The most affordable Ferrari ever built

In the late 1970s, Ferrari began working on a replacement for the 308 GT4 and 208 GT4 that would be more usable and blend the practicality of four seats with the performance of a Maranello-made "Prancing Horse." The result was the Mondial, which was launched at the 1980 Geneva Auto Salon. It was the first Ferrari to depart from the company’s familiar three-digit naming scheme and its name was inspired by the 500 Mondial race car of the early 1950s.

Much like most Ferraris launched in the 1980s, the Mondial received several updates until it was discontinued in 1993. The first iteration was dubbed Mondial 8 and was sold for roughly three years, between 1980 and 1982. Production ended at 703 units, about 12-percent of the total Mondial run in 13 years.

Intended to serve as the touring car model within the Ferrari lineup, the Mondial 8 was received with much criticism for its styling and performance. The design was considered too bland for a Ferrari, while the large black-colored bumpers installed due to safety requirements made it look awkward compared to previous grand tourers. The Mondial 8 was also considered underpowered and slow, and although it wasn’t necessarily the case, it was the intense criticism that prompted Ferrari to update it for 1983.

More than three decades have passed since the Mondial was introduced to the world and the four-seater continues to be one of the most controversial Ferraris in history. Keep reading to find out why.

Continue reading to learn more about the Ferrari Mondial 8.

  • 1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8
  • Year:
    1980- 1982
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    214
  • Torque @ RPM:
    181
  • Displacement:
    2.9 L
  • 0-60 time:
    9.4 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    143 mph
  • car segment:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Exterior

1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Exterior
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1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Exterior
- image 322167
1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Exterior
- image 322168

Although Ferrari returned to Pininfarina for the Mondial’s design — the 208 and 308 GT4 were penned by Bertone — the new grand tourer wasn’t far off its predecessor in terms of styling. The Mondial 8 also featured a wedge body shape theme with the radiator grille beneath the front bumper, a long decklid section, and five-spoke wheels. Details that set it apart included a wrap-around black plastic assembly that incorporated the headlamps and front turn signals, the rear fender vents, and the taller roof. The Mondial 8 was 2.5 inch taller than the model it replaced. At the same time it was one inch narrower, which paired with the added height gave it a bulkier, less sporty appearance. Total length and wheelbase increased by a whopping 10.7 and 3.6 inches, respectively.

The Mondial’s design was often criticized for being too mundane for a Ferrari. Responsible for its bland appearance were the black wrap-around bumpers and the taller glass house, essentially the two most noticeable features that set it apart from its forerunner. Overall, the Mondial wasn’t ugly when compared to other sports cars from the era, but it lacked the aggressiveness of other wedge-shaped Ferraris, which seemingly didn’t go well with purists.

Interior

1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Interior
- image 322203

The Modial’s interior was a significant improvement over the 308 GT4. The dashboard ran deeper toward the floor, incorporated the steering column, and had a wrap-around design that went into the door panels. The instrument cluster section had the rectangular shape seen in other Ferraris of the 1980s and featured new speedo and rev counter and an array of buttons and switches. It was also offered in a two-tone design with the lower section matching the door panels, the upholstery, and the floor carpet.

The center console was wider, while the shifter was positioned to the left, closer to the driver, a feature that later appeared in the Testarossa as well

The steering wheel was also redesigned, now featuring black-painted spokes and contrast stitching. The new seats weren’t as sporty as other Ferraris of the era, but only because Maranello developed the Mondial as a more comfortable vehicle. The center console was wider, while the shifter was positioned to the left, closer to the driver, a feature that later appeared in the Testarossa as well. The parking brake lever was mounted between the driver’s seat and the door sill, a feature you don’t see too often nowadays. Although the design had a spartan look compared to modern-day Prancing Horses, most surfaces were covered in high-grade leather.

The Mondial 8 offered seating for two passengers between the front seats and the engine. Legroom was decent for a mid-engined car, mostly due to the longer wheelbase. Rear headroom was limited due to the sloping roofline, but the Mondial was arguably more comfortable than its successor.

Drivetrain

1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Drivetrain
- image 322206

The Mondial 8 was powered by an upgraded version of the small-displacement V-8 Ferrari created in the early 1960. Revised into a 2.9-liter for the 308 GT and 308 GTB in the mid-1970s, the V-8 unit received fuel injection in 1980. In the Mondial 8, the unit cranked out 214 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. It was the least powerful Ferrari that year and many labeled its performance as unworthy for the marque.

The sprint from 0 to 60 mph took 9.4 seconds, the quarter-mile 17.1 ticks, while to speed was estimated at 143 mph

The negative opinions an reviews were somewhat justified, as the Mondial 8 was indeed slower and less powerful than its competitors. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph took 9.4 seconds, the quarter-mile 17.1 ticks, while to speed was estimated at 143 mph. By comparison, the 250-horsepower Lamborghini Jalpa needed 7.3 seconds for the 0-to-60 run, 15.4 ticks for the quarter-mile, while the 219-horsepower Porsche 928 achieved the benchmarks in seven and 15.6 seconds, respectively.

Performance-aside, the Mondial marked a few debuts for Ferrari. First, it was the first Prancing Horse with the entire engine/gearbox/rear suspension assembly built on a detachable steel subframe. This design made engine removal for a major rebuild or cylinder head removal much easier than it was on previous models. It also reduced maintenance costs. Second, the conventional "H" shift pattern of the gearbox was ditched for one with the first gear situated in a "dog leg" to the left and back, behind reverse. This pattern allowed quicker gear shifts between second and third gear and also between fourth and fifth. The five-speed manual was the only gearbox offered on the Mondial 8 and this didn’t change until 1989, when the Mondial t also received an automated manual.

The chassis was based on the 308 GT4, but it was longer and revised for improved handling. The suspension was the classic layout of unequal-length double wishbones and Koni dampers at all four corners. The steering was rack and pinion, while stopping power came from vented discs. The Mondial was the first Ferrari to use power brakes, power steering, and electronically controlled suspension.

Prices

1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Exterior
- image 322164

At the time of release for the 1981 model year, the Mondial 8 was priced from $64,000 in the United States. It was the most affordable Ferrari in the early 1980s, but it was still more expensive than its competitors. The Lamborghini Jalpa retailed from $58,000 in 1982, while the Porsche 928 fetched less than $45,000 before options around the same time. Despite being heavily criticized for its performance and design, the Mondial 8 enjoyed much popularity due to being reliable and affordable to maintain. Ferrari produced 703 examples until 1982, 147 of which were importante to the United States and Canada. The Mondial continues to be the most affordable Ferrari in the 21st century as well, with well maintained models selling for less than $35,000 and sometimes going as low as $25,000. Examples that need a mild restoration can be had for less than $20,000. Not bad for a classic Prancing Horse.

On the other hand, the Mondial 8 has become more valuable now that it has achieved vintage status and model in tip-top shape are expected to fetch more than $50,000 by the end of the decade.

Competition

Lamborghini Jalpa

1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
- image 318216

Launched in 1981, the Jalpa replaced both the Urraco and the Silhouette to become Lamborghini’s most affordable sports car. Although it wasn’t a four-seater, it had a similar layout to the Mondial, with a transverse, mid-mounted engine and sporty character. The styling was significantly more aggressive, while the 3.5-liter V-8 delivered more power than the Ferrari. The unit was rated at 250 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of twist and enabled the Jalpa to hit 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. Top speed was rated at 133 mph. The sports car retailed from $58,000 in 1982 and it is currently more valuable than a Mondial 8, fetching more than $80,000 on a regular basis.

Find out more about the Lamborghini Jalpa here.

Porsche 928

1978 - 1995 Porsche 928
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Introduced in 1977, the 928 was Porsche first luxury grand tourer. Originally intended to replace the iconic 911, the 928 combined the power and handling of a sports car with comfort and amenities of a luxury sedan. Initially powered by a 4.5-liter V-8 with 237 horsepower (218 horses in the U.S.) and 268 pound-feet of torque, the German grand tourer received a larger, 4.7-liter unit by the time Mondial 8 arrived. The new V-8 delivered 296 horsepower and reduced the initial seven-second 0-to-60 mph sprint to 6.7 seconds, making it the quickest of the bunch. Besides being faster and more powerful than both the Jalpa and the Mondial 8, the 928 was also more affordable in base trim.

Read more about the Porsche 928 here.

Conclusion

1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Exterior
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The Mondial 8 is arguably the most criticized Ferrari of all time. Many find it rather appalling to look at and it has been included in pretty much every "worst sports car of all time" ranking. Its performance is far from exciting and is no match for the Lamborghini Jalpa or the Porsche 928. On the other hand, the Mondial is the most affordable way to become a Ferrari owner and the four-seat configuration makes it a great Sunday driver for classic car enthusiasts with kids. It’s also affordable to maintain and the fact that prices are starting to go up is a sign that the Mondial will soon get the recognition it deserves and become a classic that can be purchased as an investment too.

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    • Poor performance for a Ferrari
    • Significantly slower than competition
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