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2009 Ferrari Dino

We've confirmed a top-secret project for a new, entry-level Ferrari to slot below the F430. The car is ambitiously timed for a late 2008 launch (although suppliers expect it to be delayed until early 2009). Officially, company executives scoff at the notion of such a Ferrari, but what if the new Ferrari wasn't, strictly speaking, a Ferrari? Just as was the case with the original Dino (see sidebar), Ferrari's new entry-level model probably will not be adorned with a Ferrari badge.

The car that's set to become the new Dino originally was half of a two-car Maserati program that used a shortened Quattroporte platform. The first is a two-plus-two that debuts at Geneva and will replace the GranSport coupe later in 2007. (The next Maserati Spyder, however, won't arrive until 2010 and is based on new four-wheel-drive components borrowed from the next-generation Alfa Romeo 166 sedan.)

The second car in the program is a smaller, lighter two-seater. And despite the official denials, Ferrari is a logical home for it, particularly when you learn that both cars need to go into production if the $50 million investment is ever to be recovered and that the next F430 (due in 2009) will move up significantly in base price from today's $175,000 to more than $200,000. That makes room for a lower-priced model, and by going the Dino route, there's no danger of diluting the Ferrari brand image.

The Maserati connection would define the car's key ingredients. They include a front-mounted engine, a control-arm suspension with electronic damper control, Brembo brakes with optional carbon-ceramic discs, and a body structure that uses plenty of aluminum and carbon fiber. What powers the new Dino? A high-revving 4.0-liter V-8 rated at 430 hp is a realistic starting point--not bad considering the car's target weight of 3500 pounds.

Priced at about $170,000, this car will be positioned against the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, the Porsche 911 Turbo, and the Audi R8. Boasting a Ferrari-shared V-8, a rear transaxle (like that from the 599GTB), a retractable hard top with an optional glass roof panel, and a steering wheel complete with the manettino drive-mode selector, it has plenty of Ferrari DNA.

It also picks up interesting historical threads. Not only does it resurrect the Dino concept, but it would be the first front-engine, eight-cylinder Ferrari in a half-century. Two sports racers with that configuration--powered by tiny 75-hp, 1.5-liter units--were built in 1940, but they wore Auto Avio Costruzioni 815 badges. Why? Because Enzo Ferrari, who had left Alfa Romeo to found his own company, agreed on a four-year grace period before he would start putting his name on his firm's cars.