January 31, 2013
by Cameron Rogers
Photos from topspeed.com
I absolutely love writing the articles that comprise the Dream Garage feature: they are the cars I will buy once I achieve my chosen profession of Eccentric Billionaire, and I simply list them to remind myself what to purchase once I hit that milestone. But as there are two sides to any coin, there must be an inverse to the Dream Garage, and “Cars Regurgitated From the Fiery Depths of Hell,” while certainly more descriptive, is more unwieldy than “Nightmare Garage.” It is with the Ferrari Mondial 8, arguably the worst Ferrari ever made, that we christen the Nightmare Garage.
There have been less powerful Ferraris, of course. The 208 GTB very nearly had a spot in the Nightmare Garage for the simple fact that at 155hp, it is the least powerful Ferrari of all time, even less than the V6 Dino. The 208 was created with the sole intention of defeating the Italian tax on engines larger than 2.0 liters, and the most economical Ferrari suffered greatly for it. It does not make the list, however, because a) aside from the engine, it’s the same as the merely substandard 308, and b) because it’s a beautiful car. It also underpins the 288 GTO that occupies a space in the Dream Garage.
The Mondial replaced the 308 GT4 as Ferrari’s mid-engined V8 2+2, and it would be the last car Ferrari ever made in such a configuration. The V8 was initially the same as the one found in the GT4, although it was fuel injected in a time when Ferrari didn’t exactly understand the technology [Ed.: the fuel injection system was courtesy of Bosch. H/T to Dizengoff]. Thus it was rated at a positively meager 214hp, down 36 from the GT4 (US models made do with a slightly neutered V8 at 205hp).
So it doesn’t have the biggest engine in the world, but it’s still a Ferrari, so it’s got to go like a bat out of hell, right? Hell, a Lotus Elise has about that much power and makes a run from 0-60mph between 4 and 5 seconds! Well, that has to do with a Lotus’s weight. At roughly 2,000lbs, those are bare bones track stars, whereas the Ferrari Mondial is saddled with 3,200lbs, which meant that a storm from standstill to 60 took between 8-9 seconds.
Styling is another area in which the Mondial fails spectacularly. Big black bumpers surrounding the perimeter of the car are pretty ugly, but I’m willing to let Ferrari slide on that one, as most manufacturers in the 80s had a tough time incorporating the unsightly addons, which were now required in the case of an accident. And since most Ferraris end up in the hands of the wealthy and reckless, chances were you’d end up in one sooner or later. The flying buttresses wrapped in beautiful black plastic, on the other hand, are an inexcusable failed styling exercise. The exterior is rather plain, save for the air vents in front of the rear wheels that previewed the Testarossa and the horizontal slats directly above the headlights, giving the car a look similar to a Neanderthal’s forehead. Aside from being swathed in plastic, the interior isn’t too bad, although a dogleg transmission is a somewhat odd choice.
So if a Ferrari isn’t beautiful or fast, it couldn’t be too expensive, right? The base price of the Mondial pushed $64,000, compared to a 300hp Porsche 930 Turbo at about $38,000 during the same time period. A separate subframe housed the engine and transmission, meaning service and repairs took less man hours and were thus less expensive compared to other Ferraris, but were still outrageously expensive when compared to normal cars.
What we have here, then, is a Ferrari in price and cost but not in performance or beauty. Later versions of the Mondial would address power gripes, and the car would get upwards of 300hp toward the end of its life. A novel automated clutch transmission would cost more than $5,000 over the standard manual price, and would feature a normal 5-speed manual gearbox but without a third pedal.
A tepid review of a later edition Ferrari Mondial from old Top Gear
The Mondial is one reason why a Ferrari can be found for less than $30,000, and although it is tempting to own a car with a prancing horse for such little scratch, be forewarned: a cheap Ferrari will lure many hopefuls with its siren song, but normal repairs and service costs can easily make the cost of the car skyrocket. I heard in a car magazine once that the most expensive Porsche is a cheap Porsche, and I feel the same is true for a Ferrari. Ferrari cost and the performance of an early ’90s Honda Accord make it a perfect choice for the inaugural edition of Nightmare Garage.