Fiat Dino Spider
Homologation. It sounds like a rather boring,
bureaucratic word. Something beloved of paper-shuffling
European Union officials in Brussels, perhaps. To a car
enthusiast, though, it has completely different
associations; it hints at limited edition versions of cars
designed principally for use in motorsport, like the BMW M3,
or the Ford RS200.
And so to the Fiat Dino, a car that owes its existence to
homologation regulations, but was never, in itself, destined
for motorsport glory. The reason for this is that it was not
the car, but the Ferrari V6 that powers it, that was
homologated. In the late 1960s Ferrari needed a Formula 2
engine but did not produce the necessary number of cars
containing its small capacity V6 to qualify for
homologation. This issue was neatly side-stepped by an
alliance with Fiat that resulted in the Dino coupe and
spider sharing its Ferrari namesake’s V6.
But while the Ferrari Dino is well known to most of us
who possess any more than a cursory interest in Italian
cars, the Fiat is a more esoteric machine; unfairly overshadowed
by its more beautiful cousin, but possessing enough of its
own glamour and distinction to earn it a place on The List.
Available in both coupe and convertible (spider) guises,
it is the latter in which we are most interested, mainly
because it presents a more attractive silhouette than the
coupe, whose roofline towards the rear is slightly ungainly.
There are echoes of contemporary sports cars around the
nose and grille, but the raised wings and low set headlights
of the Dino differentiate it from its contemporaries. In
rosso red there is more than a hint of special edition
Ferrari about it – something that the looks from passers by,
who are searching for the prancing horse badge, seem to
The interior is fairly spartan by modern standards: there
is a large, thin rimmed wooden wheel, nicely shaped seats
and a wooden dash on the series two model. Series one
models are largely similar, although the wheel rim is
slightly thicker and the dash is plainer.
Twist the key and the 2.4 litre (2 litre in the earlier
model) V6 fires reluctantly into life. Keeping the revs up
and pulling off, it is clear that, in this age of
fly-by-wire throttles and sophisticated ECUs, we have
forgotten how organic a naturally aspirated engine can be.
This is not an car where you just floor the throttle and
let the electronics do the work; it requires the driver to
feel what the engine is communicating and to open the
throttle progressively. When it comes on song you are
rewarded with a spirited shove in the back and a glorious
noise – not bassy and overblown or high pitched and
shrieking, but mellifluous and deeply addictive.
There is not the structural rigidity of the coupe, or a
modern convertible for that matter, and there is noticeable
shimmying from the steering column, especially over mid
corner bumps, but attacking winding roads at high speeds is
not really the Dino’s raison d’etre. Rather, it is a car to
cruise in, roof down on a sunny day, when the glorious note
from the exhausts can be revelled in without one’s attention
being distracted by the process of actually going fast. That
it offers both beauty and exclusivity at a less than premium
price (for now, at least) is merely a bonus.