Often snubbed, the Ferrari Mondial remains the most accessible Prancing Horse
The Mondial gets more hate than any other Ferrari. Mediocre looks and disappointing performance make it an easy target, and typically low prices over the years also mean that there are plenty of rough examples out there. None of that helps the Mondial’s case.
If you knock a Mondial to an owner’s face, however, the typical response will be, “Well, what kind of Ferrari do you have?” And most of us will promptly shut up. That’s because these cars, while imperfect, still have a Prancing Horse on the hood, and they still have their strengths. They’re comfortable, they sound good, and they can fit your kids in the back seats. They’re also one of the very last relatively affordable ways to get into a Ferrari. With Mondial prices tracking flat over the past few years, they’ll likely retain that status.
After selling the Bertone-bodied 308 GT4 since 1973, Ferrari came up with an all-new four-seat, mid-engine offering for the 1980s. The car that debuted at the 1980 Geneva Salon was different in many ways. First, there was the name—not a boring string of letters and numbers but an actual name: Mondial. The word conjures images of Ferrari’s small, four-cylinder Mondial race cars from the 1950s, but the new, heavy four-seater shared nothing with the old racers apart from a badge. The word Mondial also means “global” in French, which hinted at Ferrari’s goal of selling the Mondial to a wider class of less-affluent buyers.
The bodywork was different as well, hailing this time from Pininfarina, not from Bertone. It’s definitely not a hall-of-fame job from the folks at Pininfarina but, to be fair, it’s hard to style a mid-engine car with four seats. Think about that for a moment.
Compared to the GT4, the Mondial is 11 inches longer with a nearly four-inch longer wheelbase. It is also 3.1 inches wider and 1.6 inches taller. All this resulted in a roomier interior with good all-around visibility and rear bucket seats that, surprisingly, aren’t laughably tiny.
The first Mondial, which was called the Mondial 8, weighed nearly 1000 pounds more than the GT4 but had fewer horsepower. This is where the problems began. While newer, bigger, and more practical than the car it replaced, the Mondial 8 was also slower. First-series Mondial 8s had the same engine as the old GT4, but with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection rather than the GT4’s quadruple Weber carburetors, which resulted in a horsepower loss. The Mondial tested by Car and Driver reportedly took nine seconds to get to 60 miles per hour and topped out at 130 mph. As we all know, you only get one first impression, and initial reactions were unenthusiastic. On the plus side, the press did generally praise the Mondial’s roadholding. In any case, Ferrari was undeterred. The Mondial only got better from there.
A much-needed cabriolet model arrived for 1983, and that same year Ferrari answered the cries for more power with a four-valve version (Quattrovalvole in Italian) of the 3.0-liter V-8. In 1986, displacement rose to 3.2 liters and power surged to 260 hp while Ferrari revised the interior, enlarged the wheels, and changed bumpers to body color instead of black for a cleaner look. Antilock brakes arrived as an option in 1987.
The fourth and final Mondial came out in 1989, dubbed the Mondial T. Why “T”? Mondials of previous years had both their engines and gearboxes mounted transversely; the Mondial T kept the transverse orientation for the gearbox but had a longitudinally mounted engine. This configuration of engine and gearbox formed a “T” shape and allowed the engine to sit lower in the chassis for better handling. The Mondial T also came with a 3.4-liter engine and a 40 hp bump to 300 hp total.
The Mondial T stands out as the first Ferrari offered with power steering and as the first production Ferrari with adjustable suspension, operated via a switch on the console. A handful of Mondial Ts even came with a semi-automatic gearbox from French company Valeo, foreshadowing the paddle-shift F1 gearboxes that arrived in the 1990s. Mondial Ts can be most easily distinguished by their rectangular side intakes—on earlier cars, the intakes were trapezoidal.
By 1993, the Mondial was long in the tooth and Ferrari dropped it with no immediate successor planned. With about 7000 sold (big numbers by Ferrari standards of the time) over a production run of 14 years, it was a clear success in sales.
Mondials were always marketed as lower-priced Ferraris, and the same holds true today; these cars have traded for well under their original purchase price for many years. There was a big run-up in Mondial values during 2015, since a rising tide lifts all boats and just about everything with a Ferrari badge was getting more expensive at the time. Condition #2 (Excellent) values surged 25 percent over the course of that year, but since the beginning of 2016 Mondial values have been essentially flat. These cars currently carry a median #2 value of $31,000.
The hierarchy of Mondial prices is simple enough. Since the car got better and faster over the years, later models are worth more. Early Mondial 8s carry a #2 (Excellent) value of $29,000, while Quattrovalvoles and 3.2-liter Mondials are worth a little more. After Ferrari introduced the cabriolet version, soft-top Mondials were far more popular in the American market, but these days a coupe will bring between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars more than a cabriolet. The Mondial T is naturally the most prized of the bunch, with a #2-condition value between $36,500–$38,500 for the cabriolets and between $38,900–$42,000 for the coupes.
Mondials have been underappreciated and relatively cheap to buy for a very long time, but Ferrari shop rates and Ferrari parts costs are forever (as in, pricey). That means there are plenty of Mondials that haven’t exactly been pampered, but one bit of good news is that they are reportedly far easier to wrench on yourself than later Ferraris. And if you need a Ferrari in your life but also need four seats, a Mondial is one of the more sensible choices.
If another manufacturer had built the Mondial it might get more love, but Ferraris are held to higher standards. Mondials are less overtly-sporty than the 308s and Testarossas with which they shared showrooms, and that comparison hurt the Mondial’s reputation from the get-go. If you can handle a few jokes at your expense, though, getting into a classic Ferrari for the cost of a lightly-optioned new family car isn’t a bad deal at all. Motor Trend probably said it best in 1981: the Mondial “is not the greatest Ferrari ever issued by Maranello, but it is by no means the least.”