From zero to hero. The Mondial might not have got off to the best start in life, but this mid-engined 2+2 coupé is still worthy of the Prancing Horse badge Words Martin Buckley. Photography Tony Baker.
PRANCING HORSE TRADING Can you really buy a Ferrari on a budget?
FERRARI BARGAINS Fast, practical and affordable: why the Mondial is a modern classic great
PLUS HOW TO BAG MARANELLO MAGIC FROM JUST £10k
‘This is a car with capabilities way beyond my talents – and probably yours – always with grip to spare at both ends’
FERRARI’S BIGGEST BARGAIN From brickbats to plaudits: affordable, usable Mondial comes in from the cold
Judged against other Ferraris, the Mondial appears to fail every test, being neither conspicuously fast enough, rare enough nor conventionally pretty enough to match people’s blinkered preconceptions. With too many seats and insufficient cylinders it seems destined to remain firmly at the bottom of the food chain, almost the definition of the ‘affordable’ Ferrari, but the model that no-one seems to want to buy for its own sake. Even today, in a world where grown men prostrate themselves with open mouths (and empty wallets) before anything that bears the Prancing Horse badge, the Mondial remains conspicuously cheap. Prices start in the mid-£20,000s for the original Mondial 8, going up to more than £60,000 for the final ‘t’ incarnation, making these slightly oddball mid-engined four-seaters one of the very least expensive ways into Ferrari ownership, if owning a Ferrari is an absolute must.
Look closer, though, and what you will find is a rather accomplished 3-litre grand touring car that just happens to be a Ferrari; a well-packaged, interestingly engineered junior exotic that took the idea of the mid-engined coupé with 2+2 seating to its natural conclusion, if only in as much as no-one has attempted it since.
Built for a dozen years to the tune of more than 6000 examples, the Mondial, like so many supposedly ‘lesser’ species of exotic Italian machinery, was actually a reasonable commercial success for the Maranello firm – which, after all, was the point of the exercise. Here, for perhaps the very first time, was a Ferrari conceived to address buyers’ expectations of build quality, durability and usability in the face of stiff competition from a raft of increasingly reliable and well-screwed-together German rivals.
With its extensive rustproofing, fuel injection and plug-in diagnostics, much was made of the fact that, at launch in 1980, the Mondial 8 was a new kind of Ferrari, a new beginning for the firm as it entered the ’80s.
It was also, interestingly, the first of the V8 road cars to be named rather than numbered; ‘Mondial’ was a moniker that honoured the four-cylinder sports car of the early ’50s and, taken literally, meant ‘world’ or ‘global’ in Italian and was probably an oblique reference to the fact that this was a Ferrari truly created from the outset for world markets, with North America particularly in mind.
Having pulled its smog-making 12-cylinder models out of that market, a US-friendly V8 Ferrari was more important than ever, given that the country took 35% of a total output that was 75% in favour of the V8 cars anyway. The men of Fiat, having noted the popularity of the 308GT4, acknowledged that even Ferrari had rivals and had to compete in the real world. They had taken control at Maranello more than a decade before the transition of power had been respectfully managed, so the Mondial was probably the first Ferrari to have been created completely under Fiat’s influence. It was an entirely commercial proposition, the compromises inherent in any car shifted in favour of the end user rather than to satisfy the purist whims of a frustrated Grand Prix car designer.
A watered-down, low-calorie Ferrari, perhaps, but in its essentials still very much a Ferrari, with its tubular chassis, open-gated five-speed gearchange and a transversely mid-mounted quad-camshaft 3-litre V8, albeit now electronically injected and ignition-managed.
Admittedly, its emissions-friendly 214bhp was 36bhp down on the (probably spurious) 250 claimed for the 240lb lighter, Weber-carburetted 308GT4. There was gloomy rumination at the time over reports of a flabby 8.5 secs 0-60mph time and a top speed of 145mph, although most of the bad press emanated from America, where the cars made only 205bhp.
What the armchair critics tended to forget about these early Mondials was that this was a car that would cruise at 120mph, carrying four people in perhaps the best and most complete interior of any Ferrari road car up to that time. Light, airy and fully leathered by Connolly, it featured Ferrari’s first adjustable steering column (without resorting to spanners), as well as central locking and properly engineered air-conditioning. There were also enough digital systems, plus warning and service-schedule lights, to make BMW owners feel at home – which, of course, was important.
Built by Scaglietti, the body was attributed to Leonardo Fioravanti of Pininfarina. Though he was still only 42 years old in 1980, the Mondial was already the eighth Ferrari he had signed off, in a portfolio that also included the Daytona. He began work on this successor to the Bertone-designed 308GT4 in the mid-’70s and soon came to the conclusion that a four-inch-longer wheelbase was going to be required to make the space in those rear seats more meaningful, even on a ‘+2’ basis.
At 13in longer overall, 3in wider and a towering 5in taller than the 308GTB, the Mondial body was mainly steel but with aluminium for the nose, engine cover and doors.
Underneath, extensive use of ribbed and boxed sheet-steel made it a stiffer entity than the GT4, and much was made of the fact that, by removing a few bolts, the engine and gearbox could be dropped out for easier servicing.
If the styling, with its high roof and cab-forward driving position, was not vintage Ferrari then, in a way, it’s hard to see what other conclusion could have been arrived at. Graceful in profile but slightly wide for its length, Fioravanti’s shape had a light touch that diverted attention from the packaging headaches of creating a mid-engined car with half-sensible rear seats and a usable boot.
Buyers liked it, although the Mondial 8 was not an easy sell according to Tony Willis, now keeper of the Maranello Archive but at the time working for Maranello Concessionaires: “I liked the Mondial – and I believe I gave the car its competition debut at Prescott – but the later ones were much better. The patchy electrics and the dashboard of the 8 made life strenuous.”
Over the ensuing 12 years, Ferrari strove to boost the Mondial’s power and improve its specification. The 1982 four-valves-per-cylinder Mondial QV banished all accusations of insufficient urge, its 32-valve, 240bhp, flat-planecrank V8 having the highest specific output of any naturally aspirated production engine in the world at the time. A bored and stroked 3185cc, 270bhp unit arrived in ’1985; still quattrovalvole, of course, but now known simply as the Mondial 3.2.
Meanwhile, encouraged no doubt by strong sales of the 308/328GTS, the Mondial Cabriolet was launched in 1984. This was the first fully open production Ferrari since the Daytona Spider and would become the true success story of the Mondial range, with sales that soon matched (and eventually outstripped) the closed car.
The last of the Mondials was the 300bhp, 3.4-litre Mondial t, with its powertrain lowered by 5in, the engine having been turned through 90º to sit longitudinally but with the gearbox remaining transverse, source of the ‘t’ for transversale. This was a concept borrowed from the Formula One cars of almost 20 years earlier, which lowered the centre of gravity and also made the clutch more accessible for servicing.
Martyn Tuthill’s Mondial is a ‘t’, a 1990 full-history car bought from Foskers in May 2017. “I’d always hankered after a Ferrari,” he says. “I was looking at 308GT4s and early Mondials, but I wanted the better technology in the later car.” Interestingly, he finds the Mondial more usable than his Porsche 911 targa and says that the only problem he has had is a temperamental air-conditioning switch. That said, he has never been brave enough to risk opening the sunshine roof: “It has a sunroof, but if they are not set up right they can damage the paint on opening.”
This is the Mondial’s first outing in five months. It sits on Pirelli P6000-shod five-stud, five-spoke alloys with ‘Ferrari’ cast into the rims (even the glass has tiny Ferrari badges etched onto it). You enter through long, wide-opening doors to assume a driving position that is low-slung enough to allow the wearing of a Trilby.
From the outside even big people look a bit lost in the front chairs of this short-nosed/tall-roofed car, its acres of glazing making the air-conditioning mandatory, even in the UK.
Ahead there’s a boxy dash that has a hint of the Rover SD1’s modular treatment (but much more stylishly resolved), and your feet go slightly off to the left (because of the intrusion of the front wheel boxes) with the steering column going quietly off to the right. The excellence of the seats, the surprising elbow room and the glassy, light-filled atmosphere of the cabin allow you to dismiss these compromises, having already noted the depth of the boot and the fact that the rear seats will accommodate kids of up 12 years, or at least the skinnier 1980s versions.
There are no starting issues; just the whirr of the fuel pumps and you’re on. The clutch is heavy by modern standards but light compared to older Ferraris thanks to hydraulic operation; the smooth bite point helps, too. Manoeuvring, you bless the power steering that was a feature unique to the ‘t’. The turning circle is ponderous, but after that you don’t think about it again.
Pottering in traffic, it doesn’t have huge lowdown torque but the power delivery is smooth, the ride civilised (Tuthill keeps the adjustable dampers in ‘comfort’ mode) and the sounds from engine and ’box sufficient to make the experience special, trailing away in the wind at speed.
The low gears in the classic open gate prove difficult to find when the oil is cold, but otherwise the Mondial is a simple, forgiving car with lunging but not brutal acceleration and tasty throttle response. The smooth, firm accelerator pedal is perfectly matched to the solidly progressive brake. It makes a perfect fulcrum for a bit of heel-and-toe action when the testosterone begins to flow and you start to get a taste for the fast, metallic and precise click-clack-click-clack action of the gears.
The ratios are closely stacked, all the better to maintain the bristle of excitement from a glorious engine that starts pulling really hard from 3500rpm, whipping round to 7000rpm in that sonorous blur of valve thrash and quadraphonic camshaft whine that always thrills, no matter how many times you hear it.
With its loving owner’s face a mask of friendly but silent apprehension in the passenger seat, I will not pretend that I sampled the limits of the Mondial’s chassis behaviour or found out for myself that the longer wheelbase really does make the handling more forgiving than its two-seater siblings. What I can say is that the Mondial is a car with capabilities way beyond my talents, and probably yours; cornering is mainly flat with a hint of roll in tight turns and always grip to spare at both ends.
It’s consummately relaxed and stable, immune to clumsiness and indecision, with a smooth and communicative feel that flatters the timid but rewards those who want to engage with it. The world of Ferrari is so much about status and rarity and my-car’s-worth-more-than-yours one-upmanship that it is easy to see how the selfeffacing and maybe slightly too practical Mondial has tended to be treated a bit dismissively. I think a good one, perhaps (for me) in any colour but red, would make a lovely car. In a world where modern Ferraris seem to be getting uglier and more offensive on a daily basis, the Mondial is looking better all the time; prices will rise, and probably are already.
Choose carefully, drive proudly, but most of all buy a Mondial because you like it, not just because you have to own a Ferrari at any price. That always looks a bit sad.
Thanks to Italia Autosport (01484 852544; www. italiaautosport.com); The Ferrari Owners’ Club of GB (01327 855430; www.ferrariownersclub.co.uk)
Tech and photos
‘This was a car that would cruise at 120mph, four-up in perhaps the best and most complete Ferrari interior of the time’
‘Cornering in the Mondial is mainly flat, with a hint of roll in tight turns and always enough grip to spare at both ends’
From top: adults won’t thank you if you put them in the rear seats, so save them for the kids; Connolly hide, decent air-con and an adjustable steering column were designed to appeal to more mainstream buyers.
Of all the Mondials, the ‘t’ is surely the one to have, thanks to its refinements (such as power steering) and extra power over the other variants.
The gears come freely once the oil has warmed up, and you can enjoy click-clacking your way through the gate. It’s a friendly thing, the ‘t’ – you don’t need to be a pro, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun.
|Car||1986 Ferrari Mondial 3.2 QV|
|Car type||Central engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Cylinders||Transverse mid V8, 90-deg|
|Cooling system||Water cooled, electric fan|
|Bore / Stroke||83.00mm (3.27 in.) 73.60mm (2.90in.)|
|Displacement||3186 c.c. (194.50 cu. in.)|
|Valve gear||2 ohc, 4 valves per cylinder, toothed belt camshaft drive|
|Compression ratio||9.8-to-1. Min. octane raring: 91RM|
|Induction||Bosch K-Jetronic continuous flow Injection|
|Ignition||Marelli Microplex ignition|
|Fuel pump||Bosch electric. roller type|
|Oil filter||Full-flow. disposable canister|
|Max. power||270 bhp (PS-DIN) 199KW (ISO) at 7000 rpm|
|Max. torque||224 lb. ft (PS-DIN) at 5500 rpm|
|Clutch||Single dry plate|
|Gearbox||5-speed, all-indirect, all-synchromesh|
|Geer ratios and mph/1000rpm||Top 0.919 / 20.90|
|Fourth 1.244 / 15.44|
|Third 1.693 / 11.35|
|Second 2.353 / 8.16|
|First 3.419 / 5.62|
|Final drive||Hypoid bevel ratio 3.823|
|Mph at 1,000 rpm in top gear||20.90|
|CHASSIS AND BODY|
|Construction||Integral, with steel body|
|Cd drag coefficient||0.34|
|Front||independent, wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar|
|Rear||independent, wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar|
|Wheel dia||14.8 in.|
|Make and type||Dual circuits, split diagonally. Front 11.1 in (282mm) dia ventilated discs. Rear 11 in (280mm) dia ventilated discs|
|Servo||Vacuum servo. Handbrake, side lover acting on rear discs|
|Dimensions||F, 11.1 in. dia|
|R. 11.0 in. dia|
|Swept area||F. 235 sq. in.. R. 208 sq. in. Total 443 sq. in. (350 sq. In./ton Laden)|
|Type||Light alloy, 5-stud fixing, 7in rims front, 8in rear|
|Tyres make||Radial ply tyres (Michelin TRX on test car), size 220/55 VR390 F, 240/55 VR390 R, pressures F34 R35psi (normal driving).|
|type||Radial ply tubed|
|size||220/55 VR390 F, 240/55 VR390 R|
|Battery||12 volt 66 Ah.|
|Headlamps||Bosch halogen. 120/110 watt (total)|
|Screen wipers||3 speed, plus variable pause|
|Screen washer||Standard, electric|
|Heated backlight||Standard, dual-stage|
|Safety belts||Standard. Repa inertia reel|
|Interior trim||Cloth scats, pvc headlining|
|Floor covering||Cut-pile nylon carpet|
|Jack||Geared screw pillar|
|Jacking points||1 each side under sills|
|Underbody protection||Underbody galvanized and pvc coated|
|Fuel tank||17.6 Imp, gallons (80 litres)|
|Oil tank||19.2 pints (11 litres) SAE 30 Change oil every 12.000 miles Change filter every 12.000 miles|
|Gearbox and final drive||5.25 pints. SAE 90EP. Change every 12.000 miles|
|Valve clearance||Inlet 0.004in. (cold) Exhaust 0.004in. (cold)|
|Contact breaker||0.014in. gap; 35.41 deg. dwell|
|Ignition timing||5 deg. ATDC (stroboscopic at 900 rpm)|
|Spark plug||Type: Bosch W225T30. Gap 0.028in.|
|Compression pressure||130-160 psi|
|Tyro pressures||F. 29; R, 34 psi (all conditions)|
|Max. payload||716lb (325kg)|
LIVING WITH THE MONDIAL
A factory-trained engineer, John Pogson has been working on Ferraris since 1975 and founded Italia Autosport, a specialist independent Ferrari workshop in the Peak District, in ’1991. He is also a multiple British winner in the V8 challenge series, and has had record-breaking wins driving F40s. So why does he love his silver Mondial QV, which he’s owned on and off for more than 20 years?
“I think it’s one of the most underrated Ferraris ever made,” says Pogson, who is also lucky enough to own a Dino 308GT4 and an early 456GT. He recalls seeing his first Mondial when he was being trained at Maranello in the early ’80s. Later, he drove a QV back from the south of France to Yorkshire in one go, starting at noon: “That was what it was built for. It felt as normal as parking the car on the high street and going shopping.
“The difference in personality is amazing with these quirky 2+2 models and other people’s reactions to them. For instance, when you drive up to the petrol pumps in a Mondial you get spoken to, rather than the usual sneers when you are driving a modern Ferrari. You get comments such as: ‘Hey, love your car, mate!’ And you suddenly become a nice person in a really cool car.”
Not that long ago these cars were so unloved that an early, tatty Mondial could have been purchased for less than £10k. “This would usually mean that maintenance and any restoration work may well have been done on a really low budget and to a poor standard,” says Pogson. “The cars suffered, and most of them still do today.
“In fact, the biggest fault with the Mondial is that the wrong people have maintained the cars through the years and are still messing with them today. Look for good service history with a well-known specialist and beware of the ‘full main dealer’ history cars and village garage cars: low product knowledge on these old Ferraris is a killer.
“You have to find a ‘survivor’ Mondial and spend more money to secure it. Don’t buy a project unless you are prepared to fully rebuild it. The Mondial is not a car you can have as a ‘running restoration’ – you will never catch up with it.
“Rust and the electrics can be a bit frustrating, but the build quality starting with the QV is far superior to the 1970s cars. The Mondial was rustproofed, with body protection added to the cavities and so on; it didn’t work that well, but was a lot better than the previous cars.
“The electrics are very typical 1980s printed-circuit rubbish, but at the time it was leagues in front of the older cars. The electrics did become much better on the later 3.2 and ‘t’ models.”
Pogson reckons that the drivetrain is usually bombproof: “If second gear has been forced when the oil is cold then damage to the synchros is possible; also watch out for the Nikasil cylinder lining wearing and the diff plates growling. “Handbooks and an original factory service book are important and tool rolls are expensive to replace. All the original keys should still be with the car and if it has an ’80s immobiliser it will be unreliable. Finally, the colour is important: the shape of this car will be hidden or enhanced depending on the shade.”
Pogson still uses his QV as a daily driver: “I often take it to Cornwall for a holiday. People don’t see this as a sensible thing to do, but that doesn’t stop me!”
MONDIAL FAMILY TREE, 1980-1993
MONDIAL 8 1980-’1982
Launched at Geneva in 1980, but production didn’t begin until 1981. Just 703 cars built, including 76 right-hookers for the UK, with Michelin TRX tyres, black bumpers and 214bhp for Europe. The V8 has Digiplex ignition with Bosch K-Jetronic injection.
MONDIAL QV 1982-’1985
New quattrovalvole (four valves per cylinder) F105A engine using Nimonic-alloy valve technology – a first in a production car – and giving 244bhp. Styling was largely unchanged, bar a new centre-console design. Just 216 of the 1145 cars built were for the UK.
MONDIAL 3.2 1985-’1988
Colour-coded bumpers, a revised nose and convex five-spoke alloys gave a fresh look, and the engine was bored and stroked to 3185cc, with Marelli Multiplex ignition. That meant 270bhp for the 987 cars made, including 91 in right-hand drive for the UK.
MONDIAL T 1988-’1993
The final version got the 3.4-litre, 300bhp dry-sump V8 from the 348, now mounted longitudinally with a transverse gearbox – hence the ‘t’ – driving the diff through bevel gears. There was power steering, ABS, adjustable suspension, and revised wheelarch and doorhandle treatments, plus smaller air intakes on the sides. A Valeo semiautomatic clutchless manual was offered as an option, with just three (of 54) in right-hand-drive, from an 840 production run.
MONDIAL CABRIOLET QV/3.2/T 1984-’1993
There were 1449 Cabrios built, including 51 righthooker 3.2s and 71 of the ‘t’ for the UK. The manual hood was styled to mimic the coupé and it was 100Ib lighter than the tin-top. Still the only series production four-seater mid-engined convertible.
Cheap Ferraris fact or fiction?
Yes, buy with care and you can own a Prancing Horse for less than you might think, as these gems prove. Words Martin Buckley. Photography Drive-My EN/UK.
There is no such thing as a budget Ferrari, but it’s true to say that – among some of the less-old 2+2 models and more recent, semi-volume-produced mid-engined V8s – there are some affordable cars. ‘Affordable’ in this instance is defined as £25-50,000 – although we urge caution when buying at the lower end of each given range.
Should you be lucky enough to have that sort of spare cash, there are worse ways to spend it; who wants double glazing, a new patio, private healthcare and two holidays a year when you could have a Ferrari – or a classic with a Ferrari engine? You’ll get the neighbours talking (most civilians think all old Ferraris are least £1m) and when you have to cancel that fortnight in Spain for an engine-out cambelt change, you can justify it (to those who need placating) by saying it’s an investment. It all makes perfect sense!
Ferrari 400, 400i and 412 £20-70,000 These cars were good, steady sellers for Ferrari (2376 built, 376 for the UK) and for a while they looked as if they might represent the swansong of the V12. They’ve always been expensive to run, not least because mpg is often in single figures. Manuals are preferable, although autos are more common. The 412s are the most sorted, but all suffer from rust and poor electrics, and not long ago were regularly being broken up, particularly if the costly exhaust manifolds were cracked. They are complex, with seemingly two of everything including air-con front and rear, and dual alternators. The quad-cam V12, related to the Daytona engine, is probably the most rugged part of the car, but with prices now hardening you need to see evidence of the kind of scrupulous service history (with the right people) that relatively few actually received.
Fiat Dino Coupé £20-60,000
The Spiders have long since hit the big-time, but these stylish Coupés are still within the reach of the merely well off. The 2-litre is sportier, the 2.4 slightly more civilised. They do, of course, rust, although rising values mean there are probably more good ones around than there used to be. The bad news is that the V6 has a punishing upkeep regime (specialists such as 24 hundred and Superformance can help), so owning one can be a rich man’s game.
Ferrari 360 Modena £50-90,000
This arguably better-looking replacement for the F355 continued the mid-engined V8 theme, but in a curvier, lighter and stiffer aluminium body. More than 17,000 were built in four years, so once again there are plenty around. They’re more user-friendly than ever, with less punishing servicing costs, unless you get caught out having to replace the carbon-ceramic brake discs or expensive hydraulic parts in the paddle-shift gearbox that most came with.
Ferrari 348 £40-70,000
It looks a little like a Toyota MR2, and nobody seemed to take to the Testarossa-inspired side strakes. The 348 also suffered from unflattering comparison with the better-built, easier-to-drive Honda NSX. Any supposed handling vices will rarely be discovered on the road, and with up to 165mph from a 300bhp V8 you can forgive its problems, which include short-lived clutches and ECU issues. Adding a Spider widened its appeal and, with plenty out there, it seems likely that values may still have a little way to fall as later cars become more affordable.
Ferrari 456GT/456M £40-90,000
This long-awaited 190mph replacement for the 412 was the world’s fastest four-seater and represented a quantum leap in technology, dynamics and complication. Some 3289 were built in four varieties: GT manual and GTa automatics, then the post-1998 456Ms in manual and automatic form, M in this instance standing for modificata.
Once again, service history is vital. But most of the car’s problems centre around peripheral but expensive-to-sort irritations, such as when the glass in the doors becomes misaligned and you end up with a bill of almost £1000 (per side) to sort it. Brake discs are short-lived, the self-levelling rear dampers leak for a pastime, and items such as ECUs and exhaust systems cost a small fortune. Corrosion is far less of an issue than it was on earlier cars, and given that it is a goodlooking, front-engined V12, prices can only rise now, having bottomed out at £30,000 or less three or four years ago.
Lancia Thema 8.32 £10-30,000
A Ferrari-engined Lancia is about as niche as an executive saloon gets – which is probably why just nine were officially sold in the UK. Being left-hand-drive only and priced at £40k hardly helped, plus the four-cylinder Thema Turbo was quicker and far cheaper. It’s a wonderful bit of Italian insanity, with a 32-valve quad-cam V8 driving the front wheels and a unique character thanks to its lavish interior.
Just 3971 were built and they don’t come up for sale as often as they used to: the ex Rowan Atkinson car made £30,000 at auction earlier this year. Only in its generalities is the V8 common with the Ferrari 328 – it doesn’t even have the same crank, being cross-plane rather than flat-plane. Torquesteer and rust aren’t the problems you might expect, but the engine is Ferrari money if it needs a rebuild, and parts specific to the model can be difficult to source.
Ferrari 308GT4 £25-60,000
Although a popular enough buy in period, the 308GT4, with its steel bodywork styled and built by Bertone rather than Pininfarina, has always been a car apart in Ferrari terms. It certainly didn’t help that it was seen, even in period, as an unworthy replacement for the 246 Dino.
Apart from the usual rust (we’re talking the sills, floors, front valance, scuttle and pretty much everywhere else) and oil leaks from the V8, plus the need for regular and fastidious servicing, another point to consider about this one-off model is that it shared few parts with other contemporary Ferraris. This means that certain items of trim are either unobtainable or hideously expensive – tail-lights, for example, are £700 a side!
There is a surprising number of GT4s for sale at any one time; however, we suspect that not many of them are really good ones.