Looking at the ’84 Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole today, you wonder how it could have ever been considered to be an attractive car, yet, in it’s day would have turned every head as it roared down the street.
The only explanation is that this was a decade where people thought mullets and leg-warmers were good ideas, and it is easy to imagine it being driven by a Gordon Gecko business man talking on a brick-like mobile phone, while a lady with shoulder pads wider than the front seat applies fluro nail polish.
It’s angular lines aside, it still wears the horse badge, and that means you want to drive it, and at the very least, sit in the drivers seat, and with it’s bright Red colour that seems to be the sole domain of Ferrari cars, it is just so inviting.
Unfortunately, the interior designer appears to have been on holidays, the day they started the inside. Instead they hired a guy by the name of Angelo, who happened to be stumbling past the factory, bottle of vino in hand.
Regardless, you don’t start to notice the true issues with the car until you actually try to interact with it. It is so incredibly low, that it is honestly easier to get into it after first squatting down. At about 6 inches off the ground, the insuring acrobatics should only be attempted by yoga masters and professional contortionists.
Once sitting in the drivers seat, you realise the complete stupidity of the layout. The door handle is some sort of puzzle and appears as if it can be pulled in 3 different directions, the air controls are so far to the left, they sit almost directly in front of the passenger, and to instill confidence in Italian engineering, there is a warning panel with lights indicating when something is wrong that is a foot long.
Unfortunately, Ferrari electronics are so notoriously shoddy, that this itself, probably doesn’t work. Confidence is greatly shaken when you try to put the windows up (for aerodynamic reasons of course), which take a full minute to be raised. And looking at the logbog, this appears to be a common issue.
The 2+2 layout of the vehicle has been described as being practical, and “Two adults and two children can easily fit”. The reality is that there is only a few inches space behind the front seats. If anyone were forced to sit in the back seat for any length of time, they would curse all Ferrari’s for the rest of the life.
Despite not running away from the monstrosity of a car, I finally get around to starting the ignition. A gentle roar occurs throughout the cabin, and grasping the wheel and getting to put it into gear you notice the ‘dog-leg’ gear box. Reverse is where first normally is, first where second is, etcetera. This is done so as to facilitate quicker changes between second and third and fourth to fifth. If you are not careful though, it can become an issue with mis-changes.
While this is a good idea, as once moving around, first is unlikely to be chosen, but considering that you can easily get up to 70km/h in first, you will find yourself drawn to use it regularly.
Pulling out of the garage is difficult. It takes all of my upper body strength to just turn the wheel, and the small bumps in getting out of the lot are magnified, making you very aware just how ridiculously low one is to the ground. Added to this, the fact you can barely see any of the exterior of the car, and thus have no idea how close you are to hitting objects, you wonder how little vision previous Ferraris were, for this to be considered good visibility.
The short distance I have to reverse, is one of the most difficult maneuvers have ever attempted. Stalling three times, I feel too inexperienced to be driving, but quickly get the hang of it. Finally pulling out of the car-yard, I am careful to not thrash it straight away, and at 2000rpm, the car seems lackluster and I wonder how this car ever got into production.
The rumble seems to vibrate throughout my body, and I am seconds away from being shaken to dust. After a few minutes away from the yard, I decide to follow the advice I was given. Keep it above 4000rpm, so put my foot down to see what will happen.
A whir of engines, similar to the sounds of a jet taking off, and a jerk that throws my body into the seat , and suddenly I need second. Shuffling around, with difficulty, until it is in gear, I press down on the accelerator again, and once more am reminded of turbine engines.
A pulse resonates up through my leg.
This road belongs to me.
All roads belong to me.
Driving was invented not to get from one location to another, but for the pure joy of this moment.
Before I know it, I need to change to third. It is then, that I come upon the realisation, that when driving this beautiful piece of machinery, you will spend more time searching for the gear you want, than actually in gear. Continuing to roar down the road, I am in a complete state of euphoria.
Soon I am not aware of things like the clutch, or the wheel, or gear changes. They have become like second nature, and am as conscious of them as my own breathing or heart beat. I’m not even really in control of this creature. I have described driving some cars, like feeling one with it, but this is different. This transcends that.
The Ferrari is a lot like a woman. You can have your say, voice your opinion, but in the end, you do as she wants. The Ferrari is in control of me. It’s as if she is using me simply to get her moving along. We go where she wants.
The road opens up and you power along. The Sound. The Vibration. The Feel. It melds around you.
Every corner is a thing of wonder as you seem to float around it. The steering that at low speeds was almost impossible, becomes light. It holds to the road, and even the sharpest of corners seem like like they can be taken at a ridiculous speed. The issues of its lowness, stiffness and hard steering make perfect sense.
As long as she is fed the correct amount of revs, she will respond accordingly, and the drive will seem like a dream. Lay off the power or take it easy, and you will be punished.
As the car warms up, and as long as the revs are kept up above the 4000 mark, gears come more easily to hand, and slide into place of their own accord. Braking is consistent, and will bring you to a stop comfortably and completely.
Pulling into the car-yard and stepping out of the car, you look upon it in a completely different light. You no longer see the repulsive angular lines, but they are now sharp and straight. The interior isn’t bare, but necessarily spartan. The colour-contrasts are a masterpiece. This is an Italian car to its core. It has soul that can not be described. The beauty of it is impossible to see, until felt.
All the little minor faults are forgotten, and things like power and torque melt away when you drive. As the redlining occurs at 8000rpm, you don’t necessarily have to think, but rather feel your way through the changes. I have driven cars that are elegant, luxurious, powerful, or performance-based. Yet nothing ever really prepares you for a true Italian car. This is one of their masterpieces.
Ultimately, when the car is driven correctly, it will be a pleasure, eating up the kilometres with little difficulty. Highway driving would be no issue, and corners are welcomed with glee, yet in saying that, it could quickly become too much if driven for an extended period of time, as driving it does take a toll on your body.
The Ferrari can be boiled down to just a few words:
Driving: One of the greatest experiences of my life. On the birth of my first born child, I will let you know which was the more enlightening moment.