Certainly one of the less well known Ferrari’s, but one that holds a mixed reception in the hearts and minds of those who grew up with them. Some hail this car as an unloved gem of the 1980’s Italian car builder, being the only production mid-engined sports car to feature 4 seats, whilst others consider it the worst car ever made by Ferrari, asking why people would want 4 seats in a mid-engined sports car when space in the back couldn’t fit a bag of shopping!
The Mondial first made its appearance in 1980, being a replacement for the 208/308 GT4’s, the last of the mighty Dino range. The “Mondial” name came from Ferrari’s history, the 500 Mondial race car of the early 1950’s. Despite its predecessor being Bertone styled, the Mondial saw Ferrari return to Pininfarina for styling.
Sold as a mid-sized coupé and, eventually a cabriolet, the car was conceived as a ‘usable’ model, offering the practicality of four seats and the performance of a Ferrari. The car had a slightly higher roofline than its stablemates, with a single long door either side, offering easy access and good interior space, reasonable rear legroom while all-round visibility was excellent. It also holds the distinction of being the only production automobile that has four seats, is mid-engined, and be a full convertible in automotive history.
The Mondial, produced in fairly high numbers for a Ferrari, with more than 6,100 produced in its 13 year run, and was one of Ferrari’s most commercially successful models. The car body was not built as a monocoque in the same way as a conventional car, but instead the steel outer body was produced by the famous Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Scaglietti, just down the road in nearby Modena, built over a lightweight steel box-section space frame. The engine cover and rear luggage compartment lids are in light alloy. The seats and interior were trimmed in Connolly hide, contrasting with the body colour. Most cars were painted rosso red, but some were black or silver, and a few were dark blue.
The car went through several generations in its 13 year life, the first being the Mondial 8, which featured a 3.0L Tipo F106B FI V8 producing 214hp. In all, 703 examples of this car were made in its 2 year production period, which cost $64,000 back then, but $183,000 now.
This was replaced by the Mondial QV (Quattrovalvole), which introduced a new four-valve head, the combustion chamber design was purportedly based on the early eighties Formula 1 engine. Again, the engine was shared with the contemporary 308 GTB/GTS QV, and produced a much more respectable 240hp. Appearance was largely as per the Mondial 8, although with red engine heads and prominent “quattrovalvole” script at the rear. In all, 1,145 coupés were built between 1982 and 1985.
The next version was the 3.2 Mondial, which increased the engine size to 3.2L Tipo F105C 4v V8, creating 266hp. Available in both Coupé and Cabriolet forms, styling was refreshed with restyled and body-coloured bumpers, similar to the 328 with more integrated indicators and driving lamps, and new alloy wheels with a more rounded face. The 3.2 also boasted a major interior update, with a more ergonomic layout and a more rounded instrument binnacle. Later cars, from 1987 onwards, also sported ABS brakes.The 1988 Mondial 3.2 would be the final model year that retained the relatively low maintenance costs of the 308/328 drivetrain, allowing major service items like timing belt and clutch replacement to be performed with the engine/transmission package still in the car. During its 1985 to 1989 production span, Ferrari produced 987 coupés and 810 cabriolets.
The final version introduced in 1989 was the Mondial t, being visually different from preceding Mondial models, the most recognisable being the redesign of the air intakes to a smaller, neater rectangular shape similar to that found on a 348. Additionally, the door-handles were of a visually different design, as were the front and rear bumpers which became body coloured. New front and rear wings cover wider tracks and are re-profiled to a fuller shape compared to preceding models, which feature a rolled lip. Between 1989 and 1993 Ferrari produced 858 coupés and 1,017 cabriolets.
The Mondial was eventually killed off completely in 1993, and, as mentioned, suffers from a mixed reception by Ferrari and motoring fans alike. While many admire its unique Pininfarina derived design and everyday versatility, the Mondial has amassed a cult following of enthusiasts, but is sometimes the target of derision due to what many consider the compromises, including its 4 seats, longer wheelbase and heavier weight. One notable complaint was made on Top Gear’s ‘The Worst Car in the World’, where a very run down Mondial was assessed by James May, who commented on the fact that it was too small and too thirsty to be an equivalent to a regular family car.
Me personally, I prefer the looks of the later Mondial’s, specifically the Mondial t, which does look like a fantastic open sports Ferrari with resemblances to the 348, although earlier ones do hold a place in my heart too for their looks and style.