino V6 engine (hence the name Dinoplex).“

The engines also have problems in the area of leaky valve guides. Says DinoSpider.com “or stem seals depending on who you talk to, some say the guides are not good but I agree with the other crowd that the stem seals are the problem, not necessarily because of the design but just because of the age of the rubber seals. I have been told they can be changed without removing the heads but I will do them when I pull the motor. Another weak point that I do not believe I have is the camshafts, they are supposed to be soft and wear quickly. And if you believe Superformance’s website the 206 (only the 206) has a low oil pressure problem that is solved with a very expensive oil pump upgrade.“ Despite his list of woes, the Webmaster of DinoSpider.com says the engine is bulletproof.

The gearbox is a ZF so should be bulletproof. It was also used in Aston Martins. To revive that “is it a Fiat or is it a Ferrari” argument, Wikipedia says “ the 2.4 cars were assembled by Ferrari at Maranello alongside the 246s.” So score one for the 2.4 owners.

The cars have been immortalized in such classics as “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” and “The Italian Job.”

Now the final question (and to speculators the only one that matters…) is: Is a Dino Spyder a good investment? We would say “no” and it still is “no” compared to any V12 Ferrari. But now that we have seen a Dino 246 coupe go for over $200,000 in the UK, we think that Fiat Dino Spyders are the next Old Cars from Italia poised for greatness. Not that they are there yet, but a year ago we didn’t think 246 Dinos would ever crack $100K.

And we can’t forget Ken Dallison’s drawing in Car and Driver showing the Dino Spyder parked outside a fancy Rococo building, probably the Casino in Monte Carlo.  Dallison didn’t care about pesky electronics or soft cams. Hell, he recognized it as beautiful. And so should we.

Consider the pedigree – an engine designed by Dino Ferrari and Aurelio Lampredi; styling by Pininfarina or Bertone; some of them built in Maranello – snap these Dinos up while they’re still affordable! You heard it here first.

Editor’s Note: Wallace Wyss is working on the world’s first Ferrari detective novel. Read it here (when it’s ready…).

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