Real Deal?

While the Mondial has courted controversy since its debut, the owners of this early example says the dislike isn’t deserved.

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January 21, 2021

Perhaps more than any other car to have rolled out of Maranello, the Mondial 8 is controversial. Introduced in 1980, this mid-engined V8 continued the concept of the Dino 308 GT4, though this time the 2+2 layout really did accommodate four people with luggage. Performance lagged, though, as the 2,926cc engine generated a less-than-impressive 214 hp and a leisurely 0-60 mph time of 8.2 seconds. 

The Mondial represented all that Ferrari wasn’t, but that was point: This was the family man’s Ferrari. Besides, sales supported Enzo’s beloved Scuderia—the model was named in commemoration of Jody Scheckter’s 1979 Formula 1 World Championship—and so four versions, each faster than the one before, were produced between 1980 and the end of production in 1993. 

Pininfarina’s design didn’t stray far from the styling of the 308 GT4. Extended to a 2,650mm wheelbase, the angular Mondial offered more visual aggression thanks to the strakes in its side air intakes, a theme famously expanded upon for the Testarossa. The 3-liter V8 was positioned transversely and fed by a Bosch K-Jetronic fuel-injection system, continuing Ferrari’s trend away from carburetors, which had begun the previous year with the 400i. 

The Mondial’s balance of practicality and performance/ design meant that enthusiasts either loved the model or hated it. For Luigi Bosio, co-owner with his father of our featured 1981 Mondial 8, it was love at first sight from an early age.

“A memory has always stayed with me,” says Bosio. “I was about seven, but I remember it very clearly. It was springtime in Tuscany and a Mondial passed by our village bar. I was amazed by the bright red color, the roar of the engine, and the distinct air intakes and grilles, which created such an impression.”

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Mondial 8 (and concurrent 308 GTB/Si) received Ferrari’s first fuel-injected V8.

Bosio’s fascination was rewarded with a closer inspection: “The owner showed me the interior, and above all I remember the gearbox with the grille [open gate] that has remained fixed in my mind to this very day.”

Childhood enthusiasm couldn’t diminish the fact the Mondial still came from motoring’s most prestigious stable, and despite the fact that this was meant to be an “affordable” Ferrari, on its arrival the Mondial 8 fetched 49.6 million lire, roughly on par with the 46 million demanded by the competing Porsche 928 and Maserati Kyalami. Today’s prices are much more achievable, however, as a Mondial 8 in good condition can be found for less than $25,000 in the U.S. 

The Bosios acquired their Mondial 8, of which 730 were made, just before Christmas in 2015. They were both passionate about the model, but were not actively looking to buy until a chance conversation.

“We learned that an acquaintance of my father was looking to sell his prima serie [“first series” in Italian], so we contacted him and the adventure went from there,” explains Bosio.

Originally purchased by a Florentine colonel in the Italian army, the Ferrari had started its life on the Adriatic coast in Ancona before moving to the Mediterranean city of Genoa. Bosio’s father’s friend had owned the car for a number of years before it passing it on to its third, and current, owners, who lived nearby in Florence.

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“The car is often recognized around town,” Bosio says with a chuckle.  

The Mondial had approximately 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles) on the clock when the Bosios took ownership, and they’ve since added a further 4,000 kms. The engine and five-speed gearbox are original, and the electrical and mechanical systems have never required extensive maintenance, despite various claims to the contrary about the stability of some of the Mondial’s components. In particular, the Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection, also used by Alfa Romeo, Porsche, and Mercedes, has faced criticism for its reliability.

“That isn’t our experience,” says Bosio, “especially considering that the Mondial was Ferrari’s first car with an injection system and no carburetors.”

For the most part, the Bosios have only had to perform expected maintenance, including the customary replacement of the spark plugs, ignition coils, and distributors to smooth the engine’s running, which was previously sometimes lumpy. The car’s underpinnings also needed some attention, as the bushings between the chassis and suspension required replacement, and the original Koni shock absorbers were rebuilt.

“The suspension linkages [bushings] were ruined and we know that this is a critical and typical area of replacement for Ferraris of this era, which are very delicate on these cars,” Bosio warns. 

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Other services have included an oil change every two years and belt changes every four years. The former was carried out by the Bosios, while the latter was entrusted to Petri Corse in nearby Prato, Tuscany.

“They are serious and competent technicians,” says Bosio of the Prato workshop, “and always provide good coffee and conversation!”

One area of the car that required immediate attention when the Bosios took possession was the bodywork. Rust had set in around the doorframes, typical for the Mondial, and the repair work was carried out at Carrozzeria Primavera in Florence, a Ferrari-authorized body shop. 

Where possible, the rust was removed with a grinder. Where it was deeply rooted, damaged sections were cut out and new sheet metal welded in place. The bare metal was then treated with anti-corrosive agents to prevent renewed oxidation. After painting the repaired areas, the whole car was polished with a nanotechnology treatment. 

“After the bodywork intervention by Carrozzeria Primavera, the Mondial has been brought back to her original beauty,” Bosio enthuses. “These cars, especially of this age, tend to see rust in some areas. After this treatment, I think it will be a problem of the past.” 

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Finally, the Ferrari’s headlights required some rewiring and the wheels were restored and fitted with reproduction Michelin TRX rubber. 

BOSIO DRIVES THE CAR between March and May when, as he says, the Italian climate “is not too hot or too cold.”

“I have done some rallies, but I prefer to drive it in Spring or Autumn with my wife or my father,” he says. “Maybe on a nice sunny day or with few clouds, but not too hot so that I can’t travel with the window open and enjoy the engine sound.” 

While mechanically the car remains stock, father and son did install a made-to-measure stainless-steel exhaust system to replace a degraded former unit. “It was also to raise the sound and bring it very ‘near,’ which becomes really obvious from the driver’s seat when the power is used,” says Bosio.

Forty years ago, the Mondial was ridiculed for its modest performance. What does Bosio think?

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“Many say that it’s not a powerful enough engine for a Ferrari,” he replies. “Personally, I find it suitable for this particular car. It’s fairly elastic, especially because of its injection rather than carbureted fuel control. As a result, it’s great to drive on our winding Tuscan roads and it’s very good on the bends, even if the abundant wheelbase and weight penalizes its performance on the straights.” 

Bosio adds that, in his view, these characteristics make it a more suitable driving companion than many of its stablemates: “It can be driven with, shall we say, ‘sport serenity,’ unlike other models of the Cavallino. However, it doesn’t mind being driven with force, although this does take quite a knowledge of its behavior.” 

The Mondial always gets reactions when taken to a concours or the family’s home circuit of Mugello, which regularly hosts Ferrari’s annual Finali Mondiali.

“Very often, our Ferrari is the only Mondial in the paddock,” reports Bosio. “The paddock can be full of these fantastic modern cars, but the Mondial looks incredible with its ’80s design between so many new beasts with LED lights and modern bodies.” 

Also of interest is the Mondial’s internal display, an electronic panel beside the radio that provides information on the status of the hood (open or closed), the lights, and the service interval. “It’s quite interesting as an early onboard computer for a car from 1981,” Bosio says. 

Despite its detractors, more than 6,000 Mondials were built, making it a commercial success. The company undoubtedly profited from the model, however by 1993 it decided that it no longer needed it—or, for that matter, a successor. The four variants (the Mondial 8, the 235-hp Quattrovalvole introduced in 1983, the 1985-88 270-hp 3.2, and the 300-hp t unveiled in 1989) had contributed to Ferrari’s renewed economic strength, but with a new level of confidence, the company moved away from an affordable model. The Mondial would also be Maranello’s last mid-engined 2+2. 

“With such a particular design, which aroused so much criticism at the time, but which also gathered such support, I believe that the Mondial, controversial as it is, has no direct rivals,” says Bosio. “Instead, it just has an audience which is directly divided in two: those who love it and those who hate it. Either way, there is no indifference to this car.”

From the reaction his Mondial receives, Bosio believes that today those who love it are in the majority.

“People are always impressed by our Mondial,” he concludes. “So I wonder: Who are all these people who say, ‘The Mondial? I don’t like it’?”

Also from Issue 188

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