2014 Alfa Romeo 4C & 1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT – Road Comparo (w/video)


It’s the same story at virtually every turnout on the streets that twists up Southern California’s Palomar Mountain. Motorists pass by slowly, then gawk out their windows. Sometimes they stop for a closer inspection. Sometimes they’ve already stopped and saunter over to ask questions, nearly always prefaced by, That’s a beautifulalong with a ’72 Ferrari Dino 246 GT, two cars that kids from 8 to 80 would agree epitomize excitement on wheels. Although a lot more than 40 years separate our subjects, they’re remarkably similar in concept.

The aesthetics strike most people first. Both are voluptuous, with short, low hoodlines and side-mounted scoops aft of the doors-dead giveaways on their mid-engined configurations. With spartan cabins and fixed-back race-inspired seats, each was designed to provide the basic elements ofBy the time development began on the Dino from the mid-1960s, Enzo Ferrari was certainly no stranger to mid-engined race machines. Ferrari Formula One cars had been mid-engined since 1960 and the marque had a succession of mid-engined sports racers under its belt. Still, was unwilling to build a street car by having an engine located behind the motorist, worried that its limits would come with too little warning for those whose last names weren’t Hill or Surtees. As the story goes, Sergio Pininfarina was instrumental in convincing Enzo otherwise, his studio producing the gorgeous concept for the 1965 Paris motor Sergio and show himself penning sketch after sketch for Enzo’s approval. Ultimately, the oldis claimed to have helped develop before his early death in 1956 of leukemia. This motor was already successful in F1-a 1.5L version propelled Mike Hawthorne to the 1958 world championship. A few years later, 2.0L and 2.4L versions made their distance to the 206SP and 246SP racers, respectively. Putting it within the Dino had another advantage: It willtrusted its fairly recent partnership with Fiat. If Fiat produced them at its Turin plant, it was free to use them in the vehicle of its own. So was born the front-engined Fiat Dino, but that’s a narrative for another time.from its all-alloy, transversely mounted 2.0L V-6. Construction changed to a mix of steel and alloy panels by late 1969 when the 246 GT debuted, though the cars themselves were entirely alloy-bodied as well. This latter model’s 2.4L engine produced a claimed 195 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque, but the power increase only just offset the excess weight.within both cars, with disc brakes at all four corners or even a limited-slip differential. As either a tribute to his son or perhaps a clever marketing move (maybe a little of both), no Ferrari badges adorned the outside of any Dino. Instead, the now-iconic blue Dino signature on a yellow background was located on the nose, steering wheel, and wheel caps, the Dino line essentially being a sub-brand. The only position the Ferrari name appeared was on the build tag inside the driver-side doorjamb, leading to decades of would it beThe Alfa was designed in the more corporate environment, nevertheless the goal was the same: alithe and small, somewhat affordable baby supercar. To that particular end, the Alfa is created around a hand-laid carbon-fiber tub, with what is essentially the same expensive process used by F1 manufacturers. It’s partly the reason that capacity is simply 1,000 units a year, and it’s unlikely the company will see much benefit fromas much as 1,750 for legacy’s sake) that produces 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. In the vehicle this pure, there will be cries for a traditional-fashioned manual gearbox, but those cries will more than likely go unassuaged, if not unnoticed. Instead, the only gearbox currently available is the six-speed dual-clutch unit that also serves duty in the (cough) Dodge Dart. You can substitute Alfa Giulietta for Dodge Dart if that causes you to feel any better.sports car, with a tubular control-arm suspension up front, a fairly technical strut setup within the rear, and Brembo brakes with drilled rotors all over. Our tester also has the optional so-called racing exhaust, which is just to say there isn’t a muffler, merely a straight pipe to the catalytic converter. The track package adds a stiffer suspension and quintessentially Alfa 18- and 19-inch wheels wrapped in exclusive Pirelli P Zero tires. With a few other extras, our 4C Launch Edition involves nearly $70,000. Which means you could buy five of them and have money left over from selling a primo Dino.

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But enough quibbling over price-these cars were designed to drive. Jon Gunderson, the person who has not just graciously brought along the Dino but finished its rotisserie restoration only the evening before, throws over his keys and tells me to possess fun. The Dino’s door opens by pulling a fragile-looking chrome lever just below your window on the trailing edge. A click later and I’m dropping intoto the surprisingly roomy and comfortable cabin. The long, chrome shift lever sprouts from traditional Ferrari gates. The half-moon-shaped dashboard is correctly covered within the period mouse fur material, with a few switches that look vaguely like ventilation controls and an aluminum-trimmed instrument panel with jewel-like Veglia Borletti gauges wearing the Dino logo. Turn the Dino’s unassuming key to the 1st position along with the electric fuel pump starts whirring out back. Twist the key all the way up and the high-pitched starter spins, followed a moment later from a metallic bark as it fires up. Slot the lever down and left in to theto obtain moving smoothly, despite heavy steering at parking speeds and a typically Italian driving position, by using a fairly flat dish for the steering wheel which is a bit past the boundary away (or conversely, the pedals are far too close). Never mind, I’m quickly becoming accustomed to the car and our mountain road is beginning to feel as if a hillclimb stage. The Dino engine is an utter joy, by using a torquey, silky character which make itwhen I’ve passed 4,500 rpm, the engine absolutely yowls on its way toward the 7,800-rpm redline, the triple Webers lending a throaty induction overtone. Truth is, a well-driven Golf TSI will outrun a Dino any day each week. Still, there’s such a sensation of speed with the low seating position, the view out your wraparound windshield, and the noise of that glorious popping and spitting between rev-matched downshifts in to the next hairpin. The car corners nearly flat and the ride quality is shockingly good. It’s an incredibly visceral experience that cements the Dino’s place for an extremely special car. I was able to keep driving this same stretch of road for hours on end, frankly, but there’s an Alfa Romeo to get back to.from the 4C’s cabin. There’s little in the cabin, period. No armrests, no glovebox, no nifty trim details. Just a pouch within the dashboard for insurance and registration papers, two plastic cupholders mounted as non-ergonomically as possible in the center console, a drive mode toggle switch, and numerous buttons to set the car in gear. With all the Alfa’s wide carbon sills, it’s even more of a challenge to acquire inside. But it’s not too bad once you’re there, unless you’re the passenger. In which case the center stack intrudes about the legs somewhatthumb and door the start button. Wait a moment, the starter motor engages and sets the engine right into a loud thrumming sound. Foot on the brake, push the 1 button for First gear, the A/M button to select manual mode, gas it, and go. The steering feels even heavier than the Dino’s moving away; no power assist here. And the cacophony of noises on the other side in the glass behind my head is in full swing. Any brief stab on the throttle has the turbocharger whistling and whooshing, whilst the engine starts revving with a gravelly bellow. The steering starts to lighten a little along with the thick rim of the wheel starts to come alive, following little seams within the road as though laser guided.the 4C is little fun at low speed. It’s noisy, rough-riding, and every little sound has a tendency to get thrown and amplified round the hard-trimmed cabin. A daily driver the Alfa is not. But as speed increases, so does my interest. Acceleration is a rush, especially following the Dino, and also the car is really pure, so precise. The brake pedal is firm and there’s not much travel. Like a race car, you push the pedal harder, not farther to stop faster. There’s a hint of initial understeer at most corner entries, easily rectified with a little trail braking or, more entertainingly, a stab in the throttle mid-turn, which brings the back around soelegance and passion, and performance-basically, a baby Ferrari 458-will probably be disappointed. There’s no such grace from the 4C’s driving experience. It’s just full-bore madness at all times. It’s an Italian-made Radical racer for your street. You will find, your wife will absolutely hate it. The Dino-on the other hand, and despite being 42 years old-almost seems like it could be driven every day. It has that magical Ferrari ride quality that somehow seems to make the car feel substantial, stiff and light and compliant all at the same time. And it’s an authentic rolling sculpture on the road, making great noises to boot. Given a sunny morning without any particular spot to be, I’d gladly take either.

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The Dino King

Jon Gunderson restored the silver ’72 Dino 246 GT shown in this story at his shop in Escondido, California. Gunderson caught the Dino bug as a young American traveling abroad, going on to own several examples. After retiring, he began tearing down a Dino to satiate his workaholic tendencies. Without having previous experience, he went on to restore that car before setting up shop in a local warehouse to regenerate them for customers. He currently has nearly ten years of experience and multiple restorations completed, with several more in progress. For more information, or even to see his current projects, visit dinorestoration.com.