Six cars with Ferrari engines that aren't Ferraris – Axon’s Automotive Anorak

22nd May 2020
Gary Axon

Our roads have turned noticeably quieter (in terms of volume; both traffic and engine) during the Coronavirus pandemic – down to 1955 levels – as we are all understandably discouraged from making none-essential journeys.


The wail of a high-performance engine at full chat has therefore recently become a rare aural treat, and very evident as it breaks the still of the air now dominated by tweeting birds and distant barking dogs around my home in the rural ‘shires.

So, the recent shock (and pleasure) of hearing a rorty Ferrari V12 motor passing by on the road nearest Axon Towers (with a fleeting glimpse of a scarce 365 GTC/4 shooting past) was a brief but very welcome distraction that shattered the countryside silence. Hearing the wail of that well exercised Maranello motor set me thinking about some of the equally musical, but less-celebrated, ‘alternative’ Ferrari-powered cars that were never to wear the iconic yellow prancing horse badge, but still had the beating heart of a Ferrari engine under their bonnets.

Obvious ‘alternative’ non-Ferrari-badged models such as the original Dino-branded 206, 246 and 308 GT4 immediately sprang to mind, as did some of the more recent Ferrari-powered FCA Automobiles Group models, including the Maserati MC12 and Gran Turismo, plus the sensuous Alfa Romeo 8C.

Here are half-a-dozen other Ferrari-powered cars that you may be rather less familiar with however, yet they equally deserve their moment in the spotlight.


1962 ASA 1000 GT

The Ferrari-developed, Giugiario-designed, Bertone-bodied ASA 1000 GT (ASA being an abbreviation of Autocostuzioni Societa per Aziono) was a mini Ferrari 250 GT. With styling far more akin to Bertone’s own coupe versions of the NSU Prinz and Simca 1000 that it both designed and built, the ASA 1000 GT had a far more exotic technical specification – and a considerably higher price – than these contemporary rivals, mainly due to its Ferrari-developed engine.

ASA was founded in Turin in 1962 by the de Nora family, local, wealthy industrialists. Based on the proposed 'baby' Ferrarina Pininfarina Ferrari 850, the ASA GT was powered by an all-aluminium single-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder engine displacing 1,032cc, engineered by Giotto Bizzarrini (of Ferrari 250 GTO, ISO and Bizzarrini GT fame), and sliced from Ferrari's Colombo-designed V12, developed by Carlo Chiti, senior engineer at Maranello at the time. The ASA’s power was 98PS, with an power-to-displacement ratio superior to that of the contemporary Ferrari 275 GTB!

The Bertone-built ASA GT coupe’s body was mounted on a tubular steel chassis, with its advanced specification including servo-assisted four-wheel disc brakes and a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox with overdrive. Top speed was in the region of 110mph.

A soft-top ASA 1000 Spider version appeared in 1963 to join the exquisite but expensive 1000 GT coupe. Unfortunately, like many small producers of expensive, hand crafted vehicles, ASA struggled and in 1967 production ceased after an estimated 90-or-so coupes and a smaller number of Spiders (around 16) had been built. These sophisticated, jewel-like mini-Ferraris are highly desirable and much sought-after collectors’ items today.


1960 Pininfarina ‘Ferrarina’ Tipo 850 GT Prototype

Born out of Enzo Ferrari’s desire to enter a smaller, more attainable sector of the sports car market, in the late 1950s il Commendatare commissioned his preferred coachbuilder Pininfarina to develop and build a working prototype coupe, powered by a small Ferrari-built 850cc engine.

The resultant ‘Ferrarina’ 850 GT was first seen in 1960, based on the chassis of the contemporary Fiat 1200. This Pininfarina prototype was initially totally anonymous, giving little clue of its Ferrari roots, with a star emblem replacing the traditional prancing horse badge. The Ferrarina also briefly sported Fiat branding as well, a foretaste of things to come a few years later with the Italian automotive industrial giant’s takeover of Ferrari, plus its charming Fiat Dino models.

The styling of the small, two-door Ferrarina GT coupe was typical of Pininfarina contemporary look, sharing the design language of the Turin styling studio’s Lancia Flaminia, Peugeot 404, Fiat 1800-2300 Berlinas and the BMC family of dreary ‘Farina’ saloons (Austin Cambridge, Morris Oxford, Riley 4/68, and so on). Ferrari’s Tipo 850 GT never came to commercial fruition, but it formed the basis of the first prototype of what was to become the delightful ASA 1000 GT.


1964 Innocenti 186 GT

The Ferrari-powered Innocenti 186 GT is a curious beast. It was a sports GT coupe jointly developed by Innocenti and Ferrari from 1963-64, but never put into production. Just two prototypes were ever built, with one still surviving today.

Innocenti entered passenger car production in 1960, when its existing and established main products were machinery, plus the highly successful Lambretta scooter. Innocenti entered a deal with BMC (British Motor Corporation) to locally assemble the Austin A40 in Italy, later followed by its own versions of the Austin-Healey Sprite and BMC Mini.

Founder Ferdinando Innocenti wished to expand his automotive operations by introducing a small GT coupe. He related his vision to Enzo Ferrari, and in 1963 this ambition materialised in form of an agreement between the two Italian car companies, with Ferrari designing a coupe with a V6 engine; essentially half of a Ferrari V12. An engineering team was put together in Maranello, overseen by Innocenti's technical director Sando Colombo, assisted by Innocenti engineers, and composed of key Ferrari personnel, including gifted engine designer Franco Rocchi.

The subsequent Bertone-styled 186 GT was powered by a 1.8-litre, 12-valve, single OHC 60° V6, producing 156PS, with the engine mated to a British-derived four-speed manual with overdrive on third and fourth gears. In the best Ferrari tradition, the Innocenti used a steel tube frame with a separate body, the aluminium 2+2 coupe coachwork clothed by Bertone to a (then young) Giorgetto Giugiaro design.

Just as the Innocenti 186 GT was virtually ready to enter series production in 1964, the project was halted for two key reasons. The first was the existing Innocenti car sales network, which was under-developed and not adequate for the distribution of such a premium sports car; the network still being largely dependent on its many Lambretta motorcycle dealers, which would have struggled to service a Ferrari engine. The other was the Italian recession of 1964-65, a far from ideal environment in which to launch an expensive GT car aimed at affluent buyers.

Of the two 186 GT prototypes built, one was destroyed, while the other remained in storage at an Innocenti facility until the building was demolished in 1994 following Fiat’s acquisition of the marque, the surviving car being rescued by Maserati historian Ermanno Cozza.


1966 Fiat Dino

Less than three years ahead of Fiat’s inevitable acquisition of Ferrari in 1969, the giant Turin vehicle maker – then Europe’s largest – introduced the first of two delightful Fiat-badged Dino models, the Bertone-designed Coupe (as famously used by the Mafia leader in The Italian Job film), plus the rarer Pininfarina-bodied Spider.

These Fiat Dinos were both powered by Ferrari’s new V6 engine, which were produced by Fiat and installed in these models – plus Ferrari’s then-new mid-engined Dino 206 GT two-seaters – to achieve the production numbers sufficient for Ferrari to homologate the new V6 motor for Formula 2 competition use.

Formula 2 engines were required to have no more than six cylinders for the 1967 race season, and to be derived from a road car production motor, homologated in the GT class and produced in at least 500 examples within a 12-month period.

Since a small manufacturer like Ferrari did not possess the production capacity to reach such quotas, an agreement was signed with Fiat to produce the 500 V6 engines required, to be installed in a GT car.

Dino was the nickname of Enzo Ferrari's son Alfredo, who died in 1956 and was credited with the concept for Ferrari's Formula 2 V6 racing engine, with its unusual 65° angle between the cylinder banks. In Alfredo’s memory, V6-engined Ferrari sports prototype racing cars had been named Dino since the late 1950s.

The initial 1966 Dino 2.0-litre and early 2.4-litre models were assembled by Fiat, but from December 1969 the Fiat Dino was assembled in Maranello on Ferrari's production line, alongside the 246 GT. Between 1966 and 1969, 3,670 2.0-litre Fiat Dino Coupes and 1,163 2.0-litre Spiders were made. Just 420 of the later Fiat Dino Spider 2400 were built, making this the most sought-after and valuable of all Fiat Dinos today. Of the total 7,803 Fiat Dinos produced, 74 per cent were the Bertone Coupe, and only 26 percent the stylish Pininfarina Spider.


1971 Lancia Stratos HF

Following the Dino V6 engine’s successful mid-mounted installation in the Dino 206/246 GT (as well as the front-engined Fiat Dinos), the Ferrari engine was chosen by Fiat in the early 1970s for fitment into Lancia’s latest rally weapon, to replace the highly successful front-wheel-drive V4 Fulvia.

The Fulvia’s compact V4 engine had been selected by Bertone to power its extreme wedge Lancia Stratos Zero concept car in 1970, a low, wild, mid-engined prototype with driver access gained through the top-hinged windscreen! As Lancia was more traditionally linked with rival Pininfarina, Bertone was very keen to establish a relationship with the long-admired and innovative Torinese marque.

Bertone knew that Lancia was looking for a replacement for the ageing Fulvia for rally use. Nuccio Bertone himself appeared at the main Lancia factory gates with the Stratos Zero prototype, famously driving underneath the factory security barrier to great applause from the Lancia factory workers. This ‘stunt’ worked, and Lancia awarded Bertone the contract to develop a new rally car, based around the imaginative ideas of Bertone’s chief designer Marcello Gandini, who was already credited with the designs of the influential the Lamborghini Miura and Countach (and went on to style the Citroën BX and Renault 5 ‘Supercinq’!).

Lancia presented its own Bertone-designed Lancia Stratos HF prototype at the 1971 Turin Motor Show, with this dramatic dart-profiled mid-engined two-seater built around Ferrari’s Dino V6 motor. Enzo Ferrari was reported to be reluctant to sign off the use of this engine in a car he saw as a competitor to his own Dino 246 GT, but after the production of this model had ended in 1973, he agreed to deliver the V6 motors for the Stratos, with Lancia suddenly receiving 500 units out of the blue.

The Stratos went on to become one of the most successful rally weapons of the 1970s and early ‘80s, beginning a new era in rallying, the Lancia being the first car designed specifically for this kind of competition. The plan worked as the Ferrari-powered Stratos won the World Rally Championship title for Lancia in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Lancia returned to Ferrari power in the 1980s for its LC2 endurance racers, which also enjoyed some notable competition success.


1984 Lancia Thema 8.32

Following the phenomenal rallying success of its Stratos HF, Lancia revisited a Ferrari power unit in 1984 to install in its range-topping Thema 8.32 performance executive saloon.

With an engine designed by Ferrari and built by Ducati, the imaginatively-named Thema 8.32 had eight cylinders and 32 valves, sharing its Ferrari 3.0-litre V8 with Ferrari’s own contemporary 308 GTS/GTB and Mondial Quattrovalvo models, but with a cross-plane crankshaft and other modifications more befitting a comfortable four-door executive saloon car. The Thema’s engine was cast at Maranello and assembled at nearby Ducati, just a stone's throw away in Bologna. 

With the Ferrari motor crammed into the Lancia's nose, and 212PS being transmitted to the front wheels (!), the Thema 8.32 could sprint from 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds. The 8.32 could be identified from lesser Thema derivatives with its significantly more luxurious bespoke leather interior, plus minor styling tweaks, unique wheels, an adaptive damping system, upgraded brakes and steering, plus an electronically raised rear spoiler recessed into the boot lid.

Like most of the Ferrari-powered car highlighted here, today the Lancia Thema 8.32 is an oft-forgotten and under-rated car; something that can rarely be said of its Ferrari-branded distant cousins.

Main image courtesy of Bonhams. Stratos images courtesy of Motorsport Images. 

  • Ferrari

  • Fiat

  • Pininfarina

  • Lancia

  • Stratos

  • ASA

  • Innocenti

  • Bizzarini

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