It was sold as a mid-sized coupe and, eventually, a cabriolet. The Mondial was conceived as a 'usable' model, offering the practicality of four seats and the performance of a Ferrari. The car had a slightly higher roofline than its stablemates, with a single long door either side, offering easy access and good interior space, reasonable rear legroom, while allround visibility was excellent. The Mondial was produced in fairly high numbers for a Ferrari, with more than 6,800 produced in its 13-year run, and was one of Ferrari's most commercially successful models. The car body was not built as a monocoque in the same way as a conventional car; the steel outer body was produced by the famous Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Scaglietti, just down the road in nearby Modena, built over a lightweight steel box-section space frame. The engine cover and rear luggage compartment lids are in light alloy. The seats and interior were trimmed in Connolly hide, contrasting with the body color. Most cars were painted rosso red, but some were black or silver, and a few were dark blue.
The Mondial was the first Ferrari car where the entire engine/gearbox/rear suspension assembly was mounted on a detachable steel subframe, making engine removal for a major rebuild or cylinder head removal much easier than it was on previous models. Unusually, the handbrake is situated between the driver's seat and the inner sill. Once the handbrake is set it drops down so as not to impede egress and ingress. Instead of the conventional "H" shift pattern, the gearbox has 1st gear situated in a "dog leg" to the left and back, behind reverse. This pattern allows quicker gear shifts between 2nd and 3rd gear, and also between 4th and 5th.
The Mondial was introduced as the Mondial 8 in 1980. It was the first Ferrari to depart from the company's familiar 3-digit naming scheme and was fairly mild, relative to other Ferraris, in terms of performance. It used a mid/rear-mounted Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection V8, shared with the 308 GTBi/GTSi, mounted transversely. The engine was originally used in the 1973 Dino 308 GT4. The K-Jetronic system is mechanical, with a high pressure pump which streams fuel continusly to the injectors; it does not have a computer, just a few relays to handle the cold start sequence etc. The chassis was also based on the 308 GT4, but with a 100 mm (3.9 in) longer wheelbase at 2,650 mm (104.3 in). The suspension was the classic layout of unequal-length double wishbones & Koni dampers all around. The Mondial 8 is considered one of the marque's most "practical" vehicles, due to its 214 hp (160 kW), proven drivetrain, four seats, and relatively low cost of maintenance (major services can be performed without removing the entire engine/transmission subframe).
Engine 3.0 L 4v V8 The first Mondial engine, although a DOHC design, used just two valves per cylinder. The 1982 Quattrovalvole or QV introduced a new 4-valve head, the combustion chamber design was purportedly based on the early 80s F1 engine. Again, the engine was shared with the contemporary 308 GTB/GTS QV, and produced a much more respectable 240 hp (179 kW).
A new Cabriolet bodystyle was added for 1983. Body styling remained the same as the coupé variant, with the roof maintaining the 'buttress' design of the roof, though the Cabriolet required the rear seats to be mounted closer together laterally. The introduction of the Cabriolet saw the popularity of the Mondial rise, particularly in the American market, where the convertible body style was highly desirable. The Cabriolet has the added distinction of being the only 4-seat, mid-rear engine, convertible automobile ever manufactured in regular production.
Like the new 328 GTB, the Mondial's engine grew in both bore and stroke to 3.2 L (3185 cc) for 1985. Output was now 280 hp (201 kW).
Available in both Coupe and Cabriolet forms, styling was refreshed with restyled and body-coloured bumpers, similar to the 328 with more integrated indicators & driving lamps, and new wheels with a more rounded face. The 3.2 also boasted a major interior update, with a more ergonomic layout & a more rounded instrument binnacle, later cars sported ABS (1987 onwards). Fuel injection remained the primarily mechanical Bosch K-Jetronic (CIS) with an o2 sensor in the exhaust providing feedback to a simple computer for mixture trimming via a pulse modulated frequency valve that regulated control fuel pressure. Ignition system was Marelli Microplex, with electronic advance control and one distributor per bank of the V8. The 1988 Mondial 3.2 would be the final model year that retained the relatively low maintenance costs of the 308/328 drivetrain, allowing major service items like timing belt and clutch replacement to be performed with the engine/transmission package still in the car.