Ferrari released the Mondial sports car model in 1980. This was a mid-engined vehicle with Pininfarina style with the body design by Carrozzeria Scaglietti. It was classified as a grand tourer in a choice of a cabriolet or a 2+2 coupe styling. This was Ferrari's contribution to family driving with some models featuring seats in the rear. They were large enough for kids, or quite small adults but the back quarters were cramped for moderate to large sized adults. It wasn't the most popular Ferrari, but it did endure as a production car for Ferrari until 1993.
The history of the Ferrari Mondial
The Mondial was also known as the Type F 108. The vehicle featured a roof line that was a little higher with larger dimensions. It was a heavier car more geared towards touring than speed. It was the replacement model for Ferrari's 308/208 GT4 coupe line. Although the Mondial wasn't the most popular it was significant in that it was Ferrari's last rear mid-engined 2+2 model with a V8 engine. The name Mondial was taken from the French word that means "global." This was to announce the automobile's compliance with emission and safety standards that were established in 1980. It also made reference to international victories achieved by may Ferrari race cars through the years.
The first Mondial
Ferrari kicked off the Mondial line with the model that they called the Mondial 8. This example made its debut at the Geneva Auto Salon in 1980. Another first for this car was the departure from Ferrari's previous naming scheme of 3 digits with the single number. The performance rating wasn't as high as others as it criticized by motor press. It featured a double wishbone suspension with Koni dampers. It was a practical vehicle with a mere 214 horsepower that sold for around $64,000 in 1981. It received negative attention because of low performance and a lack of the speed for which most Ferrari sports cars are known for. The Mondial 8 was discontinued in 1982 with just 703 produced. Of this total, 147 were imported to the United States and 145 were right hand drive vehicles. Each were engraved with the serial numbers beginning with 31075, and ending with 41727 for the final example to be released for sale.
The Mondial Quattrovalvole
In 1982, the Quattrovalvole began its run which concluded in 1985. It was offered in the same body styles as the Mondial 8 with a rear-wheel drive, mid-engine, transverse layout. It was powered with a 3.0 liter V8 engine mated with a 5-speed manual transmission. The mot notable feature of the Quaattrovalvole, also referred to as the QV was the near four-valve head it received with a redesigned combustion chamber that was inspired by the Formula 1 engine. The engine cranked 240 horsepower giving it a bit of a boost. A total of 1,146 coupes were made during its four year run. Only 69 were sent to the United States market as imports.
In 1983 the Cabriolet convertible was introduced as a member of the Mondial family. This coupe variant was the instigator of a rise in the popularity of the Mondial. It was the only mid-rear engine convertible Ferrari in a 4-seat version to make it to a production run. It was produced until 1985 with just 629 ever built with 282 imported to the United States.
The Mondial 3.2
The 3.2 was produced from 1985 through 1988. It shared many of the characteristics of the previous Mondial, with the exception of a larger engine in a 3.2 liter that produced 266 horsepower. There were also major updates made to the interior with ABS brakes added from 1987 forward. It received numerous upgrades in electronics and modifications including electronic advance control for the ignition system and a new engine and transmission package. Just 987 examples of the 3.2 Mondial Coupe were built with a total of 87 imported to the United States. There were 810 examples of the 3.2 Mondial Cabriolet made with 449 imported to the United States.
It was dubbed Ferrari's "worst sports car"
Critics of the Ferrari Mondial had little good to say about the model shortly after its release. Perhaps it was launched in the shadow of the 208/208 GT4 coupe, which had just completed a successful run. A few of the differences that set the Mondial apart were the items that were picked apart by motor press. The unequal length double wishbone suspension and dampers received some scorn. This was a feature that had been carefully thought out by Ferrari design experts and engineers. It made the car cheaper and easier to maintain, which was a cost saving advantage.
The coffin nail
The least attractive feature of the Ferrari Mondial was the fact that it was a heavy car weighing 3,459 pounds, it was powered with a V8 engine that only generated 214 horsepower and this is just the setup for a bad scenario. The ultimate coffin nail in the popularity race was the fact that it was an underpowered vehicle that had poor acceleration performance. It took 9.5 seconds to achieve a speed of 62 mph from a standstill. For a Ferrari sports car this was almost unthinkable. It earned a reputation for being a cheap Ferrari that was cheaply made to appeal to a wider sector of the public, but it failed to impress by making this huge departure from tradition. A second damning factor in the equation is that it was more than $25,000 higher in price than the Porsche 390 Turbo which boasted 300 horses under the hood.
Poor reliability ratings
The list continues for the shortcomings of the Mondial. At the time of its run it delivered some headaches for owners. The reliability scores were low due to issues with the automated clutch, reports of faulty gear selectors and it didn't instill confidence in drivers when it came to dependability
The scorecard for the Ferrari Mondial
The summary for the Mondial during the 1980s was harsh. The reviews reported that this car was too expensive to represent a good value for the cost, it wasn't very reliable, and it didn't produce the speed and performance that one would expect from a Ferrari. This seemed to be the consensus back then, but opinions can and do change.
There were some kinks that Ferrari needed to work out with the early versions of the Mondial. When we look at the vintage vehicle now, it takes on a different persona. By the end of its production run, the negative press had colored the opinions of many buyers. The Mondial T was the final version of the model. It was produced in 1989 and ran through 1993 which was the last model year of its production run. It received multiple upgrades including greater comfort for the interior along with an upgraded engine that gave it an extra boost when it comes to performance.
The redemption of the Mondial began with the QV which bumped the maximum speed and reduced the acceleration time from zero to 62 mph by 2 seconds. It was beginning to take on more of the characteristics of a sports car because of the increase in power. More work was done to grant the models greater performance more in line with the 2-seat classics
Opinions of the Ferrari Mondial have shifted
While some will never like the Mondial, there are those that see its inherent value. They're collectible cars that are considered to be rare because of the low numbers of them produced. The Mondials bear the Ferrari name and it is only recently that the uniqueness of the model has come to be appreciated. To begin with, they're four-seaters which makes also makes them a rarity. The Pininfarina Mondial 8 may have gone down in the history of Ferrari as the one of the worst cars on the planet. We must concede that it has earned this undesirable distinction because of the unreliability of its electronics, the complexity of the faulty design and a weight to power ration that simply didn't work well from the start. Test drives in the 1980s confirmed that the models shipped to the United States performed even more lackluster than those retained in Europe. It came out of the gate weak and left a bad first impression but for those who chose to stick around and see what Ferrari could do with a misfit, there was a pleasant surprise. The Quattrovalvole that was revealed in 1982 improved acceleration by 2 seconds and that gave Ferrari enthusiasts hope for the line.
The intentions of Ferrari were pure
Perhaps the world was not yet ready to accept a departure from tradition from Ferrari. The Mondial certainly was that. The Mondial was a calculated risk that sought to create a Ferrari that was more practical and usable, and perhaps even made sense for families. Such a vehicle certainly would not require the same power in acceleration or top speed as a sports car designed for speeding down the road in a light and nimble 2-seater. The overarching goal was to provide a comfortable sports car that the entire family could enjoy. When the reviews began to filter in with all the negativity, it became apparent that the demand for this type Ferrari just wasn't there. The Mondial remained in the shadow of higher performing sports cars from the line from its inception. Gradually, the design team and engineers at Ferrari put their heads together to give the public more of the features that they were used to in the Mondial. By the time that the T version was launched, they had made significant progress in accomplishing this goal. Each new version lost weight and most gained more power.
What is the verdict on the Ferrari Mondial?
After all of the arguments have been said with those in favor of and those against elevating the status of the Ferrari Mondale, it's apparent that the car was off to a rocky start from the beginning. It was a good idea that could have worked out at least for some drivers, but the precedent set by the brand left high expectations for purism and a dedication to tradition for the prancing horse. There were a lot of people who weren't willing to give the Mondial a chance if it couldn't perform like its siblings, and perhaps worse yet, its predecessor.
Nearly 40 years down the road we can look back and see the significance of the Mondial in the history of Ferrari design and marketing. Over time, the sporty changes that were implemented made the Mondial more expensive to maintain because of the increased complexity. What had started out as a more straightforward model had evolved into a vehicle that had lost much of its intentional purpose because of the initial issues that weren't thought out and addressed prior to making its debut.
The Ferrari Mondial is currently a rare classic and it has found a home in the hearts of some collectors. It's not the most expensive vintage model but it's one that many are happy to add to their collections if the price is right. Now that more is understood about its intention and the significant place it holds in the Ferrari history books, less emphasis is made on the prior performance, but more upon its evolution and the rationale for the car to begin with. The Mondial has come a long way and maybe we can look at it as an experiment that taught Ferrari and other automakers a lesson about risk-taking.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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