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December 19th, 2007

Story by Pete Vack
Photography by Ken Visser

The Chassis

Fiat’s Dino Spider has been a classic since it was introduced at the Turin Auto Show in 1966. Like most true classics, the passage of time only increases it’s appeal.

It was the first Fiat with an engine with four overhead camshafts. The engine was produced by Fiat and “inspired in it’s general architecture by the Ferrari engine of the same name”, according to Quattroruote’s massive 1970 work, All the Fiats. It was also the same engine used in the Ferrari-made (but never labeled as such) Dino 206 and 246. And for Fiat, variants of the V6 were used in the Fiat Dino Coupe and finally, the Lancia Stratos. It was a remarkable engine, however many fathers claimed it.

The hereditary link with Ferrari, by way of Vittorio Jano, Franco Rochi and “productionized” by Aurelio Lampredi for Fiat has been well detailed elsewhere (Graham Robson‘s Fiat Sports Cars, and Doug Nye’s Dino, the little Ferrari).

For those of you who are interested in this fascinating saga, both books are highly recommended; copies may be found on eBay. To put it all in a nutshell, however, Robson does it best when describing what occurred between Enzo Ferrari and Fiat’s Vittorio Valetta:

The deal they cooked up was extraordinary. Not only would Ferrari hand over the Dino v6 engine design to Fiat, for re-working as necessary, and for manufacture in series, but Fiat would undertake the design of a new model to be sold as a Fiat Dino, so that the production numbers could be achieved as soon as possible, for Ferrari to use the engine in F2 in 1967.

The Dino production prototype
The way Robson sees it, the first Fiat Dinos as seen at Turin in 1966, were “homologation specials.” This is an interesting perspective. If that’s the case, the 2.0 Liter Dino Spiders and Coupes may eventually be worth as much as the more robust and refined 2.4 versions built after 1968. Nice to be able to say one owns the prototype of a famous line, even if there were a fairly large number built. In the case of the 2.0 liter Spider, 1163 chassis were constructed between 1966 and 1969.

Michael Bayer, whose 2.4 Fiat Dino is featured this week in VeloceToday, told us that the Dino parts site reports only 50% of the 2.4 Spiders survive. “That explains why I had such a tough time finding one. I wonder if there are more 2000s than 2400s, and is that because the 2400s were more frequently cannibalized for Dino 246 needs?” The real reason may be the tinworm and the fact that only 420 2.4 Spiders were built to begin with.

2.0 vs 2.4
Fiat introduced the 124 Spider at the same time and place as the Dino Spider, and since the 2280 mm wheelbase was identical, it was assumed that they shared the same chassis platform. But since the chassis were designed to support two entirely different power trains, it is unlikely that few if any of the panels are interchangeable. Brakes were Girling discs all around; 10 inches in the rear, 10.6 in front. The front suspension was a sturdy coil spring and shock unit attached to the upper A arm, combined with an anti roll bar, while the steering was worm and roller, not the more advanced rack and pinion. At the rear, there was nothing to write home about, just a live axle with a single leaf spring on each side, watts linkages and four shocks. It was the weak spot in the 2.0 design and would be replaced with IRS in 1969.

If the rear suspension was the weak link, the engine was the strong point. And perhaps, the original 2.0 liter, with its all-alloy construction, was a purer effort, much closer to the racing units from which it was descended.

The removable steel liners, a la Alfa Romeo, made overhaul less expensive. In stock form, the 2.0 engine produced 160 hp at 7200 rpm, and peak torque was 126 ft lb at 6000 rpm. Three downdraft twin Webers were placed between the V of 65 degrees (hard to balance but with enough room to facilitate a decent intake system).

The first 1163 Spiders were equipped with a 2300 four speed transmission modified to accept a fifth gear. Reverse and fifth were in a separate secondary casing. The fifth was overdrive with a 0.87:1 ratio.

Unladen weight of this package was 2535 lb. These “homologation specials”, according to Autosport magazine, were good for 127 mph and did the quarter in 16.0 seconds flat.

Fiat Dino - Ferrari by Another Name by Mike Morris, compared prices in the UK when the Dino first appeared. The badge may have said Fiat but the sticker said Ferrari. In 1968 the 2 liter Fiat Dino Spider (he quotes the UK magazine MOTOR) cost an astonishing 3,737 British pounds, at that time an AC Cobra was 3,069 pounds and a 4.2 liter E Jag was 2,117 pounds.

While no doubt an overall improvement, the 1969 2.4 Spider was 265 pounds heavier, and an inch longer, but sported 20 additional horsepower with a higher torque curve peaking at a more useable 4600 rpm.

A new five speed ZF transmission was included in the new package to accommodate the increased power and torque. Says Bayer, “My wife loves the looks and feel of her Dino, it is easy to drive, has a very light clutch with lots of torque off the line.” The additional weight was no doubt due to the heavier and more complex independent rear suspension, and the larger engine, the block now being made of cast iron with no removable liners. Did it perform better? Figures are fuzzy, but no doubt the 2.4 was more refined, more drivable, and quicker.

Bridging the gap between the 2.0 and the 2.4 was the Pininfarina body, which aside from a few minor changes, was left as is for the beauty of self and benefit of all. Superior to the Alfa Duetto, and almost the equal of PF’s work on the Ferrari 330GTS, the Fiat Spider of any year exhibits the masterful touch of “Pinin” Farina himself, and one of the last great designs before the U.S. Government got involved with automobile standards. But that is another story. Click here for more.

Past Issues


Ferrari 712 Can Am

Articles on or about OSCA

Articles on or about Maserati

Articles on or about Lancia

Articles on or about Fiat

Fiat Dino, Body

Fiat Dino, Chassis

Serenissima F1

Winningest OSCA

Alfa 164 V10

Ramponi's Delage

OSCA Berlinettas

Maserati 250F Remembered

Lancia Rally Delta and Integrale

Lancia Rally 037 and S4

Alpine Adventures

Bandini, Giaurs, Siatas etc.

Alpine A110

Classic Fiat 500s in Turin

New Fiat 500 hits the streets

New Fiat 500 Intro

Fiat 500 Restoration

Fiat 500 pushed and pulled

Fiat 500 Art

Giulietta Sprint Veloce Part 2

Giulietta Sprint Veloce Part 1

Fortune 500 (Fiat)

Giulietta Racing Part 2

Giulietta Racing P1

Appia Specials

Appia Series 3

Appia Series 2

Appia Restoration

Appia Series 1

Kalikow on the 612K

Articles on Alfa Romeo

Fiat Balilla Berlinetta


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