Even Enzo Ferrari adored this unique Pininfarina Dino prototype.
Pininfarina’s small and seductive Dino Berlinetta Speciale prototype – Ferrari’s first mid-engined design study – is not only one of the most extraordinarily pretty cars to grace the planet, but it also spawned a number of the best-loved models in Ferrari’s illustrious back-catalogue …
The Dino Berlinetta Speciale is, ahem, special for myriad reasons, not least because its overwhelmingly positive reaction convinced Enzo Ferrari to build his first mid-engined production sports cars: the V6-powered Dino 206 GT and 246 GT/GTS. They were cars that not only lent the company a much-needed financial lifeline but also spawned an illustrious model line that’s still thriving today, in the shape of the turbocharged 488 GTB.
From its conception as a series of drawings by Aldo Brovarone to its debut in Paris, the Berlinetta Speciale took fewer than six months to come to fruition. It was built around a competition Dino 206S spaceframe chassis – stamped with the number 0840 – that had been sourced from SEFAC, Enzo’s factory racing outfit. The car is also notable in the rich history of Pininfarina, being the last Ferrari with input from the design house’s founder, Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina, before his death in 1966 and among the first overseen by his son Sergio, who would succeed his father as company chairman.
Sensuously shaped, specifically around its wheels, the Berlinetta Speciale is as diminutive as it is delectable – to say this car is low would be an understatement, and its size is something you can only really comprehend in the flesh. In fact, it makes a ‘Chairs and Flares’-less Dino 246 look portly, and there aren’t many other cars about which we could say the same.
Beyond the obvious aesthetic cues that made it onto the production cars, such as the elongated concave side air-vents, curved rear windscreen, and tall and curvaceous front arches, we think the truncated rear lends an undeniable air to the legendary Ferrari ‘P’ cars, while the quad headlights housed behind a Plexiglas shroud are a bold stray from the then-norm – something we’d have loved to have seen on the production 206 GT.
‘Il Commendatore’ reputedly lamented the Dino’s dimensions, but that was hardly surprising given the great’s man’s stature. Any regular-sized person would struggle to contort himself or herself over the wide lateral competition fuel tanks and into the car’s snug interior. But they’d be rewarded for their efforts. Inside, the Speciale is a model in purposefulness, elegance, and restraint, with fixed seats upholstered in cream leather, fantastic all-round visibility, and a simple instrument binnacle, visible through a beautifully simple three-spoke steering wheel. It certainly nods to the car’s competition underpinnings, but at least it’s a valid connection, unlike the countless modern special-edition sports cars that cling to a tenuous link to the racetrack.
Photography by Mathieu Bonnevie