The brainchild of the Mondial’s design was Leonardo Fioravanti of Pininfarina, same designer of everything from the Dino to the F40. From the 288GTO to the Daytona.
When the Mondial 8 first came out, it was an engineering feat. If you can name another production car in the history of the automobile that has four seats, is mid-engined (not rear engined like 911), and accommodated a full cabriolet variant – please name one. Being forced to meet Ferrari’s requirements and keep the design with a traditionally Pininfarina aesthetic was quite the task!
There are modern-day equivalents of the reaction many had. The same comments you hear hurled at the Mondial mirror precisely those today you see thrown at the Ferrari FF/Lusso or say the Porsche Panamera.
The Mondial’s design, however, was not without its admirers, and at the very top of the auto industry.
John Davis, of Motorweek – the Emmy award-winning host of the 40-year show, pointed out that the original MR2 and Fiero were both directly influenced by the mid-rear side strakes, and were obvious derivatives of Fioravanti’s basic design.
This fact lost as one reason the MR2 and Fiero were often called the “poor man’s” Ferrari. This reality had a deleterious effect on the Mondial. If you are familiar with the fashion industry, it is haute couture design houses that introduce new radical trends and looks, that always eventually filter down to Target or Wallmart. It always cracks me up when I see internet commenters point out that the Daytona looks like a “C4 Corvette” or the 412 looks like a “Prelude” – I laugh a little inside.
This fact did no favors on the Mondial’s fortunes as the design looked further ‘down market’ as the ‘look’ became ubiquitous with the Fiero in the front lawn on blocks.
The early Mondial’s fate was sealed when the 1980 EPA regulated variant (only represented 2% of the line) was the one furnished to the three automotive publications that provided lackluster performance.
For detractors of the Mondial’s beauty (or lack thereof) – I invite a reexamination in person of a Concours quality example. While I doubt everyone will change their minds (and that’s fine), I do believe given the history even in my club of Ferrarista, that many do come away with newfound appreciation after experiencing in person first hand. Driving it usually seals the deal.