Just a year after René Bonnet introduced the first mid-engine production car in 1964, the Matra Djet, Ferrari started experimenting with this layout. The Dino Berlinetta Speciale was the result which turned out to be a successful and clever move that formed a key part of Ferrari’s history.

Photography: Artcurial

Automotive evolution

Back in the 1960s every manufacture of high-performance cars placed their engines up front. The mid-engine concept was only used in motorsport. Transferring this layout from the track to the road was considered as quite a risky move. Front-engine cars offer designers a bit more room to decide how the rest of the car is going to look. Mid-engine cars always tend to have similarities in terms of design. After all, the engine plays a huge part in this layout. Then there’s the technical aspect: more weight on the rear wheels means a different kind of handling.

Enzo Ferrari was happy with his front-engine cars, until he realized a new phase in automotive evolution was about to unfold, so he asked Pininfarina to design the mid-engine car he had in his mind. This would eventually become the last Ferrari with input from Pininfarina’s founder Battista Farina. Sergio Pininfarina, Battista’s son, helped with designing and building the mid-engine concept car.

Design

This prototype was the Dino Berlinetta Speciale and it took the company fewer than six months to complete. It was based on the chassis of a Dino 206 P, but the body couldn’t have been be more different. Pininfarina gave the prototype a sleek and balanced design that would eventually transfer to the road cars. Many elements became part of the signature style of this range: the side air vent, rear windscreen, the front wheel arches and rear engine deck. The only things that changed were the front lights and rear design.

The exterior Bordeaux red also appears inside the car, where we have an elegant dashboard featuring just the necessary dials, a name plaque in front of the passenger and a tiny gear stick. The seats – finished in cream leather – seem extremely comfortable. As it was based on a competition car the steering wheel sits on the right.

Ferrari introduced the car at the 1965 Paris Motor Show wearing a Dino badge, and the response of the public couldn’t have been more positive. Ferrari went on to build a few more prototypes in the years following and eventually introduced a road-going Dino in 1968. After decades of evolution and development, the automaker still offers a mid-engine car in their current range.

Auction

Ferrari and Pininfarina donated the car to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) in memory of Battista’s passing in 1966. It was the club’s most precious possession and they vowed publicly to never sell it. That was until the club’s museum needed funds to keep their spirit alive. Rétromobile Paris offered the car during their 2017 auction and the car sold for around €4.4 million.

Like to know more about the Dino marque? Continue reading here.

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