Garage Band

Say a little prayer for me – I bought a 1983 Ferrari Mondial QV

by Adrian Clarke
17 January 2023 7 min read
Say a little prayer for me – I bought a 1983 Ferrari Mondial QV
Photos: Adrian Clarke

Editor’s note: Adrian Clarke is a car designer, writer, and author of Hagerty’s Vision Thing series. He’s got a thing for the Fiat Panda, but his choice of classic comes in slightly higher up the Italian car food chain…

16 January 2023: An introduction to the unloved Ferrari

I have always been a bit of black sheep, a professional contrarian in the things I like and how I style myself.

That’s not what attracted me to what has long been considered the pecaro nera from Maranello, the Mondial. What appealed apart from the obvious fact it’s a Ferrari, is that in today’s market it’s spectacular value for money. I’m not going to pretend they’re cheap. But in my patented “what else could you get for the same money?” method of working out if I think something is overpriced, against something like a RWD Escort surely a Ferrari seems like a no-brainer?

I’m not of means. Late last year I had an unexpected windfall and my evenings immediately swapped from Gran Turismo and Star Trek to perusing classic car adverts and researching possible candidates. No point leaving it in the bank earning a paltry interest rate. Get something with a sense of occasion but a bit out of the ordinary. Aircooled 911? Too ubiquitous, too Instagram. DeLorean? Too fashionable, too unavailable. I struck a biro through these for also being too expensive.

I’ve always loved the unloved 348 for not being a 355 and simply because I liked the look of the thing. A glance at the classifieds told me everyone else had caught on to my thinking and the market had moved up accordingly. I began wondering where Mondials were sitting price wise.

Adrian Clarke Ferrari Mondial

Hello. Hello.

The Mondial was first shown at Geneva in 1980 as a direct replacement for the Gandini-designed 308 GT4. Bolted on the same mechanicals as its sister car the 308, it added a further 100mm into the wheelbase over the GT4 to make the +2 seats slightly more useful. Responsibility for the exterior design was handed back to Pininfarina under long time Ferrari sketcher Leonardo Fioravanti. Subtly blending the angularity of the GT4 with the curves of the 308, the Mondial was the genesis of the slats and strakes theme that dominated the Testarossa and culminated on the 348.

Mechanical Bosch K Jetronic fuel injection and Marelli electronic ignition were bolted on the existing 2.9 Dino V8 for better emissions and fuel consumption, but this resulted in a power drop over the GT4 and earlier 308s equipped with Webers, down from 255bhp to 211bhp. The 308 received these engine updates at the same time but unlike the Mondial seemingly escaped criticism for being not powerful enough.

Let’s pause for a minute then and examine where the Mondial’s bad rep came from. Both Road & Track and Car & Driver tested the original Mondial 8 in November 1981 and came up with less than stellar 0-60mph figures of 9.4 and 9.3 seconds respectively, although Road & Track did admit their test car had problems with the gearshift. Car & Driver just hated it for being civilised, usable and generally not manly enough which says more about Car & Driver at the time than the Mondial. Motor Sport’s Alan Henry recognised its appeal, in 1981, writing: ‘…[it] offers the indefinable magic of Ferrari motoring as an everyday experience rather that as an occasional treat.’

The whole point of the Mondial was to make a car with a broader appeal. It was the first Ferrari fully developed under the auspices of Fiat, who wanted to increase sales after their takeover. Nonetheless in 1982 Ferrari gave the Mondial four-valve heads with the introduction of the quattrovalvole. This turned the power back up to a respectable 240bhp and the 0-60 time back down to 6.4 seconds.

Adrian Clarke Ferrari Mondial 360
A mid-engined icon… and a Ferrari 360 Modena.

It gained bigger lungs in 1985 with the displacement increasing to 3.2 litres (concurrent with the 308 morphing into the 328) which bought with it a tidying up of the exterior, the bumpers becoming wrap around fibreglass pieces painted body colour. Finally in 1988 the heavily revised Mondial t appeared with a new fully electronically controlled 3.4-litre engine swivelled through 90 degrees. Forming a T shape with the gearbox which remained transversely mounted, this package was shared with the new 348. Appearing for the first time were ABS, power steering, adjustable dampers and an optional Valeo clutch-pedal-less manual transmission.

All but the original Mondial 8 were available as coupé or convertible, so if you want a 2+2 mid-engine drop-top you have a choice of precisely one car. When production ended in in 1993, just over 6100 Mondials of all variants had been built. Put in perspective, that’s far fewer than the 308, 328, 348 and 355. A waggish take would be that’s because it wasn’t as popular, but it sat above the 308/328 and was more expensive to buy new.

So think of a Mondial as a roomier, more ergonomic and thanks to that wheelbase extension less snappy 308 and you’re reasonably on the money. As stylish? It’s a matter of taste, but because I have an acquired palette I prefer the tautness of the Mondial over the familiarity of the 308. Picasso’s blue period contains some of his least loved works, but they’re still Picassos.

My sweet spot therefore appeared to be a qv; considerably more go than the 8 and less complication than the t. I committed two cardinal sins in my purchase. Well three if you include the fact that early driving career rot boxes aside this is my first car that can be considered a classic. I didn’t get it inspected and I bought the first one I looked at.

Adrian Clarke Ferrari Mondial

An explanation. When I was looking the market wasn’t exactly awash with cars. In fact there were precisely three available. One was slightly leggier and cheaper than what I paid and had well known and hard to solve typical Mondial problems; a kaput electric sunroof and a fuel gauge that only read empty. Another was at the upper end of the market and looked superb in the photos, had stacks of documentation but was slightly over budget and had six previous owners. At the time of writing, ten months later, both these cars were still for sale!

The car I bought the was the middle option. A one-owner, totally original ’83 quattrovalvole with a tick over 41,000 miles. Full documentation including the original new-car order form from HR Owen of Mayfair for £27,700. It even still had the guarantee for the trick dealer-fit Pioneer stereo. Just one small problem: the car had been sitting for a number of years after the original owner replaced it, with just the occasional start up until the battery finally died. Included in the purchase price however was a full recommissioning including service, new timing belts and a fresh MOT.

No point buggering about with an inspection in that case. Test drive done, deposit paid in December and in the middle of January I received a call saying the car was ready. Back to the dealer to transfer a ridiculous amount of money via an app on my phone (what a fascinating modern world we live in etc.) and a few days later a flatbed appeared outside my house at an undignified hour in the morning (seriously, what time do these guys start work?) with a 1983 Ferrari Mondial qv on the back. My neighbour was outside having his first smoke of the day. “Bloody hell, that yours?”. Yes. Yes it was.

Adrian Clarke Ferrari Mondial

The Mondial might have been conceived as an easier to live with Ferrari. In that case I can’t imagine what they were like before. It is not a soft boulevardier. It’s not a fingertip, on its tippy-toes car. Every input requires thought, heft and determination. No power steering means low speeds are a work out. The upside is you can literally feel road markings through the Momo rim. You shift from the shoulder, not the wrist, and there’s no second gear while the box is cold. Oh and it’s a dog-leg first so you really are cosplaying as 1984 Michele Alboreto on his weekend off. But get it all warm and bury the throttle so you’ve got some revs through the drive train and it all comes alive in a mechanically satisfying manner.

Despite the extra wheelbase the front wheel still protrudes into the pedal box. I have size 11 feet so any footwear bulkier than Converse All Stars is a no go. I suspect a set of racing boots lies in my future. The column angles towards the centre of the car slightly, so you’re sitting with a slight torque on your spine, like when you try to undo a jar of olives. The wheel is adjustable for reach and rake depending on how much of the instrument panel you want hidden. It’s not uncomfortable though, and at 6’2” I have plenty of room without needing the seat on its last notch.

What was it The Old Man used to say? He’ll sell you the engine and you get the rest for free. Thanks to fuel injection, electronic ignition with multiple maps and a fresh battery, starting is twist and go. A quick pre-programmed flare before settling into a smooth, busy idle. The red line is 7700rpm and once fully up to temperature you need to use all of them. It’s deliciously linear and toe-twitch responsive. Power builds through to the torque peak at five thousand, then takes a deep breath and goes again towards the limiter as the 32 valves do their best work, sounding utterly glorious all the way. It’s not neck-strainingly fast but is more than quick, that wide rev range meaning you can always drop a gear and go. It is perhaps a touch under-geared; sixty isn’t available until third so motorway cruising is a busy affair.

Adrian Clarke Ferrari Mondial gear lever
Mondial centre console. Switches, gated shifter, and oh-so many warning lights.

Even though civility was the Mondial’s remit it goes about it in an endearingly Italian way. It has electronic climate control, but this only operates out of the three central vents above the centre console. As a car of the Eighties everything has a switch; windows, locking, mirrors, aerial, bonnet and engine cover releases, fuel cap cover, and amusingly the glovebox. There’s a self diagnostic system that has a HAL9000 bank of warning lights next to the gear lever for that feeling of driving a grenade with the pin pulled out. A cassette holder that only takes the actual cassette itself, not the cases. If anyone has the misfortune to travel in the rear seats they at least have their own fag lighter and ashtray.

There were a couple of niggles. That aforementioned fuel gauge issue? Yeah. Innocently I reasoned a couple of tanks of super unleaded would free it up. Sound was coming out of only one speaker. Easy enough, I’ve done enough simple installs in my time. The digital clock had a couple of dead segments. Well, I couldn’t see the clock from my driving position anyway. I didn’t care as at the price paid I had bloody stolen it.

Because I got the car at the beginning of January, I didn’t exactly know when and where I was going to be going with it, so what else to do first but the weekly big shop. Three bags for life easily slotted into the rear boot with room to spare (the front is full of spare wheel, radiators and electronics). This kind of drudgery our dailies put up with, but being able to pull off in a classic suddenly makes the Friday evening trip to Sainsbury’s much more fun. The Ferrari sense of occasion is definitely there.

Then a slightly bigger niggle. As I closed the boot after a second shopping trip I noticed a trail of coolant had piddled onto the road where I reverse parked…

But that, as they say, is a story for another time. I’ll be updating you on my adventures with the Mondial, right here, over time. Say a little prayer for me.

Check out the Hagerty Media homepage for daily news, features, interviews and buying guides, or better still, bookmark it.

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Comments

  • Peter James says:

    What a great story, I look forward to future updates.
    I bought a 1987 Mondial 3.2qv over 10 years ago with 34,000 miles on the clock and still have it. It now has over 90,000 miles on it, having been to Italy twice, including a visit to the factory, where it turned a few heads, and numerous other touring holidays in France etc.
    In May we shall be taking it to France again with a 10 day tour down to friends near Carcassonne.
    The sunroof and fuel gauge still work, as does everything else and apart from an annual service in March when it gets its mot and a belt change every three years, nothing too major has needed to be done.
    The car has given and continues to give great fun and I shall be sorry when it eventually has to go. It is always ready to be driven but I try to limit its use as I want to preserve the immense sense of occasion I get when I do take it out.
    Without doubt, one of the best cars I have ever owned and certainly the best £17k I have ever spent!
    Hope you enjoy your Mondial as much as I have.

    Regards,
    Peter James

  • Adrian Clarke says:

    Fantastic Peter. Now mine’s all sorted I have been thinking about a road trip back Old Country during the summer, and I’d love to take it to Le Mans as I’ve never been. They’re no longer £17k, but they are still extremely good value for money. I’ve not seen another all last year (I bought the car about a year ago) The picture with the 360 was taken at Caffeine & Machine Mondial got all the attention.

  • Peter James says:

    They’re not only good value but probably one of the most practical Ferraris. On our return journey from the factory in Maranello I remember the proper boot and cabin not only took all our luggage comfortably, but also swallowed up 7 cases of wine too – try doing that in a 488!
    Some people turn their noses up at Mondials, but as a serial Ferrari owner friend once said to me, ‘It’s still got a prancing horse on the bonnet and ‘Ferrari’ on its boot, so it’s no less a Ferrari.’

    Happy motoring.

  • stefan nagy says:

    Looks really nice! Hopefully see you at caffeine and machine this year👍

  • Adrian Clarke says:

    I’ll get down there at some point as it’s not too far from where I live. Stay tuned to my twitter I usually post when and where I’m out and about.

  • Christian Thomas says:

    This looks a super buy. I’ve wanted one of these for a long time – and a 308GT4 for even longer. I agree with your taste and think it’s an absolutely beautiful car. That format of car is very adaptable and practical, in a way that I don’t think people appreciate. I have had a number of Lotus Excels and they are equally overlooked but they do have two problems. One is that they just don’t hit the spot visually so you never really love owning them, and two that they are annoyingly underpowered. I don’t quite know why because the same engine in an Esprit S3 is absolutely fine and that always feels alert and ready to go. You end up revving them out all the time and you don’t really ever relax to enjoy the saloon element of the car.

    I’ll follow you on Twitter because I’ll be very interested to see what your views are on how well the car handles and whether it is powerful enough in practice. It has often occurred to me that you could probably squeeze quite a lot more power out of it with a different engine management system. I don’t know whether the injectors aren’t up to it but it always struck me as bizarre that the injection versions of that engine should take such a hit. Indeed, why weren’t they outperforming the carburettors. That sort of modification wouldn’t greatly offend my desire for maintaining originality.

  • Adrian Clarke says:

    I suspect the power drop is the fact The GT4 and early 308s had quad carbs, whereas the K Jetronic is a very simple single point set up (I think). Also emissions and noise regs were becoming important (I’ll cover the noise in a forthcoming update) so it’s probably not in such a high state of tune.
    It’s 240bhp in a 1400kg car, so it’s about the same power to weight as something like a 2.7 Boxster or a 2.0TT. Sixty is probably mid sixes, but it’s the way it goes – the responsiveness and the noise. I’m not a wheelman by any stretch of the imagination, but it grips and responds well and the steering is heaven (if heavy at low speeds).

  • howard scott says:

    Look up under the dash and you will see a small circular A/C vent that you can open and close to keep your size 11’s cooler. There is one on each side, and its amazing how many owners have no idea they are there. I’m pretty sure mine had never been opened when I bought the car four years ago.

  • John Stevens says:

    Peter James I am curious…….How did you take your Mondial to Europe? What service did you used and ballpark, how much did it cost? I have the same dream.

  • Andy says:

    How much? £’s?

    • James Mills says:

      Andy, you mean the price of the car? That’s in the story:

      ‘The car I bought the was the middle option. A one-owner, totally original ’83 quattrovalvole with a tick over 41,000 miles. Full documentation including the original order form from HR Owen of Mayfair for £27,700.’

  • Julian Grattidge says:

    Great read. For me it’s about how it makes you feel, rather than what it is in itself. I have a Mk1 Escort Mexico which I had professionally restored over a six year period. It is what it is – an old Escort – but my god, I’m never happier than when I’m behind the wheel. It literally stops traffic wherever it goes, it takes half an hour to fill up as everyone wants to stop and talk about it, but it is still an Escort, though that’s exactly what I want it to be. I think the Mondial QV is the perfect buy in the current market. Excellent value for money and it could not look any more retro if it tried. The boxy look always strangely reminds me of the Delta Intergrale (which I also love) yet half the price! Proper 80s. Love it. Will follow updates with interest.

  • Ed Helsing says:

    If the long coolant hoses are original they are usually the first to go. The insides are probably rotted. But they are interesting to replace. Welcome to the fun. Cheers

  • Tom Spiro says:

    I read your article, and it was very entertaining. I ‘m a long time Ferrari owner – having had 308’s 328 and now a 599. They are all great cars, and all take time and money. I’m looking for a Mondial coupe as a 2nd play car…but thats another story.

    the QV engine and gearbox are strong and very reliable, it almost always the electrics that cause issues. relays, fuses are usually the main culprit. The fuse board is not robust – so that is one of the best things to replace – upgrade, also over time the connectors in the wiring harness will go – usually fuel pump 1st – then windows – where they draw a lot of amps … the culprit will be hard start – spark – no start… if relays, are good, then look for connectors… easy to tell – brown mark on the one that goes bad… this can save you thousands of diagnostic pounds… and usually a super easy fix. hoses are the other thing to watch for – they dry rot … usually the auxillary air hoses.. and the ones that feed the fuel metering unit and the warm up regulator. I’d replace all that as much as you can up front … as you go, so you dont have a failure on a drive.

    AC – has never been a strong point – if you can upgrade compressors and evaporators… its a good move but $$…. otherwise you will have a great classic Ferrari. BTW the Mondial handles great on track – the long wheel base really lets you lean on the car!

  • Guido says:

    Great write-up. You are going to love this ownership. I have my QV (1982) since 2002…a was a garage queen I have to confess. After a lot of DIY hours it is in great shape and for the moment 59.000 km. It has a better handling then the 328 that I also own. Water leak is on the water pump side…Enjoy it !

  • Carl Yuen says:

    having a few 1980s icons myself -the first thing i see are METRIC WHEELS!! Praying for you, Mr Clarke.

  • Ian Robertson says:

    Well as My Old Man often said “my son, there maybe two of the happiest days of your life ahead, the day you buy a Ferrari and the day you sell” he owned a 308 and was capable of fixing most issues himself but man alive he spent some time doing so ! You are in my prayers. Good luck.

  • Adrian Clarke says:

    There’s a story there which I’ll be covering later, but yes it’ll be staying on the TRXs for a while yet.

  • Adrian Clarke says:

    Howard thanks for that info, I’ll have a look at the weekend!

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    I saw the same Mondial for sale and thought it was a great buy. Glad you took the plunge and look forward to reading about your experiences. Good luck!

  • stephen bogert says:

    At least a few Mondials had the drivetrain used to power Lancia Stratos replica kits! You get to give up all carrying capacity.

  • Andrew says:

    Really good article. I bought a pup of a 1985 qv cab 24 months ago from a classic car dealer. Sadly, the car was good but the mechanical problems I’ve had and the £12.5k spent rectifying everything have left me with a love-hate relationship with the car, so I bought a California and upon its return from the last bits being done will look at selling it the Mondial in Spring. That all said and done, it is a great iconic car of which I still enjoy driving and get more looks than my other cars. Who knows, I may keep it as it should be tip top by February.

  • Pete Martin says:

    Have an 82 QV I have had 10 years I could write a novel about it finally nearly there with it some new bodywork and complete respray last year but at the moment can’t lock passenger door so trying too source replacement,so could be chapter 27 of my novel ..

  • Adrian Clarke says:

    @Andy – I got five pounds change from £37k. The £27k figure is the original purchase price in 1983.

  • Barry says:

    Great story

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