Dino 246 GT

Dino 206 GT/246 GT

BUYER’S GUIDE

Dino 206 GT/246 GT Review

“Almost a Ferrari” according to the brochure but, in fact, a template for Maranello’s mid-engined cars to this day, and still one of its most beautiful…

What Is It?

The junior Ferrari named after Ferrari Junior, the 206 GT was originally sold under the Dino branding alongside Fiats of the same name, the collaboration brought about by the need to homologate a small V6 for Formula 2 racing.

For all the apparent caution about having the old man’s badge on the nose the 206 GT was, cylinder count aside, a true Ferrari from the start, with a racing engine at its heart and various brand ‘firsts’, including being the first mid-engined road car, the first with electronic ignition and more besides.

Even by Pininfarina’s standards the seductively curvy bodywork is arguably the sexiest seen on any Ferrari, the metal flowing like a satin sheet thrown over a three-quarter scale prototype racing car, the delicately curved front arches, buttressed rear bodywork and Kamm tail all celebrated in the current 296 GTB.

Whatever it lacks in ‘proper’ Ferrari firepower the Dino more than makes up for in sheer style and effervescence, and values have rocketed as a result.

Corrosive Areas

Chassis tub (246 GT and GTS)

Wheelarches

Rear panels

Checklist

  • Dino name came from Enzo Ferrari’s son, who was working on a vee-engine at the time of his premature death in 1956 and became associated with a sub-brand of small, lightweight prototypes with V6 engines
  • The Dino brand was also used by Fiat in its own series of cars to ensure the V6 could be produced in sufficient scale to meet homologation rules for Formula 2
  • Teased in a series of Pininfarina design studies and prototypes, a roadgoing Dino was eventually shown in 1967 – while the looks were clearly inspired by the race cars the engine was turned 90 degrees to a transverse arrangement with the gearbox mounted below and behind the crankcase
  • Dino 206 GT road car finally went into production in 1968 with a 2.0-litre engine and all-aluminium bodywork
  • After a nine-month production run of only 152 cars the 206 was replaced by the 2.4-litre 246 GT
  • This featured a bigger 2.4-litre, iron-blocked engine, steel bodywork (though doors, bootlid and other panels were aluminium on some cars) and a 60mm wheelbase stretch
  • Easiest visual ‘tell’ for a 246 GT compared to the 206 is flush-fitting fuel filler under a flap on the left buttress – the earlier car has an exposed cap instead
  • 246 GT production is typically divided into L, M and E series
  • L series cars all left-hand drive and identifiable by their centre lock wheels with knock-off hub caps – later cars used more conventional five-stud mounts for the Cromodora alloy wheels
  • Other differences are detail, with minor mechanical updates for the engine, gearbox and external trimmings
  • GTS ‘targa’ option added in 1972; later cars gained popular option of wider Campagnola wheels and Daytona-style seats, often referred to as ‘chairs and flares’ from the wider rear bodywork
  • High-revving V6 is carb-fuelled but the first Ferrari road car with electronic ignition – this can be troublesome, wiring likewise fragile and susceptible to throwing up issues
  • Cooling system can be problematic, so make sure the temperature holds steady once the car is warmed up
  • Chain-driven cams mean engine is fundamentally robust, but it’s still demanding of regular oil changes and proper upkeep – make sure there’s evidence of this in any prospective purchase
  • Gearshift can be stiff when cold, especially from first to second – if this persists or there are any graunches when warm this could point to worn synchros and an expensive rebuild
  • Steel frame and body on 246s can rust from the inside out, so insist on a thorough, expert inspection and documentation of any restoration – most cars will have had correctional work at some point so make sure it’s been done by a credible specialist and not bodged

How does it drive?

Assuming you can squeeze yourself in, the Dino is the original when it comes to mid-engined Ferraris, with an uncluttered footwell, sparse dash, functional materials and – of course – that gated five-speed manual sprouting from the floor. Imagine a Lotus Elise, just a lot more exotic and valuable…

Like any old-school Ferrari the fluids need to warm through before you can engage gear or shift to second without veins bulging on your forearm. Once it’s up to temperature, though, the race-car style dog-leg arrangement makes more sense, with second to third a single swipe and cross-gate shifts to fourth and fifth a click-clack away.

For a small and light car the controls will be surprisingly physical for a modern driver, but once underway the consensus is it lightens up to become a true delight. An MX-5 would leave it for dead these days but if ever there’s a car to prove performance is about quality not quantity the Dino is it, the V6 spinning freely and making full use of even its modest stable of horses and the pace perhaps more usable and appropriate to what you can enjoy on the road than any more modern mid-engined Ferrari.

 What’s good?

The very delicacy of the Dino’s tiny size and modest power output may have been a matter of concern at one stage, but these days appreciation of the stunning looks, the technical intrigue of the mechanical underpinnings and the usable performance are all highly prized among those motivated by more than just horsepower. Because this is a car at least as interesting historically as it is gorgeous.

With a kerbweight of around a tonne, the purity of response of a carb-fed racing engine, a slick synchromesh gearbox and undiluted feedback from all the controls the Dino is also as good to drive as it is to look at. And that’s saying something, given this is perhaps one of the best looking classics of any era.

What’s bad?

The days of Dinos being the unappreciated and affordable ‘starter Ferrari’ have long gone. So, having fallen into the league of collectable classics the usual caveats apply of making doubly sure of the history and condition of any cars you’re looking at, and following your head rather than your heart.

Practically speaking the Dino is very much on the teeny side as well, and a very snug fit for anyone of, shall we say, a modern physique. This may or may not be a problem for you but if you want a car for racking up miles there may be better choices.

There’s also no escaping the fact this is an Italian car of a certain vintage, and while mechanically relatively simple any work will come with the inevitable ‘Ferrari tax’ in terms of costs, especially if that involves sorting out any structural corrosion.

Which model to choose?

While the original 2.0-litre 206 GT is down on power compared with the later 2.4-litre 246 GT the significant weight advantage of its all-aluminium construction and marginally revvier nature of the engine arguably make up for it. This also makes it considerably more exotic, its rarity – most sources agree on there being just 152 built – sealing the deal as the one for the real purists to chase. With a premium to match.

On that basis there’s no shame seeking a relatively more numerous 246, the GTS with its removable roof panel a tempting wind in the hair option while the GTB has the purity of the coupe design on its side.

The centre-lock wheels of the earlier series cars look cool but beyond that the differences are really in the finer details, so really it comes down to condition, price and colour with the usual advice being to buy the best you can afford on the basis a cheap one will likely be a false economy.

Specifications

Engine

2.0-litre V6 petrol/2.4-litre V6, petrol

Power

180PS (132kW) @ 8,000rpm/195PS (143kW) @ 7,600rpm

Torque

187Nm (138lb ft) @ 6,500rpm/226Nm (166lb ft) @ 5,500rpm

Transmission

Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

900kg (dry)/1,080kg (dry)

0-62mph

N/A

Top speed

146mph

Production dates

1968-1969 (206 GT)/1969-1974 (246 GT and GTS)

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