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The List

 

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 corroborate.

 

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.





 
 

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