If you tell someone that you own a Dino, chances are they'll want to bop you on the nose. Jealousy is a horrible thing -- they'll think you've got a mid-engined baby Ferrari. But Fiat had a model by the same name that was, unsurprisingly, overshadowed by the Prancing Horse. It came about thanks to a rule change in Formula 2 during the mid-Sixties when Fiat answered a cry for help from its sporty cousin.
The two major Italian carmakers created an unlikely alliance. Fiat needed a flagship model to give its image a much-needed boost, while Ferrari required assistance to continue in the racing series. The new rules stipulated that 500 units of a Formula 2 engine had to be produced before an entry was accepted. Ferrari approached Fiat for the motors and collaborated on a new road-car design. The first car produced under the new agreement was the Fiat Dino Spider 2000 in 1966 and then came the Dino Coupé 2400. The name referred to the Ferrari Dino V6 engine -- which was of course named after Enzo Ferrari's only son, Alfredo (nicknamed Dino).
Built by Bertone (the Spider variant was Pininfarina's), its clean, understated lines caused a stir when it was unveiled at the Turin motor show. It had it all; looks, excitement, luxury and power. Its stretched wheelbase could accommodate full-sized seats in the back compared to the more limited 2+2 configuration of the Spider. It was a step up in quality, too; it had a wood-finished dash, power windows and optional leather or velour trim. With a stiffer chassis, longer wheelbase and a fixed roof, the Coupé was heavier by 100kg (1,380kg in total), but proved to be better to drive than its stablemate. This was thanks in part to the 2.4-litre V6 (the same engine on the Dino 246 GT) mated to a five-speed manual, which produced 180bhp (it had a large radiator and electronic ignition, which enhanced reliability) and its fully independent rear suspension.
Dino production lasted six years, ending in 1972, during which time 1,557 Spiders had been built and 6,043 Coupés. Sadly, build-quality issues troubled the model and if you're in the market for one today, be wary of rust, particularly on the chassis, fenders and doors. Good luck getting replacements. But the fact you can buy a Fiat with the same motor as a Fezza -- and for less than a third of the price -- makes it one of the most intriguing sportscars out there. It's rarer, too, and as a result, that much more appealing.