Ferrari has been swearing up and down that they're not working on a new "baby Ferrari,",one that would pick up where the Dino line left off and slot in below the F430 range. "It'd dilute the brand," they say. "It'd compete with products from corporate cousins Alfa Romeo and Maserati," they claim. But this is another case of actions speaking louder than words, and the boys in red have been caught red-handed as paparazzo extraordinaire Hans G. Lehmann has caught a test mule tooling around near the factory in Maranello.

The mule is wearing F430 skins, but Lehmann gives us a few clues from his close encounter. First, the engine note reportedly sounds noticeably less sharp than the F430's. The new model is expected to use a 400-hp V8, rather than a V6 like the original Dino. It also won't likely carry the Dino nameplate, which was a sub-brand named after Enzo's late son Dino. Expect a more alphanumeric designation, possibly joined by an evocative and historic Italian racing name.

The prototype also has front fenders slightly wider than the F430's. There are some other differences discernable around the rear axle and gearbox, and because the prototype uses a different cooling system, the mule's side rocker panels are missing.

Several competitors the new "baby Ferrari" is aimed at have been spied going in and out of the factory as well, including the BMW M6 and Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Price is anticipated to come in around 100-110k euros, as compared to the F430's ??160k sticker price. Sources suggest Ferrari could easily find buyers for 4000 new Dinos each year, with an expected 2009 release date.

Styling's a bit of a question mark, with both Ferrari and Pininfarina design chiefs changing around, but we hope the new car will feature lines befitting the Prancing Horse.

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[Source: Winding Road]