Fiat Dino coupé and spider Buying Guide
Looking for a left-field classic with pedigree? This Ferrari-engined rarity might just fit the bill – if you can find one
How much to pay
• Project £10,000-19,000 • Good £40,000-55,000 (Spider: £70,000-95,000) • Concours £59,500-70,000 (Spider: £100,000-150,000) •
Running costs ★★★
DIY friendly ★★★
In the mid-1960s, Formula 2 rules changed so that any participating car had to have an engine with a total production run of at least 500. Ferrari felt it was important to be taking part in the series, but it didn’t have the capacity to produce so many engines – and it couldn’t sell that many cars anyway. The answer lay in a collaboration with Fiat, which would put a model into production that used the V6 originally designed by Vittorio Jano in 1956. The result was the Fiat Dino coupé and spider.
Redesigned by Aurelio Lampredi so it was better suited to road rather than track use, the V6 entered production with a 1987cc displacement. This was later upped to 2418cc for extra power and torque. It’s the same powerplant as was used in Ferrari’s own Dino – initially in 206GT form, then later in 246GT and GTS guise.
Fiat outsourced the Dino’s design and construction to two different companies; Pininfarina would be responsible for the spider, Bertone would take care of the coupé. Because Bertone had been working on a replacement for the 2300S since 1963, it had a design up its sleeve. Meanwhile, Pininfarina came up with something that’s more of an acquired taste. However, just like its fixed-head cousin, the latter is an interesting proposition – albeit a rather expensive one after years of criminally low values.
Your AutoClassics Fiat Dino inspection checklist
Early Dinos were fitted with a 2.0-litre engine, but in 1969 a 2.4 unit was introduced. Both powerplants have the same potential weaknesses, although the bigger lump tends to be less troublesome.
The biggest and most likely problem is with worn camshafts, of which there are four. Revving the engine before it’s fully warmed up will accelerate the rate of wear, while failing to check and adjust the valve clearances every 6000 miles will also lead to early bills. Because checking and setting the clearances is very fiddly, it’s often put off – which only guarantees greater problems and bigger bills later.
If the clearances are way out, it’s possible for a lobe to be knocked off one of the camshafts altogether – and this is when things get really expensive. Genuine Ferrari parts are hugely pricey, but high-quality aftermarket spares are available, and they’ve been developed to increase mid-range torque. This is why you’re better off fitting these components instead.
If there’s lots of rattling from the engine it’ll be because the timing chains have worn, but they’re not costly to replace. More of a problem is a tired timing-chain tensioner on the 2.0-litre engine. If left, this can lead to the motor being destroyed because of the chain jumping a cog.
The 2.0-litre engine is especially likely to suffer from worn cylinder bores, so check for blue exhaust smoke under acceleration. Oil-pressure gauge senders tend to be unreliable, but you’re looking for 50psi at 3000rpm once warm while cruising.
While the Dinoplex electronic ignition is unreliable, most cars have had a modern Bosch set-up installed by now. Distributors wear readily and they’re expensive to overhaul, yet it’s essential that the work is done when needed or the engine will never run properly.
The 2.4-litre can suffer from broken sodium-filled exhaust valves, as they’re fragile; many engines have been converted to solid items by now. Expect weeping from the core plugs, which if left for long enough can lead to the coolant level dropping and the engine overheating.
The 2.4-litre Dino’s transmission is tough, with tired universal joints or a worn diff likely to be the extent of any problems.
Unfortunately, the 2.0-litre car’s set-up isn’t so strong, with both the differential and gearbox likely to need some TLC. In the case of the latter, any wear will be revealed by whining aplenty; once the ’box needs a rebuild, the synchromesh on second and third ratio will have failed, so see if it jumps out of gear or is especially baulky when swapping cogs.
Suspension and brakes
The independent front suspension can suffer from worn ball-joints, which are sealed units. Their rubbers split, causing rapid wear, but they’re easily and cheaply replaced; many Dino suspension components are shared with the 124, 125 and 2300.
The worm-and-roller steering is sharp and reliable, although the damper can lose an oil seal, meaning it runs dry. Kickback over bumps points to the oil having been drained from the box, but fitting a new seal is easy enough.
Each Dino variant has its own all-disc brake specification, but these are conventional with no inherent problems.
Rot strikes all too readily on the Dino, with the Pininfarina-built spider particularly likely to be in poor shape thanks to the use of filler on the production line. Replacement panels aren’t available, so restoration costs are always going to be high.
The sills and A-posts are crucial to the car’s strength, but they’re also the areas most likely to rot. To check the A-posts, open the doors, inspect the shuts along their forward edges and take a look from the back of the inside of the wheelarch, where the metal first corrodes. If the outer sill looks tatty, the inner and intermediate panels will probably have disappeared altogether, and repairs are involved.
Rotten sills mean the structure will be weakened, so ensure the doors close and fit properly, especially in the case of the spider. Also expect rot in the jacking points and outriggers, but inspecting these from underneath is easy. Scrutinise the bottoms of the doors, trailing edge of the boot lid and leading edge of the bonnet; the spider’s boot lid and bonnet are made of aluminium.
The rear valance rusts, too – and, if left, the corrosion eats its way into the structure, which is far from easy to repair. The same is true of the front bulkhead, to which rust often spreads from the windscreen surround. When the screen was originally fitted, the paint was frequently damaged in the process.
The electrical system is reliable if it’s not bodged. Some parts are scarce, but much of it, such as the switchgear and instrumentation, was shared with other Fiats. The exterior lighting wasn’t, though; rear lights are especially scarce – and they’re handed, too.
- 1966: Fiat Dino spider debuts at Turin Motor Show, with a 2.0-litre V6.
- 1967: Dino coupé unveiled at Geneva Motor Show.
- 1968: Production of 2.0 Dino ends.
- 1969: Production of 2.4-litre cars starts; all Dinos are now assembled at Maranello.
- 1972: All Dino production ends.
These are rare cars, as just 1557 spiders were built along with 6043 coupés; included in this are 1133 and 3629 2.0-litre cars respectively. The survival rate isn’t great, and open-topped cars are much more valuable than coupés, so what you buy will be largely dictated by what you can find and (possibly) by what you can afford. The spider is a 2+2, whereas the coupé is a four-seater as it features a significantly longer wheelbase. As a result, it also has a more compliant ride, so it’s more comfortable.
While the Dino is a low-profile classic, its rarity ensures there aren’t enough cars to go round. Most that do come up for sale are in no better than average condition; truly superb examples tend to be retained by their owners, or they go onto the market at a very high price.
The Dino was very expensive when new – it cost even more than an Aston Martin DB6. It was never officially imported to the UK, either, so all cars were built with left-hand drive. Most sought after of the bunch is the 2.4-litre spider, which is significantly more valuable than the 2.0 coupé. Don’t get too hung up on the displacement, though, as it’s possible to increase the capacity of a 2.0 V6.
Having said this, the bigger engine is the better option in terms of reliability, usability and running costs, but it’s less free-revving than the 2.0-litre. Also, because the 2.4 V6 is made of cast iron, while the 2.0 unit is aluminium, the later cars are more nose heavy. However, the earlier models have a live rear axle and half-elliptic leaf springs, whereas the 2.4 has an independent set-up, so it handles much better.
Other desirable upgrades include bigger valves, uprated camshafts, high-capacity oil pumps and oil-cooler kits, along with an uprated radiator and lightened flywheel. Seeking out a car that’s got at least some of these improvements will be money well spent.
|Fiat Dino 2.0 coupé|
|Fiat Dino 2.0 spider|
|Fiat Dino 2.4 coupé|
|Fiat Dino 2.4 spider|
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