Vintage Corner: Ferrari Dino 246 GTS

Did ownership by a world-famous singer help value?

On June 10, someone snagged a 1972 Ferrari 246 Dino GTS on the Bring A Trailer online auction site for $568,000. It was not a record for a Dino. That appears to belong to one that sold at RM Sotheby’s 2023 Amelia Island auction for $868,000 a year after one had sold for $858,000 on Bring A Trailer.

The red Dino that sold on BaT on June 10 did have some records behind it, however. We’re referring to the original owner who has been making music for six decades: Cher. Did her early ownership of the car affect value? It’s hard to say, but the car has an interesting history, and the sale included 51 years of ownership documentation.

1965: A Very Good Year

About the time that Sonny and Cher Bono burst onto the music scene as a duo with the 1965 hit “I Got You Babe,” Ferrari had begun planning to launch a road car called Dino. The name came from Enzo Ferrari’s son Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari, who had worked at Ferrari as an engineer and had instigated the development of a V6 engine for Formula 1 and sports racers. The Ferrari scion died in 1956 of muscular dystrophy at the age of 24.

The first Ferrari racers ones to wear a “Dino” badge were the 166p and 206P sports racers1965. That year, Ferrari’s design partner, Pininfarina, had begun building concept cars for a mid-engine road model.

Red Ferrari Dino 246 GTS interior
The Dino’s interior was as sports car-purist as could be in the 1970s. (source: Bring A Trailer/Hearst)

The Fiat Connection

The plan to build such a car hatched when Ferrari found it needed to build 500 examples of a production car to be able to use the engine in Formula 2 racing in the 1967 season. As F2 that year required six-cylinder engines, a Dino road car moved to the front burner.

To build that many engines quickly enough, Ferrari forged a partnership with Fiat to build the 2.0-liter DOHC V6. Fiat would also use the engine in two of its own premium models, a coupe designed and built by Bertone and a convertible from Pininfarina. These 1967 models wore the “Dino” script badge, and the same one appeared on the eventual Ferrari model, the 1968 Dino 206 GT.

Perhaps due to the Fiat connection, and the fact that up until that point all Ferrari road cars had been V12-powered, Enzo did not want his car to be badged a Ferrari. Notably, the engine specs were the same for the Ferrari and the Fiats. Probably in deference to Ferrari’s status, however, Fiat rated engine output at 160 horsepower, while Ferrari quoted 180.

Yes, A Real Ferrari

A marketing brochure for the Dino 206 GT had described the sports car as “small, quick, safe … almost a Ferrari.” Despite the lack of a Ferrari badge, customers knew what it was. Pininfarina was not the only Ferrari partner involved in the Dino. Scaglietti, a long-time builder for Ferrari, made the Dino bodies, the first 150 being in aluminum.

Several major changes came for 1969. The engine was upsized to 2.4 liters, and it also shifted from an aluminum cylinder block to cast iron. The car’s wheelbase was stretched by 2.4 inches, and body material was now steel. The car became the 246 GT to reflect the engine change. Also in 1969, Fiat bought a 50-percent stake in Ferrari.

Like the Dino racing V6, the 2.4-liter V6 used a 65-degree angle between cylinder banks, dual overhead camshafts for each bank, and three Weber two-barrel carburetors. Ferrari claimed 195 horsepower and 166 lb.-ft. of torque. A five-speed manual was the only transmission offered.

Red Ferrari Dino 246 GTS left rear view
The Dino’s body was designed by Aldo Brovarone and Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina. (source: Bring A Trailer/Hearst)

Not Quite Ferrari-Fast

The Dino 246 GT was not the road rocket most would associate with Ferrari today. Zero-to-60 took about eight seconds, and top speed could exceed 140 mph. The Dino’s forte was carving up curvy roads as only a light mid-engine sports car could do. Ferrari’s main sports car line would never go back to a front engine layout.

In 1972, the 246 GT got a companion GTS model with a one-piece lift-off roof panel like that of the Porsche 911 Targa. Ferrari would go on to build 1,300 GTS models through 1974, when the original Dino series ended. That was in addition to the 150 206 GTs and then 2,300 246 GTs. By 1974, final year for the Dino 246, the U.S. price of a GTS exceeded $15,000.

Red Ferrari Dino 246 GTS right rear view
The 246 Dino GTS joined the GT coupe in 1972. (source: Bring A Trailer/Hearst)

Cher Buys a Ferrari

Cher and husband Sonny were known to appreciate fine cars. The success of their early records – together and with Cher separately – and then in the early 1970s with their television variety show, afforded them the opportunity to buy their favorites.

As documented by Ferrari historian Marcel Massini, Cher bought her first 1972 Dino 246 (the car featured here) in December 1972, finding it on the showroom floor at Hollywood Sport Cars. At some point during her 15-month ownership, Cher had friend and famed customizer George Barris paint the Dino a light blue, reportedly tearing off a piece of her dress for him to match the color.

A few months later, Cher recorded and released two #1 hit singles, “Dark Lady,” and then “Half Breed,” the latter written about her mixed heritage by Al Capps and Mary Dean. It seemed appropriate, somehow, that her Dino was looked upon similarly by some in the car community. Meanwhile, many Dino owners had Ferrari badges installed on their cars to show the true lineage.

Vintage photo of Cher and her 1972 Ferrari Dino
Cher and young actress Tatum O’Neil getting into a Cher’s first Dino, seen here in the light blue painted by George Barris. (source: Bring A Trailer/Hearst)

A Racer and an Architect

Cher was not the car’s only owner of some repute. Chris Cord, a successful professional sports car racer who also happened to be the grandson of automotive entrepreneur E.L. Cord, became the Dino’s second owner in spring 1974, but it was sold again that summer. (Cher reportedly bought another Dino, keeping it for years.)

The third owner, Donald MacDonald, is a renowned architect who collaborated with bridge engineers to create the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge project, among others. He owned the Dino for 39 years, and it was apparently repainted in red under his ownership. Oddly, he also had the chrome bumpers painted black.

The Dino then went through an on-again, off-again restoration by two different dealer-owners, most recently DriverSource, which featured a Dino expert on its own YouTube channel to discuss the car’s history. The restoration included a repaint back to its original Rosso Chiaro color before being offered on Bring A Trailer.

Red Ferrari Dino 246 GTS front left view
The Dino was restored back to its original Rosso Chiaro color. (source: Bring A Trailer/Hearst)

In Line with the Dino Market

It’s hard to gauge whether this Dino’s celebrity ownership influenced its value. Hagerty values for the 1972 Dinto 246 GTS show $680K for “Concours” condition, $610K for “Excellent,” and $495K for “Good.” Perhaps if the Dino had been preserved in the custom paint done by Barris for Cher, it might have earned more with her personal stamp on it. What we do know for certain is that the beat goes on

Cher California registration card
Cher’s California registration was included in the car’s 51 years of documentation. (source: Bring A Trailer/Hearst)
Jim Koscs
Written by Jim Koscs, Audamotive Communications