Ferrari may be enjoying the greatest financial success in its 68-year history, but its future looks murky, and enthusiasts are growing uneasy. For many, it seems like the brand is as concerned with selling merchandise and its theme park in Abu Dhabi as it is with building cars. And as the sports car landscape changes, how will Ferrari cope? Will it abandon tradition and ditch the naturally aspirated V12 engine? Will it follow Lamborghini’s lead and build an SUV, or will it take on Porsche and Aston Martin and build a four-door sedan?
Last week, one key piece of Ferrari’s future fell into place, and it should be enough to keep the faithful optimistic. Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne usually doesn’t mince words when it comes to what he wants, and speaking with Autoblog, one thing was absolutely clear: The iconic Ferrari Dino will return, bringing a mid-engined, V6-powered car to the stable after a four-decade absence. “It’s a when not an if,” Marchionne said. “We know that [the Dino] is an under-used resource, but that’s why we need to get it right.”
Launched in 1968, the Dino was a radical departure for Ferrari – so much so that it was originally its own sub-brand. Though the name was slated to appear on all Ferrari road cars with fewer than 12 cylinders, the Dino name found its way to only three models during its eight-year run, but secured a place in the pantheon of legendary Ferraris. The original 206 GT was designed to take on the Porsche 911, and featured a high-revving 2.0 liter V6 (jointly developed with Fiat) that produced 160 horsepower, which was plenty to make the car quick in its day.
But enthusiasts were soon clamoring for more power, and displacement jumped to 2.4 liters as the car became the 246 GT in 1969. Weighing just over a ton,The Peninfarina-designed Dino was considered one of the most beautiful cars in the world. With their sinewy, flowing lines and fantastic performance, it was a major success for Ferrari, and has become one of the most sought-after cars the company has ever made (this pictured 1972 car was sold in Amelia Island in March by RM Auctions for $363,000). The angular V8-powered 308 GT4 2+2 was the last car to wear the Dino name, but it officially became a Ferrari in 1976, closing the history books on the Dino – until now, that is.
On top of the legendary appeal of the ’70s cars, there’s another reason why Ferrari is taking a risk in reviving the Dino nameplate. The original cars were named after Enzo Ferrari’s only son, who died in 1956 at age 24, and Ferrari took a personal interest in the car’s designs. Recognizing the importance this name carries in Ferrari lore, Marchionne is quick to point out that the new Dino will be anything but a compromised entry-level car. Citing the original Porsche Boxster as a cynical attempt to move a performance brand down market, Marchionne flatly says “You don’t screw around with the interests of your customers,” adding, “I would never try to sell another 500 cars at the expense of the Ferrari name.”
And that jab at Porsche was no accident. Like the original Dino, the new car’s closest competitor will most likely be the 911 Carrara GTS. Along with giving Porsche a scare, it should also return some excitement to Ferrari’s “entry-level” offerings. Expect the Dino to be priced similarly to the $200,000 California T, a V8-powered grand tourer that was originally slated to become a Maserati, and one that Marchionne is famously not a fan of.
Details at this early stage are scarce, but Marchionne said that the response to the 3.0 liter twin-turbo V6 it jointly developed with Maserati for the Ghibli sedan “has been positive,” hinting that the engine could see duty behind the seats of the Dino. While the car is years away from seeing production, it’s exciting news that Ferrari will resurrect the Dino name for a next-generation sports car. An SUV or four-door with the Prancing Horse badge on the hood would be sacrilege for millions, but a lithe, 911-fighting, mid-engined Dino is music to the ears of the Ferrari faithful. “Don’t ever change” has long been the sentiment with the company’s fans.With this announcement, Ferrari has shown the world it hasn’t.