Mondial – The Forgotten Ferrari

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By Chris Pollitt

Think of a Ferrari, any Ferrari at all. What’s the first Italian stallion to be conjured up by your mind’s eye? F40 perhaps? Maybe the 250 GTO? Or, is it something more modern like the F355 of the La Ferrari? Whatever it is, we’re willing to bet it wasn’t a Mondial. You know, the four-seat Ferrari from the ‘80s. And that’s a shame, because while the Mondial might not be the most evocative or the most exciting of Ferraris, there is no denying that it is still a genuine Ferrari, and more than that, it was one of the company’s most commercially successful models. It’s proof that there is more to Ferrari than ‘poster child’ super or hyper  models. 

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During the late ‘70s, Ferrari executives realised they were missing out. Up until this point, the company’s offerings were based solely around performance. Most Ferrari models were two-seaters, and offered very little in terms of practicality and usability. There were some 2+2 models, but they were larger cars, often with a V12. Ferrari wanted something smaller and more pure. And while Ferrari wasn’t about to build a family hatchback, it did concede that it needed a car in the lineup that would have a broader appeal, a car that would usher in buyers who had long lusted after a prancing horse, but who previously had to buy something else. The Mondial, Ferrari promised, would be the car for them. 

What it came up with was a model that was true to the Ferrari ethos, but one that was more of a proper car than an expensive toy. The V8 engine was at the back, the car was rear-wheel drive, it was a proper Ferrari. It’s just in the case of the Mondial, the body was longer than usual to accommodate the 2+2 design, the roofline was higher to make for increased cabin space and improved ingress and egress. In the grand scheme of things, the Mondial was hardly a Renault Espace, but for a Ferrari, it was leaps ahead. It opened up the Ferrari world to a whole host of new customers. 

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The body was styled by Pininfarina, in particular Leonardo Fioravanti. With work including the 288 GTO, the Testarossa, the Dino 206 and the 308, he was most definitely the man for the job. The body he came up with was every bit a Ferrari. Those familiar, deep vents in the rear quarters were present, the Mondial boasted pop-up lights mounted in a low, piercing nose. The whole thing looked – despite its atypical Ferrari proportions – right. 

Inside, the driver and passengers were treated to swathes of Connolly leather, as per other Ferraris of the time. The big difference with the Mondial, of course, was the addition of two rear seats. Admittedly, Ferrari never intended them to be filled with normal-sized adults, but for children and small adults, the back seats were perfectly viable. It was this added practicality that made the Mondial so popular. But even so, the interior was still ‘all Ferrari’ with the trademark stainless ‘H’ shifter, as well as the steering wheel, dials and shifter from the wider Ferrari range. Sit in the driver’s seat of a Mondial, and there is no sense of compromise. It’s a Ferrari through and through. But this one has space for the kids, and even a bit of shopping thanks to a small ‘boot’ between the cabin and engine. 

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Of course, all this is well and good, but what about the engine? After all, it’s the engine that makes a Ferrari a Ferrari. Happily, the Mondial wasn’t left to suffer in this department. Ferrari fitted its tried and tested 3.0 V8 ‘Dino’ engine, as found in many other Ferrari models such as the 308. Constructed from a lightweight alloy block cast with 90 degree bank angles, a five-bearing flat-plane crank and quad overhead cams, it was and still is a proper Ferrari powerplant. In 3.0 guise, it delivered 214hp, while in 3.4 guise the figure was closer to 300hp. In total, the Mondial was offered with four versions; the 214hp 3.0, the 235hp QV 3.0, the 270hp 3.2 and the aforementioned 3.4. 

The transmission on all Mondials was a five-speed manual, which was housed within the engine sump casting to save space (apart from on the Mondial t). Interestingly though, the transmission incorporated a ‘dogleg’ design. This meant first was bottom left, second top-middle and so on. The logic being it’s a straight line for the majority of shifts (2nd to third, fourth to fifth) which is better for speed. See, true Ferrari. There was also a semi-automatic version engineered by Valeo, that retained the manual shifter but had no clutch. Instead, an electromechanical system worked the clutch once activated by micro-switches on the shifter. Clever stuff. 

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The Mondial is a largely forgotten Ferrari, which is a crying shame and also deeply unfair. Yes, the company’s other offerings such as the 288GTO, Testarossa and F40 might carry with them more magic, but that shouldn’t belittle the importance of the Mondial. From 1980 to 1993, Ferrari sold over 6,000 Mondials. It was one of the company’s most commercially successful cars. It saw four engines and four evolutions (Mondial 8 coupe, QV, Mondia 3.2 and Mondial t), it was also offered as a convertible, it was affordable, it was (for a Ferrari) practical, it was a display of Ferrari’s ability to embrace new demands and adapt accordingly. But rather than celebrate it openly, we ignore it and drool over the F40 instead. Which is ironic, as the Mondial’s success no doubt helped fund the F40’s development. 

 

Today, the Ferrari Mondial represents a brilliant entry point into the Ferrari world. Prices are still reasonable, and the cars out there are almost always enthusiast-owned and as such, have been cared for without regard for expense. This is the thinking man’s Ferrari. It’s one that you can use every day if you like, it’s one you can squeeze the kids into, but it’s also still a proper Ferrari with a tried and tested Ferrari heart. If we had the money, and if we were looking for a Ferrari, the Mondial would be our first stop. It should be yours, too.

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