One night in the summer of 2014, my dad took me out for dinner in River Oaks, Houston's most affluent (cough, bougie) neighborhood. Dining in the nice part of town has a number of perks — great eats, prime people-watching, lovely ladies — but the main attractions are most often found in the parking lot. On any given evening, you'll be treated to a valet section full of big English coupes, German super saloons, and Italian artworks. It’s like a miniature car show, except people give you the stink eye for checking out their precious status symbols. I see your stink eye and raise you a shruggie. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
My proudly-quarter-Italian self chose (obviously) an Italian restaurant. How fitting a place to encounter a pureblooded Italian classic: a Ferrari Dino 246 GT.
Bathed in warm, dancing light from the restaurant’s fire pits, the Dino looked nothing short of spectacular. Far from Ferrari’s traditional red, the paint seemed unable to decide between hues of deep green and ocean blue. Amidst a bevy of exotic, modern machines, it was the Dino alone that held my attention, sensuously shaped and perfectly proportioned. It didn’t look out of place; rather, it just outclassed everything else in its vicinity. But at the time, I hadn’t a clue what it was. (I didn't think to take pictures either. Oops.)
Named after Enzo Ferrari's late son Alfredo (or "Alfredino" for "little Alfredo"; hence, Dino), the Dino was introduced in 1968 as a more affordable Ferrari offering, intended to compete with Porsche’s 911. Perhaps to differentiate himself from Enzo’s V12 obsession, Dino Ferrari sought to develop a V6 engine for Formula 2. Sadly, he passed away before the engine came to fruition.
Alfredino Ferrari before his passing in 1956. He was 24.
However, Dino's V6 ambitions lived on. Ferrari had engineered a V6 for Formula 2, but needed to produce 500 road cars that used the engine in order to meet FIA homologation. This figure was far beyond Ferrari's production capacity. A joint venture with Fiat was established, and out of the partnership emerged the Fiat Dino and Ferrari's completely different Dino — their first ever mid-engined road car.
Due to the Dino's lower price point, only a “Dino” badge adorned the hood, the Prancing Horse notably absent. Enzo mandated clear separation from Ferrari's flagship models.
A Dino's denotation. This isn't from the car I saw, but it does wear the same shade of blue.
Dubbed the 206 GT for its 2.0L V6, the first Dino's excellent balance and independent double wishbone suspension provided premium handling. Roughly 150 206s were produced between 1968 and ’69 before the 246 GT and targo-topped 246 GTS took its place. As its name implies, the 246’s V6 grew to 2.4 liters, while steel bodywork replaced the 206’s costly aluminum. With lower production costs and strong demand, the 246 sold over 3500 units, marking another first for Ferrari: a mass-produced vehicle.
246s easily fetch $300,000 on today’s market, even surpassing $400,000 for really special ones. A post-dinner research session informed me of the car’s identity, value, and rarity. I’m convinced my quarter Italian heritage swelled to 26%. (Side note: if 246s sell for that amount, I quail at the thought of a 206’s asking price. I estimate somewhere around 7 limbs and 3 souls.)
A 246 GT in signature Ferrari red. Worthy of inclusion at the Louvre.
Fast forward to November 2016. By way of being in precisely the right place at exactly the right time, I volunteered for Ferrari of Atlanta's Challenge team at the 2016 Ferrari Finali Mondiali in Daytona Beach. The Finali Mondiali, or World Finals in English, serves two purposes: it’s the final fight for the world’s Ferrari Challenge competitors, and it’s a celebration of all things Ferrari. It's an international magnet for racers, owners, and fans alike — this is Ferrari, after all. At Daytona, this meant a flock of 458 Challenge cars, an entire paddock occupied by XX monsters (!), endurance prototypes (!!), and F1legends (!!!), parking lots overflowing with all manner of Maranello machinery, and a Ferrari-only concourse in the infield. In other words, complete and utter sensory overload.
The Finali Mondiali was truly a once-in-my-short-lifetime event. But that's a story for another Sunday. Remember the Dino?
During downtime between Challenge sessions, a small voice in my head piped up and said, "Hey, I wonder if that Dino is hiding around here somewhere." This prompted a jaunt to the infield lawns and a stroll through the museum-quality concourse. Much gaping and gawking ensued until a bluish sparkle in the back corner caught my eye. What are the odds?
Dino and dingus, Daytona 2016.
The car was exactly as I remembered it: diminutive, yet sculpted, elegant, and arresting. Bright Florida sunshine revealed paint that was decidedly, beautifully blue. As one of the select few Dinos in attendance, and the only blue Dino, surely this was the same machine from River Oaks? A walk-around to the car’s rear removed all doubts — the bumper wore a Texas plate. I was visited by the heady happiness that comes from defying common probability. I would say we’re star-crossed lovers, but considering our relationship, I think I’m more of a cross-eyed stalker.
Timeless lines, gorgeous color. Bellissima.
The Dino had 1/5th the power of some other cars present, and if we’re being pompous, it doesn’t even wear a Prancing Horse. And yet, its undeniable beauty made it a standout in a world class concourse, just as it was in the River Oaks parking lot. Seeing the Dino again was like running into a college crush you never asked out — in this case, a couple years and half a country apart. Maybe it was because we were at Date-ona. Maybe I should never make that joke ever again. Make that definitely.