In 1974, Sergio Pininfarina was disappointed his company did not have the opportunity to design the 308 GT4. In 1980, his patience was rewarded with the debut of Ferrari’s new 2+2, the Mondial 8.
This was a return from Bertone’s origami lines to Ferrari-traditional Pininfarina curves. The name, meanwhile, referenced Ferrari’s four-cylinder mid-1950s sports-racing cars.
The 1988 Ferrari Mondial 3.2 has a more powerful engine than the 328 GTB & GTS.
Underpinnings closely mirrored those of the GT4, with a sturdy tubular steel chassis, independent suspension, transversely mounted 3.0-liter V-8, and five-speed gearbox. In two notable changes, the wheelbase was lengthened some 4 inches (100mm) for better interior packaging and space, and a separate subframe carried the engine and transmission. This latter item allowed the drivetrain to be unbolted and removed more quickly for easier servicing.
Despite these advances and the more-familiar styling themes, reviews of Ferrari’s latest 2+2 were mixed.
In England, CAR magazine said the “Mondial 8 — superbly blending dynamic ability with masterful body design, clever electronics and Porsche-like build quality — is proof positive Maranello is reaching bright new heights.”
In America, response was muted, mostly because of the car’s performance. Motor Trend saw “just a tad over 130 mph” and needed 8.2 seconds to hit 60 mph. Car and Driver’s test example was more than a second slower to 60. “The Mondial 8 will barely get out of its own way,” C&D lamented, adding, “It’s not much fun to drive either.”
Such observations echoed a rift in the Ferrari world. It started with the angular GT4, and as U.S. Ferraris got slower and slower, many established owners began to insist that a “real” Ferrari must have a 12-cylinder engine. In this view, it didn’t matter that the V-8 models brought new blood to the marque. They didn’t go or sound like a 12-cylinder Ferrari, and they were built of cheaper materials. Mondial 8’s lackluster performance and cost-saving plastic trim only strengthened the argument and undoubtedly hurt sales; just over 700 were built in 21/2 years.
Ferrari responded in August 1982 by installing its new quattrovalvole (four valve) V-8. The change injected real snap into the Mondial’s performance.
Motor ran the four-valve Mondial to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and to 100 mph in 16.2; its two-valve test car needed 8.5 and 25 seconds, respectively. “Quattrovalvole has effected a miracle cure,” the British magazine noted, “and Ferrari’s mid-engine trio (of V-8s) are back running strongly in the supercar league where they belong.”
The 1989 Ferrari Mondial t Cabriolet was the fastest of the Mondials.
Things got even better in 1984 with the unveiling of the Mondial Cabriolet, the first convertible Ferrari since the 1970s Daytona Spyder. Its open-air design and good performance had everyone smiling.
“We now feel Ferrari has a Mondial with raison d’etre,” Road & Track’s test summed up. “(F)aster, better looking with wind-in-the-hair driving and all the attention from the sidelines you can handle …”
The Mondial 3.2 appeared in 1985, the redesignation signifying a larger, stronger V-8 (3.2-liters, 260-270 horsepower), as seen in the 328 GTB & GTS. The Mondial coupe and Cabriolet also got minor appearance updates with bumpers that matched the body color and new wheels. Antilock brakes were introduced in 1987.
Two years later came the fastest and most refined Ferrari Mondial. Identified by a “t” suffix, its engine grew to 3.4-liters and was remounted longitudinally with the gearbox now situated transversely, hence the “t” designation. Horsepower jumped to 300. Other mechanical changes included electronically adjustable shock absorbers, power-assisted steering, and availability of Valeo automatic transmission. Visually, the “t” had cleaner air intakes, slightly different rear wings, and rectangular instead of round headlights. The interior was more luxurious and got a new dash, seats, and door panels.
The luxurious interior of the 1989 Ferrari Mondial t Cabriolet.
Although top speed approached 160 mph, and some testers insisted it had the best-balanced chassis of any Ferrari of the day, a stigma remained with the car.
“Among the Ferrari cognoscenti,” said Road & Track in its 1990 road test, “some see the Mondial t Cabriolet as a concession to the times, hardly worthy of the Cavallino emblem. Other Ferrari folks, however, consider it the most useful car out of Maranello, and thus the most coveted in any realistic day-in day-out sense.”