It’s one of the less loved Ferraris, the Mondial. Like the 400/412, its Bertone -designed predecessor the 308 GT4 and the more recent 612 Scaglietti, the Mondial is a bit of an orphan, a Ferrari for the many of us who can’t quite afford the model they really want.
Do four seats equal failure?
What all three have in common is the provision of four seats, a convenience that always seems to blunt the frivolously glamorous edge of any Maranello product, even if it’s a beauty like the 456.
There were other aspects that took the edge off the original 1980 Mondial too. If nothing else, a Ferrari should be uproariously and air-splittingly fast but with only 212bhp, the Mondial was easily seen off by some of the spicier hot hatches of the day, a few of them out handling it too. The truth was that this Ferrari did not corner with a supercar’s panache, its weight, chassis and relative length all combining to provide a drive more ordinary than it ought to have been.
But the Mondial’s biggest failing was more subtle than any of these shortfalls, the architecture of its cabin undermining one of the major reasons why many desire a Ferrari – namely, to make themselves look good. It was the packaging of those rear seats that did it.
They were higher-mounted than the front seats, forcing a loftier roofline to accommodate their occupants’ heads. That meant that although those up front sat beneath a headlining distant enough to allow the wearing of moderately flamboyant headgear, the result was a diminishing of stature, an impression intensified by the fact that they also sat well forward in the cockpit. And being made to look small is not what Ferrari drivers are generally after.
Yet the Mondial 8, as it was called when launched in 1980, sold quite well. It sold even better when Ferrari offered a convertible in 1983, which had the merit of making the driver appear a little less lost when its fabric roof was folded. Sales were further boosted by the power increase that had come a year earlier with the introduction of the Quattrovalvole, whose four-valve head added 28bhp. Another 30 horses arrived when the V8 swelled from 3.0 litres to 3.2 in 1985.
But the most transforming change, and one that turned the Mondial from the mildly disappointing to the really rather good, was the substantial mechanical rearrangement that made it a Mondial t. The ‘t’ was for transverse, though confusingly, that referred only to the orientation of the transmission, the V8 rotating through 90 degrees to become longitudinal and good for 296bhp.
The reconfiguration usefully lowered its centre-of-gravity to produce a chassis that had the grip, agility, balance and finesse to earn a prancing horse, and reputational rehabilitation besides.
Unlucky for some
And for all its early failings, the Mondial would live 13 years and find 6884 buyers, making it one of the more popular Ferraris.
The cheapest Mondial we could find was £29,950 with 46,000 miles but you can expect to pay nearly double that for a low mileage cabriolet.