The news that French specialists Artcurial will be auctioning the Dino Berlinetta Speciale is significant for collectors and Ferrari fans alike. This is a genuine Maranello unicorn, the prologue to an important part of Ferrari lore. It’s also thought to be the last car seen by Battista “Pinin” Farina, prior to his death in 1966.
But even it has a little-known precursor, albeit one that never made it off the drawing board: in May 1965, Pininfarina designer Aldo Brovarone began to draft a concept for a compact new mid-engined GT, whose form language has all the hallmarks of that incredibly fertile time in Italian automotive design.
Importantly, the Dino was originally conceptualised with its engine mounted longitudinally, but Enzo Ferrari asked the lead engineer on the project, Angelo Bellei, to switch to a transverse layout.
The car being auctioned during the following February’s Retromobile saw the project begin to crystallise. From Brovarone’s first sketches in May, the build process must have been extremely rapid, given that the show car was presented at the Paris salon less than six months later. The chassis – no.840 – was sourced from SEFAC, Ferrari’s racing department. Following a review by Sergio Pininfarina, the Dino was reworked by Leonardo Fioravanti, who reduced the windscreen and enlarged the roof.
If you compare Brovarone’s earliest sketches with those of the Speciale, it’s fascinating to see how the car’s surfaces and graphics evolved. The various elements Pininfarina introduced in the mid-1960s would set the template for virtually every mid-engined Ferrari up to the gorgeous F355 30 years later.
The Speciale ended up with unusual plexiglas-covered quad headlights: half a century later, this still looks dramatic. As do the front wings, which are much fuller in volume than the production car’s. Marque experts tend to think that the air intakes carved into the body sides – a key Ferrari graphic for years to come – first appeared on the 365 California Spider, but that didn’t break cover until the Geneva salon in March 1966.
The Dino Speciale also had unusually high sills, largely because of its donor chassis which also bequeathed it a pair of laterally mounted fuel tanks, and its right-hand drive configuration was another nod to its racing underpinnings. Inside, the seats are fixed, but the pedals are adjustable, and the instrument layout and overall feel is functional.
In Matthias Bartz’s meticulously researched Dino history, it’s noted that Enzo Ferrari was unimpressed with the Speciale’s packaging – he was a big man, and needed more interior space – but liked the concept enough to press on with it. The show car made a number of appearances at trade shows, and was later given by Sergio Pininfarina to his friend Baron de Lassée.
The nobleman was the director of several automotive museums in France, including one in Le Mans. That’s been the Speciale’s most recent home, although it was presented on the Pininfarina stand at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, alongside the commemorative limited series Ferrari Sergio.
As of next February, however, it looks set for a high-profile relocation.