Imparare ad Amare

The Ferrari Mondial is forty this year. Time to look back on the story of one of Maranello’s less illustrious creations.

1980 Mondial 8. (c) autoevolution

In my idle moments, I occasionally peruse Autotrader and do some fantasy shopping for the cheapest supercar I can find. When searching under Ferrari it was, until recently, a racing certainty that the model propping up the bottom end of the price range would be the Mondial, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year.

This was partly a result of its ubiquity. With 6,149 cars produced during its thirteen-year lifespan, it was one of Ferrari’s best-selling models. However, it was mainly down to the fact that the Mondial was never really loved by the marque’s aficionados, who regarded it as too compromised and soft to be considered a proper cavallino rampante.

The Mondial replaced the Bertone designed 308 GT4 and, like its predecessor, it attempted to combine a mid-engined layout with 2+2 seating, to provide occasional rear-seat accommodation for children or diminutive adults. Ferrari returned to Pininfarina for the Mondial, and the angularity of the 308 GT4 was replaced by a rather more curvaceous style in the Ferrari tradition.  The Mondial was attributed to Pierangelo Andreani, who also designed the 1981 Maserati Biturbo.

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The Mondial 8 was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1980. It was based on the chassis of the 308 GT4, but with a 100mm (4”) stretch in the wheelbase to improve interior accommodation. It had a transversely mounted 2,927cc V8 engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection that produced a relatively modest 214bhp, allegedly so that it could comply with new stricter worldwide emissions standards. The gearbox was a five-speed manual unit with a racing style dog-leg gearchange that placed first behind reverse, third behind second and fifth behind fourth in the same planes.

With the Mondial, Ferrari set out to build a car that would be more practical, not just in its accommodation but also in its day-to-day ownership and use. The engine was a well proven unit that had already been in use for six years. Servicing costs were relatively modest, at least by Ferrari standards. Unusually for a mid-engined design, both the clutch and timing belt could be replaced without removing the engine or transmission from the car.

The reaction of the motoring press at launch was rather lukewarm. While recognising its greater usability, they pointed out that the Mondial’s performance, particularly its 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds, was little better than the contemporary Mk1 Golf GTI, although it still outpaced the GTI considerably in terms of top speed, 143 versus 112mph. The Mondial was handicapped by its weight, 1,569kg compared to 1,286kg for its identically powered two-seater sibling, the 308 GTBi.

1982 Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole (c) ferrari.com

Ferrari took these early criticisms on the chin and set about improving the Mondial’s performance. In 1982 it introduced the Quattrovalvole, a four valve per cylinder version of the engine that raised the power output to 240bhp. The car was otherwise unchanged and was designated Mondial QV.

In 1983, a Cabriolet version of the Mondial QV was added to the range. This was still a 2+2, although the rear seats had to be mounted closer together in order to accommodate the roof mechanism. The Mondial cabriolet remains the only mid-engined 2+2 convertible produced by any manufacturer.

In 1985, the engine was enlarged to 3,185cc which lifted its power output to 266bhp. At the same time the Mondial was given a light facelift with more rounded body-coloured bumpers replacing the original black items. The interior also received a new instrument binnacle and other trim adjustments. The new model was designated Mondial 3.2.

1984 Ferrari Mondial Cabriolet (c) classicdriver.com

The Mondial was given a final and very major mechanical overhaul in 1989. The transverse engine was replaced by a longitudinally mounted V8, enlarged to 3,405cc, which was good for 296bhp. The gearbox remained transversely located, giving rise to the confusing Mondial T designation*. Visually, the car differed little from its predecessor, but a distinguishing feature was the smaller air intake in the rear quarter with a vertical rather than inclined trailing edge.

At last the Mondial had the performance to match the storied Ferrari name, with a 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 158mph. Handling was excellent, at least as good as its two-seater 348 TB sibling, and high-speed stability was better because of the Mondial’s longer wheelbase.

So, why was the Mondial, for all its later strengths, not appreciated more during its production life and in the years following? Certainly, it struggled to shake off the negative impression caused by the lacklustre performance of the original Mondial 8 model, but I think its real problem was rather more fundamental to the 2+2 design.

I suspect the answer lies in its appearance and, in particular, its side profile. The angular 308 GT4 hid its 2+2 layout quite well, but the Mondial’s extra 100mm between the wheels left an awful lot of bodywork between the trailing edge of the door and the rear wheel arch, which upset its proportions greatly. Worse, in order to improve headroom for rear passengers, whose seats were mounted higher than those in front, the roof was raised, which gave the Mondial an unfashionably (for a supercar) deep DLO.

Mondial T. (c) autoevolution

Put simply, the Mondial lacked the visual aggression usually associated with such cars and suffered as a consequence. Ferrari never repeated the Mondial format and its successor 2+2 GT cars have all been front-engined.

That said, there has been in recent years a reappraisal of the model and it is no longer possible to pick up an early second-hand one for the price of a well-equipped new supermini. As I write this, the cheapest Mondials on sale in the UK are at asking prices in the high £20k area and the centre of gravity for better examples seems to be in the high £30k’s. Maybe we’ve finally learned to love the Mondial?

* The ‘T’ stands for trasversale and was also a reference to the 1975 to 1980 Ferrari 312T series Formula One cars that won four constructor and two driver’s world championships; the latter for Niki Lauda in 1977 and Jody Scheckter in 1979.

That 1979 driver’s championship, Ferrari’s last until the Schumacher era, was also likely to have been the prompt for the Mondial name. In 1982, following the shocking death of Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari’s hopes rested upon team mate Didier Pironi, who appeared set to take the championship. However, his terrible crash at Hockenheim put paid to his motor racing career. Watching on his TV set at Marenello, Enzo is said to have muttered; “Addio Mondiale”.

 

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

39 thoughts on “Imparare ad Amare”

  1. Am I always doomed to go for under-dogs? The Mondial strikes me as a pleasant looking car, out of the same box as the Maserati Karif, perhaps, but less comfortable. I´m not bothered by the side profile. The most likely reason the car didn´t thrill the Ferrari set was the initial acceleration figures (as if 0-60 is the only measure of competence). Thanks for reminding me of this one. I am not a Ferrari person but this car is closer to my tastes than many of their others.

  2. Have to second richard herriott in not being a Ferrari fan yet finding the Mondial at least in later Mondial T form rather appealing despite not being a fan of popup headlights nor other aspects of their styling (that to be fair even afflicted the Mondial).

    Wished a better way was found for a decent fixed headlight Mondial conversion that was a significantly improvement over either the fixed headlight conversions of the 1984 Ferrari 412 Scaglietti prototype and 1989 Ferrari 412 Pavesi Ventorosso.

    1. Good morning gentlemen. I rather liked pop-up headlamps and wonder if banning them wasn’t pretty irrational from a pedestrian safety perspective. Putting it crudely, which would you sooner be knocked down by at night, a Mk1 Mazda MX-5 or a BMW X7?

    2. Subjectively the dislike for pop-up is personally down to aesthetic rather than safety grounds, have a similar dislike to roadsters / etc without a fixed roof coupe counterpart including the MX-5 (notwithstanding a few mk1 and mk2 coupe one-offs / prototypes).

    3. You wouldn’t believe it but you more probably will survive a hit by an X7 than an MX5. The MX5 will hit you low down and you will fall onto the bonnet with your head most probably hitting the screen wipers or the screen itself.
      On an X7 you will be hit between knee and pelvis (or thereabouts) and your head will hit the soft part of the bonnet.

    4. Hi Dave, wouldn’t the sheer height of the bonnet and bluff front end make it more likely that you would just end up going underneath an X7? I would have thought that the initial contact point would need to be quite low to ‘scoop you up’ onto a bonnet.

      Needless to remark, I know little or nothing about this and I’m not planning to test out my theories anytime soon!

    5. I’d guess Dave’s comments would apply in the case of adults, what with car fronts generally being designed to be ‘softer’ (also with regards to more empty space provided underneath the bonnet, or the fitting of air bags to briefly raise the bonnet in case of a pedestrian crash). I rather doubt the same would apply to a child though. But, I cannot stress this enough, I’m merely guessing here.

  3. Well, what is the cheapest Ferrari now? I find it ironic that both the most unloved (by enthusiasts) Ferrari and Maserati were styled by the same person.

    1. Good morning Andrew. Assuming that’s not a rhetorical question, on Auto Trader UK this morning it is still the Mondial (excluding a ‘Cat S’ 456) but at £31k for a 1982 example on 77k miles from a private seller, they’re no longer at new supermini prices.

      The 456 GT starts at £42k and that’s the model I would buy. That said, there’s nothing more expensive than a ‘cheap’ Ferrari!

    2. I once met a head hunting consultant who arrived at our appointment with a 456 ( so at least he seems to have made some decent money on his job). He told me that the average cost for a service at the Ferrari Centre was 4,000 to 5,000 EUR which he didn’t mind. He eventually replaced the Ferrari with a bit Benz coupé because after his seventieth birthday he had some difficulties with entering the Maranello car – in reality he had to sell it because his wife broke her finger nails on the Ferrari’s door openers.

    3. The 456 is utterly gorgeous and a dream car for me, but let’s just say that its reputation as a used buy precedes it… and not in a good way.

      The things that might go wrong will go wrong, and the things that surely can’t go wrong also go wrong. I can prepare myself for flaky mechanicals, but when the dashboard starts disintegrating from the top surface down and then melting from the central tunnel, I think I would find it very frustrating!

      On the other hand (and authenticity aside for a moment) you could probably get a facimile Ferrari interior 3D printed these days.

    4. Good Afternoon Daniel. Just like to add that the saying goes for old luxury cars as well. Experience with a few BMWs has taught me this lesson

  4. Don’t rely on me for investment advice, but I think the Mondial looks better and better as time passes, and will have its moment. A Ferrari you can actually use – either to take the kids out for a spin or use the back seats as luggage space for a touring holiday. It even looks rather charming.

  5. I don’t like the mondial, especially the rear pillar, all in all I think I see a Pontiac. I find the 456 Gt much more pleasant, I´d like to know what were the alternatives in 1982 for someone who wanted a car of this type, in addition to the Posche 911 which will probably be cheaper.

    1. Hi Marco. How about this, a 1997 456GTA with 42k miles for £42k?



      Much more subtle than any mid-engined Ferrari, and less likely to raise the heckles of other drivers too. On the other hand, it could easily be mistaken for one of these:

      The Hyundai Coupe would cost around £3k for a 2009 example.

    2. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

      Personally, if I were to buy a 456 (and put up with the heartache and trouble), it would have to have a manual gearbox, so you can add at least 10,000 euros to the budget.

    3. … 412 (tasteful, no?)

      Until the 456 the 4 seat Ferraris don’t get much love, but since a 456 in 1982 would have necessitated time travel, may I choose the DeLorean, um -that- DeLorean, you know the one…

    4. I would avoid the automatic as the transaxle of the GTA is a bespoke device built in period by Ricardo using bits of the GM 4T80 transmission. I understand it is extremely difficult to have it repaired should it fail.

    5. Hi Daniel, I would go for the Hyundai and keep the money, or for an Alfa Romeo GTV or for the Fiat Coupe, great period for the Fiat Group.

  6. I’ve always thought the Mondial looked clean and discreet, particularly in dark blue. With one exception : the dreadful clumsy side intake grilles. For me, they look cheap and crudely stuck on, and are completely at odds with the rest of the car’s simple detailing. If I had a Mondial, I’d remove them and come up with something simpler – originality be damned. 🙂 I wonder if Daniel might be tempted to use his considerable Photoshop skills to mock something up?

    1. Hi Ric, happy to oblige. Original and adjusted below:


    2. How about this? I raised the waistline about 50mm and reduced the depth of the DLO by the same amount, to keep the overall height the same:

      Does that, and the repositioning of the air intake, make for a more attractive side profile?

    3. God, I love you lot. My first thought reading the article: “Those side strakes!” They don’t belong! It’s like they airbrushed in an intake from a hovercraft, it’s totally at odds with the rest of the design. What in the world were they thinking if? How was the thought process going? Who ok’d it for production? My second thought reading the article and before hitting the comments: “Could someone please Photoshop them out and make it right?”

      But I liked your first proposal better, Daniel. No raising of the deck line please, don’t touch the curves! This is a Pininfarina forte and nobody does it better. I have only my intuitive feel, but the original feels more dynamic while yours are more static.

  7. The problem of the design is one of packaging. There’s never been an aesthetically satisfying mid-engined 2+2 ever in my humble opinion, all suffer for the compromise of the design. Cars like the M530 comes to mind, one of the most ungainly cars ever made. At least it can be forgiven because it was early in the development of mid-engined cars and they hadn’t found their form factor yet. In that sense, Pininfarina used all the tricks in the book to make as a harmonic design they possibly could and I can’t find a more beautiful solution than this. Is there any mid-engined 2+2 that can have it beat?

    1. Hi Ingvar, I take your point about the car with the higher waistline. It does look more bulky, but I still wonder if it’s a worthwhile trade-off for the shallower DLO? I’d be curious to hear what others think.

      One of the benefits or relocating the engine vent is that it disguises to some extent the large space between the trailing edge of the door and the rear wheel arch. I think this improves the proportions somewhat. Either way, the original vent is awful looking. The Mondial T had a smaller and squarer vent, but it still wasn’t great:

    2. My initial thought doing this thought experiment years ago was to substitute it for the 308’s side scallop and speed hole. But I see now that was a bad idea and your first proposal is the way to go. The Mondial is more of a gentleman’s car and doesn’t need speed holes to make it better, I think less is more is actually the better way. You relocating the intake to the lower half somewhat cleans up the design, and accentuates the flank in all its glory. Perhaps its too much real estate but I think it highlights the sculptural qualities of the design. But is it a given the intakes have to be a design element on its own? Perhaps it should’ve been better to hide them altogether? Or disguise them with a piece of plastic panel that makes it look like something else than an air vent? Pininfarina used black plastic at the trailing edge of the flying buttress visually minimising its girth, but being a compromise elegant it is not. At least Pininfarina started the trend of blacked out trim.

    3. For once I will have to say I still prefer the original because of the features others don´t like. Now, it can be mistake to like difference for its own sake, thinking it means originality. In this case, I feel that the actual car looks right and not just interesting. The dreaded side strakes are so incongruous as to be invisible and I know why they are there. I really don´t have an issue with them though that is a reflective point and not an immediate impression.
      The 456GT was the last attrractive Ferrari. Everything after that has been a form of disappointment. I wouldn´t look twice at any of them and anyway would always prefer the usable performance of a MX5 or Toyota GT86.

  8. I’d argue that this was the most visually successful mid-engined 2+2 of the lot:

  9. The Mondial’s predecessor, the Bertone designed 308 GT4 was dismissed by Ferrari purists for its non-traditional angular style, but I think it was a rather fine piece of work, and the engine air-intakes were very deftly incorporated into the C-pillars:

    1. Neither the Urraco or the 308 GT4 are outstanding designs in my eyes, the latter looks decidedly odd from some angles. But fine, I’ll give them a pass. I was trying to make a point, some hyperbole may have been involved. But I still think the entire genre is a compromise, there are some aspects that just doesn’t sit right with me.

    2. Well said, Robin. In my younger days, I bought into the “not a proper Ferrari” mindset, but the GT4 has aged remarkably well and still looks fresh today. Those air intakes and rear buttresses are a really lovely detail.

  10. I like the Mondial.
    A friend of mine with 1 wife and 2 kids was looking for a 308 GT4 and ended up with a Mondial in silver.
    (He has a Gamma Coupe and a Fulvia Zagato – ok, the latter is not a perfect choice for a trip with the whole family – he also restores a Flavia Zagato. So why he needed another car remains a question that will never be answered.)
    It´s a great car. Beautiful.
    One of the prettiest Ferrari for me. I don’t mind the DLO or the air intake. But at the end of the day it´s still a Ferrari. So No.

    BTW, just yesterday I was thinking about when DTW will write about the Mondial. You gave me a real scare this morning.

    1. Hi Fred. Don’t worry, I’m not tapping into the depths of your psyche! I actually wrote the Mondial piece a few months ago. Unlike DTW’s esteemed editor, who is brilliant at writing to tight deadlines that would scare me witless, I like having plenty of time to ruminate, cogitate and generally fiddle around with my pieces after I’ve written the initial draft.

  11. Long time reader, first time commenter…

    It’s nice to see some coverage of the Mondial that’s balanced and objective Daniel, so thanks for broaching the subject. There has been little recently written about the cars beyond the tired ‘Ferrari for the price of *insert cheap thing here*’ and as you say even those have become less frequent as values have firmed up.

    We’ve had a 1991 Mondial t coupe in our family for over 20 years so it’s a subject close to my heart and my experiences may add to your article. I remember my Dad explored 328 and 348 along with 928 and E31 but chose the Mondial t in 1997 to allow me (then 12) and my brother (then 9) to share the Ferrari experience. We had many years of fantastic memories attending various events and making trips as a family, though I wouldn’t fancy a long run in the back seats today! The car has really become part of the clan, and very well cared for hence reliable and enjoyable.

    In isolation they’re really good cars. However, the perception issue is a puzzler. I know the ‘t’ was well received in period and the whole Mondial range sold well over a long period but there’s no escaping they’re just not as sexy as the 2-seaters. Apart from the appearance I think it’s partly because they don’t fit in conventional boxes; neither entirely ‘sexy supercars’ nor ‘glamorous grand tourers’. Is it a case of being ‘the sensible-one’?

    Aesthetically I don’t think the black bumpers help earlier cars, but the way the side intake and window line mirror one another is a really beautiful detail. I prefer those to the smaller vents on the ‘t’ but think the revised wings were a big success; the lip arches are replaced with flared panels bringing a cleaner, stockier appearance which helps balance the height of the car more successfully. Together with an entirely different interior it’s a really thorough facelift. The ‘t’ forsakes a spare wheel for additional luggage room up front.

    The practicality and usability is obviously a big appeal of the Mondial. The rear seats are much more generous than a 911 or 928 for example, and luggage space is excellent. Overall it’s a pretty good package, but working around a mid-engine formation the proportions are a challenge. Evora is the only recent comparison and that too carries a higher roofline to its detriment. You’re right that the 308 GT4 hides its 2+2’ness better, and has aged well, but that is a less spacious car altogether so perhaps that’s to be expected. The benefit of that large glasshouse is a very airy interior with great visibility (mmm sexy!).

    For me, the understated angle brings its own charm and an endearing character. It’s the less predictable option, a bit left-field, a little more relaxed and that blurred line between a tourer and a sports car is a great place to be – the ‘t’ is just a really lovely thing to drive.

    Cheers
    Andy

    1. Hello Andy. Welcome to the DTW commentariat and thanks for sharing your memories of the Mondial T with our readership. It’s always great to read about first-hand experiences.

      I think you have hit the issue many have with the Mondial squarely on the head in your comment “neither entirely sexy supercars nor glamorous grand tourers”. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we love underdogs and misfits here, so the Mondial is a perfect DTW car!

    2. Curiously, both Mondial and Maserati Biturbo share a little more in common than simply their body designer, Pierangelo Andreani. Both were in their own quite different manner, reactions to the charged political and socio-cultural landscape of Italy during the late 1970s-early ’80s, when overt statements of wealth were likely to get you stuffed into the boot of a Fiat with a bag over your head. Or worse. Maserati under De Tomaso’s stewardship opted for a low-key saloon in the BMW idiom, whereas Maranello commissioned this, a car which was on the receiving end of a good deal of vitriol from ‘enthusiasts’ and prancing horse aficionados, largely because they didn’t understand it. So while it was probably possible to have designed something a little ‘sexier’, I would be unsurprised to learn that the brief was for relative sobriety and discretion.

      Another factor at the time was the fact that during this period Fiat’s influence and input into the Ferrari road car operation had increased enormously – and it showed – since the Ferraris of this era were on one hand more polished, more manufactured, but on the other, less the product of artisan construction, with all the good and bad that would entail. I think that by the 1990s, once Luca de Montezemelo was in charge, there was a gradual reversal of this ethos.

      I rather like the Mondial. (Preferably the early car) I even find the vent treatment to be inoffensive – necessary even. It prevents the flanks from appearing too lifeless, too inert; albeit, a more integrated solution perhaps ought to have been crafted. However, it was prescient, heralding the more expressive arrangements that graced both Testarossa and 348 GTB. I’m less enamoured with the visuals of the latter models. The side vent became less architectural (great insight Andy!) and the softening of the extremities by dint of heavier looking, body coloured, integrated bumpers (a matter shared across the Ferrari range) was not an enhancement to my eyes. But then, aesthetics are subjective.

      However, I think it’s quite fascinating that Andreani managed to find what I would consider such pleasing solutions to broadly similar, yet diametrically opposed creative briefs from both Ferrari and Maserati at around the same time. I would find it very difficult to choose between either on aesthetic grounds alone.

      Andy: Thanks for your Mondial memories.

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