RESTORATION OF A FIAT DINO
This blog follows a painstaking five year restoration of my 1971 Fiat Dino Spider by internationally renowned Dino expert Mark Devaney. The car previously had a poor quality paint job that concealed corrosion and poor repairs. In other respects the car had a high level of originality and wherever possible rust issues were addressed retaining as much original metal as possible. Where required, new sections were hand fabricated using traditional techniques, precisely replicating every factory detail, resulting in "tool room copy" authenticity. The bodyshell was painted to the same level of uncompromising perfection. In total over twelve hundred hours went into restoring, painting, detailing and reassembling the car.
In 2014 I bought a silver Fiat Dino 2400 Spider, the car of my dreams since my late teens. These cars are incredibly rare. I particularly wanted a silver one, only a handful were made in this colour. My car could even be the one in the photo above - I was probably about 3 when this was taken, but one day I might recreate this scene! My car is the identical twin of this one which recently sold at auction.
Like its famous sibling, the Dino 246GT, the Dino 2400 Spider was designed by Pininfarina, assembled on Ferrari’s new production line at Maranello, and powered by one of the greatest engines of all time, the Formula 2-derived Ferrari V6 Dino. Only 424 examples were built, making it the rarest of all Dino variants (except the super rare aluminium bodied 206). While the 246GT wore a Dino badge, Spiders were branded as Fiats (Fiat had taken a controlling stake in Ferrari around this time) and were distributed through Fiat's dealer network, priced accordingly for the Ferrari man on a budget.
After importing my car from Spain to the UK and enjoying the sound of that glorious engine for a summer I discovered that the shiny paint was concealing some extensive rust issues. The bodyshell is an early example of unitary construction where the body and chassis form a single unit. They were hand finished by craftsmen, meaning that there are often slight variations from car to car (and often between the left and right sides of the same car!) This combination of complex doubled skinned construction and hand built finish conspires to make the Fiat Dino among the most involved restoration challenges.
These cars received inadequate rust protection at the factory, even by the standards of the day. They were allegedly made of cheap Russian steel which can’t have helped. The bodyshells were dipped in a bath of rudimentary rust inhibiting primer, but there are period photos of bare shells awaiting paint outside the Pininfarina plant, open to the elements. When we disassembled my car we found evidence that the rust treatment had not penetrated cavities such as box sections and A pillar assemblies, internal surfaces were left as bare metal.
Most cars were sold into the domestic Italian market, those that were exported went to northern Europe in the main. Unlike 246GTs which were officially exported to the States, (where it is theoretically possible to find a car that has spent its entire life in a desert state such as Nevada), almost all Spiders spent at least part of their lives in Italy, a country of coasts and mountains with a temperate climate. It is likely that the majority of cars still wearing their original paint today will have corrosion in hard to reach areas, and given how involved eradicating rust from a Dino bodyshell is, a full body-off restoration is the only certain cure.
My car was sold new to a customer in Rome but spent most of its life in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark before coming to the UK via Spain. Some of the worst rust was in the footwells, which mostly appeared to be solid from beneath as the factory original underseal was fully intact. After stripping the shell we could see a plenty of daylight through them.
The aim of this restoration was to return the bodyshell as close as possible to its factory original condition, including all the correct profiles and embellishments that can only be replicated with deep and specialist knowledge.
The photo archive tells its own story.