This summer, I mark my tenth year in Southern California, after spending the previous thirty years in the Denver area. While Denver’s dry western climate somewhat mirrors California’s, Colorado’s winter snow combined with the use of road salt tends to eat up the local curbside classics after a mere fifteen or twenty years. In addition, the Denver model mix trends more towards light trucks and domestic sedans. In contrast, Southern California’s climate coddles even the thinnest sheet metal, and the locals far prefer imported sedans over the domestic product. When I first arrived here, the view on the street made it clear Angelinos embraced imported sedans many years ago, and only visited domestic dealers for their SUV and full size pickup needs.
Compared to Denver (or just about anywhere), the streets of LA are littered with exotic cars. Just last week, I phoned a buddy back in Denver, and let him hear the exhaust note of a McLaren MP4-12C rolling alongside me on Crenshaw Boulevard. I try not to become jaded about all the exotic hardware, but it’s a challenge when you see a Bugatti Veyron cruise by your house at 3 o’clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or the local Saturday morning hot rod gathering includes a Gullwing Mercedes and a 1970 Boss 302.
Nowadays, the little boy inside me still drools when he spots a red Italian exotic with mid engine power, but the big boy on the outside hopes that red Italian is a bit more exotic than a Ferrari Mondial. Really, around here this car is a non exotic. If you want proof, the owner parked it on the curb with a For Sale sign on the windshield. There’s no need to post your Ferrari in Autotrader when a red and black window sign in the neighborhood provides plenty of potential buyers. As the sign states, it’s just another family car available for purchase.
Wait a minute- A Ferrari family car? If you’re not familiar with Ferrari models, this chart from Wikipedia helps explain where the Mondial fit into the Ferrari lineup. Providing the lineup with a 2 + 2 model, the Mondial replaced the Ferrari (Dino) 308 GT4 in 1980 (We all knew that, right?). Powered by a 3.0 liter v-8, it offered a mid engine platform with four place seating. Unique? Sure. Exciting? Not so much…
While our Curbside Classsic is a coupe, the Mondial was also available as a cabriolet (shown here). Some say this makes the Mondial Cabriolet the only four-place mid engine convertible ever offered in regular production. Here in the states, the convertible out sold the coupe by a fair margin. Perhaps a removable roof would have helped move the excitement meter on this rather hum-drum used car.
I should apologize for the shady side photos. I spotted the car as I drove home from work, and the sun was low in the Western sky. It provided nice lighting for the sidewalk shots, but shots from across the street put the body panels in shadow. While it looks like I shot the car on two different occasions, the photos came from a single session.
I also neglected to take any interior shots, but that’s easily rectified using internet resources. In this borrowed shot, the label on the passenger’s side of the dashboard reads “Quattrovalvole” (four valve) which should match our 1985 Mondial. Ferrari upgraded to the 4 valve per cylinder head in 1983, and then sometime in ’85 they increased the displacement to 3.2 liters. The For Sale sign on our car says “308” (3.0 liter 8 cylinder), so I’ll assume this is still a 3 liter car.
I had to chuckle when I shot the Pininfarina emblem on the Mondial’s flanks. I had recently spotted a very different Pininfarina machine at my local burger joint (see below).
That’s right; the new computer controlled Coke machine has the same label, and even comes in a similar color. We can’t all drive a Pininfarina design built at the Maranello factory, but for the price of a Coke, you can drive this exotic Pininfarina machine to your heart’s content.
It’s kind of odd to think of this Ferrari as a curbside classic, but it meets the criteria. When it’s all said and done, this is someone’s used car moving on to the next phase of its life. If I was so inclined, I could have rung up the owner, met him at the car, and talked him into a test drive. But the thought never crossed my mind. I’m not really a Ferrari kind of guy, and push comes to shove it’s just a Mondial. I guess perhaps I have become a little jaded, after all.
I did some research for this post, and learned something rather interesting. In 1989, Ferrari released the car shown here, called the Mondial T. While it looks very similar to previous Mondials, the car saw significant changes. They mounted the engine transversely in early Modials, but mounted the engine longitudinally in the Mondial T. The transaxle itself remained in the transverse position, creating a driveline with a “T” shape, leading Ferrari to add a T to the model name.
Ferrari still uses this driveline on their mid engine models, so the driveline itself is not all that remarkable. However, the fact that they managed to fit this new package into an existing body amazes me. The clearances in most engine bays are mere inches, and to convert an engine from transverse mounting to longitudinal mounting require changes to the accessory drive, water outlets, intake configuration, starter drive, engine mounts, and exhaust systems. Given the huge changes necessary, any other manufacturer would have designed a new car around the new driveline. I’ve heard the Italians approach auto design a bit differently than the rest of the world, and this crazy upgrade provides evidence to support that statement.
Well, that wraps up my California Curbside Classic. Not the most exotic option on the local roads, but it will do until something better comes along. We’ll see how the folks here at CC relate to the Mondial. I doubt very many of us grew up lusting after this particular mid engine exotic. While Ferraris always strike a chord among enthusiasts, I doubt many garage walls include a picture of this four-seat family car.