Giant test Ferrari Dino 246GT vs Porsche 911S

2014 Drive-My

Ferrari Dino 246GT vs. Porsche 911S – 1971 giant test-drive. Driving Ferrari’s lowest-priced car and Porsche’s highest-priced car shows that you don’t always get what you pay for — sometimes you get more/by Eric Dahlquist. The first Ferrari Dino 246 GT I saw was hidden in the shadow of two Rolls Royces in the ballroom of the Pavillion Royale Restaurant during the week of the 1969 Paris Auto Show. It was a metallic gray and the paint flowed over the sculptured body like a steel-colored mirror. Inside, there was the smell of leather like a good pair of gloves. After you squirmed into the pleated driver’s seat, your arms went naturally to the steering wheel; it was closer to belting down the Autostrada toward Torino than most other Americans could ever get… until this September.

By some stroke of magic the Ferrari group, with Fiat’s millions at their back, are actually going to import a Dino 246 that meets all the U.S. safety and smog regs. The asking price will be $13,500 or thereabouts. And that brings up the questions of the season: Is one of the slickest Ferraris ever designed, V6 mid-engine and all, really worth thirteen-and-a-half grand? Is there another car that does the same things as well? Or better? Could it be the prosaic, old Porsche 911S that’s right under our very noses, perhaps?

Ferrari Dino 246GT vs Porsche 911S

Giant test Ferrari Dino 246GT vs Porsche 911S – original 1971 year test drive (USA) foto

Porsche sold 4,618 of the 911 series (T, E & S) in this country last year, more than Jaguar’s E type or even Mercedes 350 SE. Ferrari, for their part, with the 246’s September announcement, will, at under 14 grand, offer the lowest-price job they have since 1968. In perspective, the Dino is just about half the cost of everything else they’ve got in Maranello, a kind of Pinto in the Ferrari line. Excited by the phenomenal success here of such other pecans as the Mark III Continental, Rolls Royce, Mercedes 3.5 — 6.3-280SL and Porsche 911S, itself, the Dino is Ferrari’s first real thrust at maybe the world’s largest mega-dollar car market; a possibly short lived market with U.S. governmental control of all automobiles sold after about 1974 becoming stark reality. It is no longer even a random reflection that the Dino and 911S may be two of the last great, trick cars ever to. be sold here at any price.

Ferrari Dino 246GT

Side-by-side with even the likes of a 911S, the Dino’s visual impact is so forceful you almost don’t see the other car for a moment. With curves and bulges and flares and scoops sweeping over the low silhouette, the Pininfarina designed 246 is seemingly the epitome of the contemporary automobile.

And yet, when you start really matching the two cars, line-for-line, the Porsche demonstrates the classic economy of line characterizing all German vehicles — form following function — and you wonder if all the Italian trick stuff is actually worth the expense. Because, the more complicated you make a car, the more possibility there is for assembly and finish irregularities, some of which the Ferrari has and the Porsche doesn’t. On a recent Porsche factory tour, we saw how 911S’s were nearly hand built, emerging from the conglomeration of old stone buildings with every welded seam filed smooth, every door template-perfect, every paint-job glass- smooth, no drooping moldings, no loose stitching, each and every unit as near perfect as 3,891 workers can make it. This is not to say the Ferrari is thrown together by any means, but when you look carefully at places like the door jambs, seams under the hood, and luggage compartment, Porsche quality is superior. Ferraris are virtually hand- built as well, but where the Italians do three a day, the Germans manage 60.

Porsche 911S 901

Both machines have unexpectedly large interiors, the Porsche’s more practical because of the two rear jump seats that fold flat when needed. Porsche advertises the 911 as a 2 plus 2 con-figuration which, in reality, means that you can theoretically compress two adults back in there for a short burst. With a transverse mid-engine, the Ferrari has no such four-passenger pretense. Neither has it adequate seat travel for anyone over about six feet tall. Not only that, but the buckets are a one-piece shell with seat back rake- angle provided for by rocking the whole thing back several degrees. If you’re over the normal Italian range, buying a Dino is sort of like buying an Italian suit custom-tailored for somebody else — it can be made to fit at your own expense.

The 911, on the other hand, will accommodate just about everybody except Wilt Chamberlain and he drives a Maserati Ghibli anyway. Besides 8 inches of seat travel and completely adjustable seat backs, the clutch/brake/accelerator pedal arrangement is set into the footwell as opposed to the Dino which elevates the clutch and brake about a foot off the floor and puts the accelerator nearly vertical. This has the effect of reducing further an already marginally adequate legroom condition.


As far as visibility goes, both machines have large window-to-sheetmetal ratios. Pininfarina created a “sail-pillar” effect for the original ’66 Dino show car, thin rib lines swooping down from the roof to the rear deck. They effect the profile of a fastback without actually having one, a scheme GM found attractive from ’66-’67 for their intermediates and the latest Corvette. In fact, from the rfear, a Dino and Sting Ray have more’ than passing resemblance, except that where Chevrolet provides a flat rear window, Ferrari concocted a wrap-around glass masterpiece that eliminates the Corvette’s blind spot.

Dashboard layout in both machines is excellent, one oval instrument cluster directly in front of the driver — large tachometer and speedometer dominating. All controls function well and are easily reached. Dino interior exudes the look of custom show car. Instrument cluster is well situated.

Once you climb inside either the Dino or the 911, and get the engine lit, you know why you’re here in the first place. The things have the look and feel and sound of genuine racers. Nothing so easy as replicas of NHRA Pro Stocks or road-going SCCA Trans-Am’s, but the real McCoys that have it out at Nurburgring, Spa and Le-Mans. Whoop! The tach needle darts up to six grand in an eye-blink. No geriatric, lackadaisical, response, or 5900 rpm-red-lines, just wailing, raspy exhaust. The Porsche sounds different than the Dino, it’s flat six, Bosch mechanical fuel injection manufacturing a lighter, less throaty value. Surprisingly, although its engine is stuck way out in the tail, the Porsche passenger compartment admits more noise than the mid-engine Dino. A tribute to Ferrari’s better sound-deadening program.

Both powerplants are all crammed into their nacelles and anything beyond spark plug replacement or carburetion system adjustment on either will demand engine removal. The water cooled 2418cc (148 cu. in.) Ferrari is probably the more exotic of the two alloy sixes by dint of its DOHC setup — two of anything is always better than one. Chain-driven cams act directly on a two valves-per-cylinder hemi combustion chamber configuration, drawing mixture from three 40 DCN Weber carburetors. Power is taken off the crank through a hydraulic operated clutch and routed, a la Toronado, by a chain back under the engine into a 5-speed transmission/ differential arrangement beneath the right-hand cylinder bank. In essence, it is the same engine/powertrain arrangement used in many front-wheel- drive cars like the Austin America, one thing stacked on top of another. Unlike the America, the 246 engine and transmission do not share a common sump.

Porsche’s classic air-cooled 1991cc (121.5 cu. in.) six has but one overhead- cam per side, acting on two-valves- per-cylinder with rocker arms. Bosch mechanical fuel-injection is used with a capacitor-discharge ignition, battery, coil and distributor. A single dry-plate clutch directs power to a Porsche-designed 5-speed transaxle. Lubrication is maintained by a 10.6 qt. dry-sump arrangement and cooled with such efficiency by the oil radiator that engine operating temperature seldom goes beyond 185°F. Unlikely as it may seem, both the 911 and 246 use Porsche synchronizers in their transmissions, for the very simple reason that they’re the best made.

Suspension philosophy varies from Germany to Italy. Where Porsche employs a McPherson-strut-type front arrangement with one shock/coil unit per side, Ferrari has unequal-length steel A-arms. In back the 911S designates one torsion-bar-per-wheel on trailing arms; the Ferrari, A-arms, again with shock/ coils. Each car has four-wheel-disc- brakes, 39.9 sq. in. of swept area on the Porsche, 48.8 sq. in. for the Ferrari. Stopping in either is above reproach.

On the road. That’s where these ma-chines are meant to be and as soon as you hit the two-lane blacktop, an immediate frustration begins to set in; not because the cars are inept, but just the opposite, they are so sweet to run up through the gears, so precise to turn, so exhilarating to corner — and there is almost no place left to do it. In two weeks of driving the 911S on normal roads, we never had to move out of third gear. For the freeway, fourth was comfortable and fifth indulged only because it was there. Cruising along at 65 mph, the tach reads 3000 and you know the red line is 7300 and the thing was designed to go 144 — a hundred and forty-four- miles-an-hour — but you’ll never use it.

Straightline Porsche 911S and Dino 246 performance is so close only driver competence will alter the delicate balance. Right on up through the rpm band both cars are side-by-side except that they feel different doing it. The Porsche doesn’t have bags of low-speed torque, so from rest in low you must ease into the clutch rather than pop it. Every increment on the tach signals a corresponding noticeable increase in power output until about five grand, when the engine seems to get on-cam and buzz up to 7000, issuing one of the most delicious mixes of sound and thrust available. With the wipers swinging their parallel arms and the spray flying, in an instant, you’re Steve McQueen accelerating up the Mulsanne Straight in the rain.

The Dino does it differently — not worse, but different. From about 45 mph to 70, the 246 seems to pull better, then flattens a hair until cars are equal again to about 144, when the Dino edges away slightly, not so much because of better aerodynamics, but that it’s lower, keeping air from underneath. You cannot deny the yowl of a Ferrari engine — it wells up out of the exhaust — at 4000, intensifying all the way to 7800 where it is just as ferocious as its bigger brothers. With its mid-engine and 50-50 weight distribution, the 246 feels completely neutral, enabling you to drive deeper into the comers than the 911S without under- or oversteer. With its rear engine, the Porsche oversteers, but it can understeer before that if pushed, setting up the rather bizarre condition of over-and-under steering almost simultaneously. Besides that, if you just yank off the throttle in a turn, you induce trailing-throttle oversteer. But, it’s not as bad as it sounds. What you have to do, is not go quite as rapidly in a comer, applying power gradually through the apex. You can actually feel the rear tires biting hard into the pavement. You would think that, because of all these shenanigans, the Dino could wildly out comer the 911S. Theoretically, yes. In reality, the Ferrari has barely perceptibly higher cornering velocity but only an experienced driver could use it because the Porsche is so much easier to go fast with comfortably right from the first.

There is a mixed bag of shifting characteristics. For the luxury of its mid-engine, the Dino’s gear changes are precise but stiff. Spring-loading the lever helps, yet the gate is too wide. And if the transmission is not thoroughly warmed up, the unit is even more balky, effectively destroying the synchros in very short time. The warm-up situation was further exacerbated by the excellent Ferrari transmission oil cooler that prolonged the time to normal operating temperature still more. In race cars this is desirable, on the street not; so the new 246s will be offered without the oil-cooler, eliminating the warm-up difficulties. The 911S has no such hang up. From dead cold, just a mile or so allows effortless gear changes up or down. The only real criticism of the Porsche layout is the rather vague patterns, low always the most difficult to find.

So, where are you? After one gets to the mystical $10,000 bracket, the economics of three-and-a-half or four grand more isn’t going to make any significant difference. What will is that Porsche has done a better job at producing a machine equally at home and equally competitive on the road or track, an extremely easy to drive car offering no surprises. Service is another thing, of course, and we know Porsche has a better record here as well. In the end, the 911S seems less a show car/racer than a road car/racer. And that’s why you’d want one — there is precious little fun left anymore.

Car Ferrari Dino 246GT 1971 Porsche 911S 1971
Wheelbase 88.2in 89.5in
Overall width 66.9in 63.39in
Front track 56.1in 54.2in
Rear track 55.1in 53.5in
Ground clearance (unladen) 5in 5in
Front headroom (seat uncompressed)
Rear headroom (seat uncompressed)
Front legroom (seat forward/back)
Overall length 163.4in 163.90in
Overall height (unladen) 43.9in 51.97in
Front shoulder room
Rear shoulder room
Rear legroom (seat forward/back)
Mechanical Specification     
Weight (in lbs kerb) 
2500 2250
Turning circle
Turns (lock to lock)
Main bearings (number) 
Cooling system
water air
Valve gear layout    
Ignition Marelli capacitor discharge Bosch capacitor discharge

Three Weber 40 DCN

Bosch mechanical fuel injection
Compression ratio
9.0:1  9.8:1
Capacity (cc) 2418 (148 cu. in.)

2195cc (133.8 cu. in.)

Bore (mm)
92.5 84
Stroke (mm) 
60 66
Power (net bhp/rpm)
225bhp at 7600rpm 200bhp at 6500rpm
Torque (net lb ft/rpm) 
192lb/ft at 5500rpm 164lb/ft at 5200rpm
five-speed maual all synchromesh five-speed maual all synchromesh
Top gear mph per 1000rpm
Final drive ratio 
Clutch : Make: 
spring single plate
Wheels and Tyres     
Wheels (type and size)
Tyres (type and size)
Replenishment & Lubrication     
Type of oil 10W/40 10W/40
Engine sump capacity (pints)
Engine oil change interval (miles)
Gearbox and final drive capacity (pints)
Gearbox capacity (pints)
Final drive capacity (pints)
Number of lights
Battery (make)


Braking (Actual stopping distance in feet)  
Fuel consumption  
Overall (mpg)
16-17 22-23
Driven carefully (mpg)
Star rating
Tank capacity
From standstill to mph. in seconds
0-30 2.8 2.5
0-45 4.3 4.3
0-60 6.1 7.3
0-75 10.2 10.6
Max speed 148mph (max speed in test) 144mph (max speed in test)
Price (1971, USA) $13,500 $9,471

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