Every gearhead wants to drive something unique. We yearn for the thrill of g-sled acceleration, the feel of cornering as though on rails, and styling that makes you the envy of everyone at Cars and Coffee. This usually means an exotic or nearly exotic car. The thrill of being shoved back in your seat, hearing the wail of a high performance engine, as the scenery outside your window blurs, as you watch the speedometer tell you you’re approaching warp speed, it’s an experience few others eclipse. The problem, for most of us, is that exotic car experience is usually accompanied by a hefty price tag, and that job working at Uncle Plucky’s House of Chicken hasn’t impressed your loan officer enough to finance a new Aventador. So, how do the true car geeks among us scratch that itch to go fast, corner hard, and look cool without selling off our first born? Look for those rare-but-attainable affordable exotics. As the average price for a new car is just over $33,500, I have tried to find exotics with an entry price around $40,000. Compared with the sticker of the 2018 Ford GT (around $450,000), Porsche 911 Turbo ($159,200 base), Ferrari 488 ($245,400), and the Lamborghini Aventador ($399,500), $40k begins to look like an absolute bargain.
Ferrari Mondial 1980-1993- The direct replacement for the Ferrari 308/208GT, the Ferrari Mondial was a mid-engine V-8 2+2 produced in both coupe and convertible variants. Backed by Ferrari’s venerable 3.0 liter 90 degree V-8 (the same engine as the Ferrari 308, 308QV, and later the 328), the Pinninfarina styled Mondial began with 214 horsepower, and gained with each subsequent iteration of the aluminum block V-8, ending with 300hp. The Mondial is more practical than either the 308 or 328 in that the rear jump seats offer room for passengers of small stature, or extra parcel/suitcase space. The early Mondial lacked the straight-line performance one would expect from a Ferrari, taking fully 9.4 seconds to reach 60mph from a dead stop, not completing the quarter mile until 16.9 seconds had ticked off the clock. By 1993, those times had dwindled to 6.8 seconds and 14.5 seconds respectively. With over 6,000 units produced over the model’s life span, the Mondial is one of Ferrari’s most successful designs.
Pros: The extra space provided by the Mondial’s 2+2 configuration allows for the transport of (small) people for short trips, or for the carrying of more cargo than one would be able to haul in either the 308 or 328. This certainly makes the Mondial one of the more practical Ferraris, if there is such a thing. It is understated when compared with other Ferraris, allowing for a kind of elegance versus the more-typical “boy-racer” look. The lifespan and popularity of the model would seem to suggest a slightly better parts availability, and due to few changes in the bodywork over the Mondial’s lifespan, it is difficult to tell an early example from a late model. The Mondial was the first Ferrari to take advantage of power brakes, power steering, and electronically controlled suspension.
Cons: Despite being styled by Pinninifarina, not everybody falls in love with the Mondial’s looks. It is one of the most polarizing of all Ferraris. In American dress, the Mondial has large black bumpers on either end. It has the look of a mid-engine 2+2, which lends itself to a very cab-forward appearance. Because of the love-it-or-hate-it looks, it may prove difficult to sell the car at a later date. The typical Ferrari ‘flying buttress’ styling of the time makes for some rather large rearward blind spots, but this will be common to any Ferrari owner. The engine on the Mondial does not necessarily have to be removed to do a timing belt service, but it does make a full service easier. A full belt service performed at a Ferrari dealer can cost upward of $10k. Many of the other seemingly simple services can be quite expensive as well. The necessity of a thorough pre-purchase inspection by a qualified Ferrari mechanic cannot be overstated. Being that these are some of the less expensive Ferraris, they tend to suffer from the ownership of those looking for a bargain, who may tend to defer needed service. The most expensive Ferrari is one with a cheap purchase price due to considerable needed maintenance.
Verdict: As one of the least expensive Ferraris, the Mondial represents an affordable option to the 308/328 line, which has seen a meteoric rise in prices of late. With the back seat to accommodate luggage or littles, it is also one of the more practical offerings from the Prancing Horse. If you are in the market for a Mondial, be sure to look for one with thorough and current service history.