If until now Ferrari was producing only models that were about being as special and as exclusive as possible, now it was time for Ferrari to focus on reducing cost, but also on increasing the sales. Back in 1959 Ferrari was already using the 196 S Dino in the in the Formula 2 racings, so we might say they already have the experience of building small engines.
The Dino name was first used on Ferrari cars with vee engines in the late fifties, on Formula 1 and sports-racing models. It was the Christian name of the son of Enzo Ferrari, who had died in 1956, and was used in his memory as he was working on a vee-engine project prior to his death.
In 1965 at the Paris Motor Show Ferrari unveiled the Dino 206 GT Speciale prototype - a design study for a road car, based on the chassis of a sports-racing model, with an in-line, mid-engined placement. In 1966 the second prototype followed. It featured an elliptical radiator opening with the headlights now wing-mounted under perspex covers. There was a higher roof to the cabin, carrying a similar rear screen and sail panel profile to the original, with quarter bumpers at each corner, showing the evolution from concept car to production model. By the time the next prototype appeared during 1967, the body was almost in its definitive form. The engine cover and boot lid were still one panel, and the strake in the door scallop had disappeared, fitted instead with door handles straight off the recently announced 365 GT 2+2, and alloy wheels that mirrored those fitted to the Fiat Dino.
The production version followed in 1968 at the Brussels Salon. This version, Dino 206 GT was produced from 1968 to 1969, and within almost nine-month production period, around 150 examples were built, all of which were left-hand drive.
The Dino 206 GT was built on a 2,280 mm wheel base chassis and used a V6 1,987 cc engine with a 65o configuration, with chain-driven, twin overhead camshafts per bank. With a total output of 180 hp at at 8000rpm, the car was capable of a top speed of 140 mph.
The car featured a traditional tubular steel chassis with the engine mid-transversely-mounted, this having been the first time such a configuration had been used on a road-going Ferrari. The 206 GT was also the first Ferrari to use direct rack and pinion steering. Suspension was via coil springs with telescopic Koni dampers, anti-roll bars being fitted front and back along with disc brakes and knock-off Cromodora alloy wheels.
The smooth, rounded body style – full curves of the front wings flowing into the cabin with its scalloped door panels, then into the curves of the rear wings and buttressed sail panels, terminating abruptly in a Kamm tail –drew universal praise. The shape is still widely regarded as a design classic. Unusually for the time, as most Ferrari models were built with steel bodies and aluminium opening panels, the Dino 206 GT had a full aluminium body. The tail panel carried a pair of circular lights at each side, also a feature of the 365 GTB4 ‘Daytona’, which was presented around the same time. Similarly, the two cars shared a very similar aluminium-faced, oval instrument panel that featured black-faced circular dials.
At its launch Dino was described by the specialist as "Tiny, brilliant, safe...almost a Ferrari."