News

The handling characteristics of a Mondial...

Discussion in 'Mondial' started by JessN16, Mar 1, 2020.

  1. JessN16

    JessN16 Rookie

    Sep 20, 2019
    17
    Full Name:
    Jess Nicholas
    As I continue to try to figure out when/if to buy one of these cars, I have been trying to prepare myself a bit for what to expect in regards to actual driving/handling of a Mondial. This would be my first mid-engine car.

    For that reason, I've tried to ascertain what the risks are more so than the rewards. I've spent a lot of time monitoring posts on boards for cars as wide-spaced as the Pontiac Fiero and Toyota MR2 all the way up to Porsche 718, Lotus Evora, Lotus Exige, etc. And the words that have begun to haunt me are "lift-off oversteer."

    I have driven a lot of older cars in my life -- after learning how to drive on an old Willys jeep, my dad's next assignment was for me to learn how to drive his 1970 Corvette Stingray with a 454ci engine. That's 390 hp and 500 lb torque in a car weighing 3,200 pounds, and somehow Chevrolet managed to get a 47/53 weight distribution despite having that big anchor under the hood. I never had a problem with LOO in that Stingray, but it may have been because I was too terrified to push it to its limits. The only time I had issues with it breaking loose was in the rain, when turning onto a road that had a large crown in it. Then it would try to break loose at any speed and almost any throttle.

    As for me personally, after having a little cheap throwaway car as a teen (Ford Tempo, aka "the Tempo of Doom"), my first "real" car was a FWD monster at the time known as the Ford Taurus SHO. I didn't just drive that car, I also raced it in SCCA Solo II. But now we're talking about 230-ish HP on a 3,500-pound car with a 60/40 weight split. The car was king of understeer.

    Unfortunately, that's what I grew accustomed to, and I've noticed it infecting my driving ever since. My first instinct to fight understeer is simply to drop throttle. Oversteer? I rarely get it. My current car lineup goes like this:

    1987 Jaguar XJ6 sedan: Weighs so much it should have Royal Caribbean written on it. Engine produces less than 200 hp and it almost can't break traction even if it wanted to.

    1989 Jaguar XJS V12: Better motor but still over 4,000 pounds with me in it and a good bit of a 900-pound motor sitting forward of the axle.

    2010 Jaguar XF: 50/50 weight split and a great engine, but has more computers than Silicon Valley and I'm not sure how much "driving" I'm really doing.

    The best analog I have for a Mondial, therefore, is probably my 1988 Mitsubishi Starion. I've owned several of these cars, and they handle beautifully, with RWD and near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, short wheelbase and a limited-slip differential. The engine is turbocharged to produce around 200 hp at 2,950 pounds, but more importantly, that little 4-cylinder makes close to 240 lb of torque. I have driven these cars VERY spiritedly and have yet to have any issues with their handling.

    But every time I read "lift-off oversteer," I panic. Lift off my Starion, and it resetlles. I've seen the video of the guys in the Lotus Exige who appear to be just driving a little quick on some mountain road, and suddenly, with no warning, they center-punch a guardrail because the tail came around and the driver had no time to catch it.

    As bad as that would be to do -- out of control on some mountain pass, hitting a guardrail (or there being no guardrail there and going down the side of the mountain instead) -- worse yet with a Mondial, this isn't an Evora or a Fiero. You don't just go pull the next one off the rack. Moreover, if you do hit anything, I'm going to assume the Mondial isn't nearly as crash-safe as an Evora is.

    Understand I'm not looking to race this car, or buzz the countryside at 100 mph with my family hanging on for dear life. But I also don't want to crawl around in it, scared to death of a phantom in the trunk waiting to wreck my car and hurt its occupants just because I took that last corner at 60 and not 59.

    The real problem is I have very little opportunity to test anything at this point. I live in a rural area far away from any racecourses or SCCA driving schools. I have zero access to a mid-engine car. I had actually thought about buying a Fiero for a couple of years as sort of an intermediate step. But the Fiero was a poor-handling car even on its best day, not a great analog for a Ferrari.

    Anyone able to calm my nerves about this?

    Jess
     
    paulchua likes this.
  2. JLF

    JLF Formula Junior

    Sep 8, 2009
    999
    Dallas
    Full Name:
    JERRY
    I can’t, I just putt around in mine like an old man, listening to the exhaust.


    Sent from my iPad using FerrariChat.com mobile app
     
    Eddie.h, gsfent and JessN16 like this.
  3. greatscott73

    greatscott73 Karting

    Sep 1, 2017
    128
    West central Florida
    Full Name:
    Howard Scott
    This era of car is not a low end torque monster. You would have to be trying REALLY hard to get into that kind of trouble with a car that makes most of its power at the upper end of the rev range. The longer wheelbase of the Mondial also help make the cars better handlers than their smaller siblings. I think you may be expecting trouble that isn’t really an issue, but maybe JLF and I belong to the same drivers club, lol.
     
    JessN16 likes this.
  4. Wade

    Wade Two Time F1 World Champ
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Mar 31, 2006
    28,900
    East Central, FL
    Full Name:
    Wade O.
    The Mondial is probably the most stable of the "old" mid-engined Ferraris. Like Howard mentioned, the longer wheelbase has a lot to do with it. With that in mind, there's really no point in comparing it to any other car.

    Curious as to where, exactly, have you read about "lift-off oversteer" as it applies to the Mondial. Not an issue, really.
     
    JessN16, gsfent and Texas Forever like this.
  5. JessN16

    JessN16 Rookie

    Sep 20, 2019
    17
    Full Name:
    Jess Nicholas
    I may have confused people; the complaints about lift-off oversteer were in regards to mid-engine cars as a whole. Not necessarily the Mondial in particular.

    Jess
     
    paulchua likes this.
  6. Wade

    Wade Two Time F1 World Champ
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Mar 31, 2006
    28,900
    East Central, FL
    Full Name:
    Wade O.
    If your post was in the 348 Forum then I could understand the concern (more so with an earlier car). ;)

    No worries with the Mondial.
     
    paulchua and JessN16 like this.
  7. gsfent

    gsfent Formula 3

    Nov 16, 2009
    1,046
    PB County, Florida
    Full Name:
    Jerry
    You would have to be driving way above what street driving calls for to have to worry about "lift throttle" oversteer. The Mondial's are very stable (the t a little more so due to lower center of gravity).

    Old Porsche 911's were problematic for drivers that did not have the skills to drive the car. Even on the track, I don't think you can unknowingly get trailing throttle oversteer in a Mondial if you are not trying.

    At high enough speed, like on a race track, you CAN get trailing throttle oversteer, but on the track, you want some of that. You steer the car with the throttle and the steering wheel. It helps you turn into a corner and get lined up to accelerate out of the corner. Not so on the street. You can always go to a slightly wider rear tire ( 1 size wider, keep about the same rolling diameter) to help keep the rear tucked in relative to the front if you are really concerned.

    I might suggest you do some driving schools to hone your skills (not sure if Skip Barber is around any more, but there are plenty of decent driving schools out there). Or some of the "marque" schools, where an instructor is supplied as part of the track driving fee. Relatively inexpensive for what you are getting.

    Once you better understand the dynamics of driving, you will have no fear of driving the Mondial.

    Regards,
    Jerry
     
  8. moysiuan

    moysiuan Formula 3
    Silver Subscribed

    Nov 1, 2005
    1,740
    Toronto, Canada
    Full Name:
    Andy
    #8 moysiuan, Mar 1, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2020
    My 1988 Mondial 3.2 Cabriolet has some understeer, like with many mid engine cars you can play bit with tire pressures and calibrate this, you want lower pressure in the fronts to keep the correct amount of understeer for handling predictability. I use Pirelli All Seasons, and I think you want a tire that does not have too much grip and gives more predictable release characteristics. Maybe tires with too much modern performance compounds would make the break away character too touchy, but I don't recall other FChatters with performance tires noting this.

    I did a high speed emergency avoidance manuever once that was pretty extreme, and had no oversteer that was unable to be corrected as in more typical cars I have driven. Also happy to have my ABS brakes in that instance, which functioned like a modern car would. The car tracks very straight on the highway. Compared with a Porche 944 I owned, the Mondial was not near as tossable, and it feels like a notably heavier car. Definitely more of a GT car, but not a luxury car either, so it is a bit of a unique niche. The engine sounds great (with a sport cat), and makes the drive a bit of an event.

    The cab body on tube frame configuration is pretty tight, not much scuttle shake unless you go at speed over a rail track, then you can tell the body rigidity was compromised for the cab design. I hear the hardtop has a very different handling dynamic, the tighter body would no doubt change the feel.

    The gated shifter is fun to use, but it does not snick snick like a Japanese modern, the throws are quite long. You "place" the shifter deliberately, and you feel alot of mechanical feedback. Not so refined, but not unappealing depending on what you are used to.

    The interior ergonomics are a bit odd, the drivers seat cants very slightly towards the centre of the car, and the pedals offset due to the wheel well intrusion. To get the seat to steering wheel and shifter all where you want them to be can be a bit quirky. I got a Hill Engineering steering wheel spacer to add about 2 inches of extra reach to the steering wheel, and that solved things for me. The manual steering is fine for daily driver use, but is definitely more effort for doing a parallel park or a tight parking garage. But the steering is remarkably light for a manual steering system.

    As for crash performance, there are a few photo shots of front end crashed Mondials, and the crumple zone looks really effective, the mild steel tubing seem to deform well and passenger compartment seems protected. With proper front seat belts, you would do ok, although the headrests are too low even on their highest setting, so the whiplash risk would be higher than in a modern car. The rear lap belts would not do a great job, the later t models had the shoulder belts which would be more like in a modern car. A hit from the rear would have the engine and alot of rear seat space and frame crumple to absorb a hit. The weakness would be on a side hit, my Swiss market car has no door beams (US market does, and also have hydraulic rams in the bumpers). A t bone hit would probably not go well, so I am extra cautious in busy intersections. And of course, riding in a low car in a sea of SUV's with little rear visibility, you do need to defensively drive, much like I did in my very early motorcycle days where you have to assume you might not be seen. But having commuted for years in grid locked Toronto with the usual distracted road raged SUV drivers, the Mondial has held it own. A hit at lower city speeds would probably be not too bad from an injury standpoint, but the car would definitely not withstand much a bump before it would be a writeoff. But better the car than me.

    The Mondial t would be a different experience, I am told it handles better with a lower centre of gravity powertrain, but when I drove one to compare at the time I bought my 3.2 I did not feel much difference, but then I didn't test drive the cars that hard. The t has a cable rather than rod shifter, so the shift feel was a bit less rifle shot like in the gate. The t did have a notably softer ride with adjustable shocks, and power steering which would help with parking for sure. The ABS brakes were standard on the t (only the late 3.2's had them earlier). The engine had more torque, and made the car feel more relaxed in power delivery than the 3.2. In period tests (Car and Driver I recall) did suggest the t has at limit handling that was a bit touchy, which I would have thought would have been reduced with the powertrain placement, but that was not the case. I don't recall the earlier 8, QV and 3.2 Mondials being tested in period with at limit handling concerns. Part of the t issue might simply be that the limit was higher, and when it let go was more challenging to deal with.

    From your concerns, the post 1989 t would have the full rear seat belts, ABS standard, and US spec would have the door beams and bumpers, so that's probably your safest ride. But the handling at limit might be less predictable, other t owners should weigh in on this. If you wanted kids in the back you would probably feel better to have full seat belts. In my experience, I usually had my boy in the front so I did not think much about the rear seats.

    You are not wrong to think of safety, a modern car is remarkably safe, and these low cars and older small sports cars generally can be a bit out of place in a modern environment. The Mondial are kind of in the transition period from classics from a safety standpoint, and Ferrari with eg. ABS was a premium vehicle for safety in its day. It does not appear to be crazy to enjoy them for daily driving.
     
    JessN16, paulchua and Texas Forever like this.
  9. BillyD

    BillyD Formula 3
    Silver Subscribed

    Feb 28, 2004
    1,526
    Pacific Northwest
    Full Name:
    Bill
    I had a 77 308GTB that handled like a go cart after rebuilding and updating its suspension and tires and cutting down on its weight with some Euro pieces. My 83 Mondial is a lot heavier and I haven’t completed the suspension rebuild and it seems a bit tail heavy. But what do you expect for a 37 year old car and suspension. I think when I complete its modifications it will be predictable in corners but will always carry that weight on the rear. They say Ferrari’s make mediocre drivers look good, I hope so.
     
    JessN16 likes this.
  10. Meister

    Meister F1 Veteran
    Silver Subscribed

    Apr 27, 2001
    5,071
    Duluth, MN
    Full Name:
    The Meister
    The mondial is a fun car to drive. Cab forward make sit feel like you are just driving a big window. I have more fear of the the thing catching fire at the gas pump than flipping around on the road
     
    JessN16, paulchua and greatscott73 like this.
  11. sidtx

    sidtx F1 Rookie
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Feb 9, 2014
    2,655
    Frisco, Tx
    Full Name:
    Sid
    I don't push my 85 QV very hard. In-spite of that -- it's a fun (very fun) car to drive aggressively. It handles like a go-cart and has never put me in a position where I was worried about "what now?".

    The only handling downside that I can think of, is the lack of power steering when maneuvering at really slow speeds. It's really heavy, especially when trying to carefully maneuver it in reverse (such as parking at a car show). If you do this a lot -- you'll probably develop some great arm muscles!

    As others have said -- not much low-end torque. Most torque is made when the engine is shrieking like a banshee (and what a glorious sound it makes -- especially in a tunnel).

    The only evidence I have the the Mondial is a good track car, is that the previous owner of my car, used it for a track instruction car up through about 2014 -- he pushed it very hard. In fact, there's a couple of "oh-crap" finger indentations in the passenger door panel!!! He said it was a great handling car on the track, especially for beginners.

    Sid
     
    JessN16 likes this.
  12. 19633500GT

    19633500GT F1 Veteran
    Rossa Subscribed

    Nov 9, 2010
    6,619
    Connecticut
    Full Name:
    Ken S
    Jess, where do you live? Come drive mine.
     
    JessN16, sixcarbs and gsfent like this.
  13. sixcarbs

    sixcarbs F1 Veteran
    Rossa Subscribed

    Dec 19, 2004
    6,658
    SF
    Great thread!
     
  14. Statler

    Statler F1 World Champ
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Jun 7, 2011
    14,102
    you have to be doing something really really really stupid (illegal/fun) on the road to get the tail out and it's very easy to catch.... and then your passenger smacks you on the leg and scolds you anyway so you stop doing that.

    you're just not going to have problems even in a spirited road drive. Surprise decreasing radius turns up in the hills are zero concern.

    I don't intend to take the 34 year-old convertible to a track day.. wrong car for it.. but even with 'you're being arrested' type speed on the roads, it does not ever feel like you're driving a huge pendulum thats trying to swap back to font.

    it's really nothing to worry about.
     
  15. greatscott73

    greatscott73 Karting

    Sep 1, 2017
    128
    West central Florida
    Full Name:
    Howard Scott
    Go take an older 930 or even a 911 for a ride if you want to be somewhat terrorized. The Mondial is the opposite end of the spectrum.
     
    davemqv, Texas Forever and JessN16 like this.
  16. ATLdoghouse

    ATLdoghouse Formula Junior
    Silver Subscribed

    Sep 3, 2016
    315
    Atlanta
    Full Name:
    Cody L
    I tracked my t coupe multiple times. It's one of the best handling and predictable cars I've ever driven on a track (from Alfa's to M3s to GT3s and lots in between). It's damn near impossible to spin it accidentally and even then you can easily correct any tail slide with adding power and a small steering correction. You'll never be disappointed driving it hard. If you ever leave the roadway or track you were going to fast for the conditions as the laws of physics got involved.
     
  17. Chris Mondi

    Chris Mondi Rookie

    Oct 30, 2018
    32
    Full Name:
    Chris Riedinger
    I drive an old 911 at work and own a 1988 mondial. The mondial is a “point and shoot”. It goes wherever you tell it to, and is very predictable, with literally no play on the steering wheel. Honestly, this is one of the best handling older cars I’ve ever driven. The 911 is a car i just don’t trust around the corners and It doesn’t feel as solidly built as the mondial. I feel like I’m driving a Souped up bug to be honest lol


    Sent from my iPhone using FerrariChat.com mobile app
     
    JessN16, paulchua and Wade like this.
  18. Chris Mondi

    Chris Mondi Rookie

    Oct 30, 2018
    32
    Full Name:
    Chris Riedinger
    #18 Chris Mondi, Mar 3, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
    I wanted to add a few things and couldn’t figure out how to erase my last response so here goes....I drive an old 911 at work and own a 1988 mondial. The mondial is a “point and shoot”. It goes wherever you tell it to, and is very predictable, with literally no play on the steering wheel. Honestly, this is one of the best handling older cars I’ve ever driven. That said, it does feel more like a GT car, you’ll definitely notice the extra weight and softer suspension compared to a 328 or some other full out sports cars I’ve driven. If straight out acceleration is what you’re after, it’ll feel a touch slow until you’re revving it to the stratosphere in 3rd and 4th gears. Nothing a throttle body/EFI can’t fix . Now that I understand that this was their offering for a proper Sports GT car, I get it, and like it a lot. It’s comfortable for long journeys, has enough cargo space to keep everyone happy, and those 2 back seats are gold. It’s sporty enough to satisfy anyone’s mid life crisis, but sensible enough to accommodate the family. Win - win.

    That’s all the glory, but these cars are 30 plus years old now and finding a good one is pretty much hard to do. Most ones i see for sale need plenty of restoration, even the ones that look pretty from the outside with low mileage....you rarely see sorted examples for sale. We keep those ones

    The 911 is a car i just don’t trust around the corners. That engine hanging behind the back wheels will bite hard at some point or other...usually just when you start getting confident. The back seats are Smaller and I feel like I’m driving a Souped up bug to be honest lol. It’s just a smaller car. The better comparison to a Mondial would be the porsche 928

    The difference between my mondial and the porsche’s I’ve driven is that the Porsche’s seem very refined, factory built on an assembly line, everything perfect. Mass produced. The mondial is as if guissepe and a few if his artisan buddies built it in his garage, very bespoke. Hand crafted. Too bad they installed the electrical after a couple bottles of grappa lol


    Sent from my iPhone using FerrariChat.com mobile app
     
  19. theunissenguido

    theunissenguido Formula 3
    Silver Subscribed Owner

    Jan 21, 2004
    1,490
    Argent/Brasil/Blgium
    Full Name:
    Guido
    Compairing Fiero, Porsche or other mid engined cars with Mondial...hm...we are talking about a high performance car even with its age, still one of the best and most secure cars from that era. If suspension and brakes are ok, you will not find a better car to drive even in the family.
    Guido
     
    JessN16 and paulchua like this.
  20. Wade

    Wade Two Time F1 World Champ
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Mar 31, 2006
    28,900
    East Central, FL
    Full Name:
    Wade O.
    This never gets old!

     
    gsfent, JessN16, paulchua and 2 others like this.
  21. paulchua

    paulchua Cat Herder
    Moderator Owner

    Jul 1, 2013
    6,953
    Menlo Park, CA
    Full Name:
    Paul Chua
    I've experienced lift oversteer twice. Once with some terrible tires that I got rid of very quickly, the second was during a turn where my rear passenger tire caught some gravel. I was able to correct, not due to any special abilities-but from great tuning the car had from the factory - easy clean up on aisle T courtesy of Maranello.

    Now on the track, I found the car understeers quite a bit. "Safe" definitely is the word that comes to mind. It's no surprise to me why reviewers of the era always called it the easist and best handling Ferrari for a layman like me.

    I have no doubt in the hands of a skilled driver, the other offerings of the time are quicker around the loop. Visions of me hitting the wall prevent me from ever mustering the courage to explore those extreme limits though in the other cars. In the Mondial, it eggs you on to push but announcing it's the intention to oversteer in advance. A welcome flag for one not wishing to leave a widow behind.
     
    JessN16 and Chris Mondi like this.
  22. paulchua

    paulchua Cat Herder
    Moderator Owner

    Jul 1, 2013
    6,953
    Menlo Park, CA
    Full Name:
    Paul Chua
    loved reading this.
     
    Chris Mondi likes this.
  23. JessN16

    JessN16 Rookie

    Sep 20, 2019
    17
    Full Name:
    Jess Nicholas
    I sincerely appreciate your offer. I am in southwest Alabama, about an hour and a half north of Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla.

    I do think, though, that before I drove it I might have to find a tranquilizer, lol. Driving other people's cars have always made me nervous of mistakes, and I've never driven (or even sat in) a Ferrari of any kind before. Not sure my nerves can take it.

    Jess
     
    paulchua likes this.
  24. 19633500GT

    19633500GT F1 Veteran
    Rossa Subscribed

    Nov 9, 2010
    6,619
    Connecticut
    Full Name:
    Ken S
    nah. It’s just a car. If the person doesn’t want someone putting it through the paces, they shouldn’t offer! Lol

    gimme a new GT350 and I am going to do some burnouts :)
     
    gsfent and paulchua like this.
  25. JessN16

    JessN16 Rookie

    Sep 20, 2019
    17
    Full Name:
    Jess Nicholas
    I would like to thank everyone who has responded to this thread. I read every word. I began quoting messages I wanted to specifically respond to but realized it was just going to be too much text.

    I have said this before on another thread, but I didn't know what to expect when I started reading and posting here. I have been a car enthusiast for some time. My fondest memories as a child are sitting with my Dad and reading Automobile Quarterly (the leather-bound books; we have all of them) or looking at road maps and planning imaginary trips. His first love (which he was able to own) was a 1963 Jaguar XKE coupe. Mine was probably a Bricklin SV-1. Like Dad, I managed to own my hero car at one time -- and was thoroughly disappointed by it. But those doors!

    While we never really wanted for anything as a family, we were not the kind of people who could afford to always have the latest, greatest and fastest. Dad traded his XKE in 1970, and kept its replacement (the Corvette I talked about above) until 2005. And daily-drove it for probably 30 of those 35 years, too. He bought Mom a new Lincoln every seven years, like clockwork. I started off with an old Ford truck before "moving up" to a Ford Tempo. What this is all meant to say is that the cars I have been fortunate enough to own in my life -- several Jaguars, the Bricklin, several Mitsubishi Starions -- I typically bought them used, or even used up. I bought parts when I could afford it, did some work myself, paid for work when the money allowed.

    When my wife and I moved to Prattville a few years ago, we joined the local British car club scene. I had a pair of Jaguars, purchase prices $676 and $3,800. A lot of the people were friendly and accepting, but some weren't. I remember the moment I knew I was out of my league was when I went to visit one of our friendliest members and he opened his "toy box" -- a near-10,000 SF garage -- and let us in to see his collection of a dozen motorcycles and various European cars. I turned to the guy next to me and delivered the old George Gobel line from the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson: "Did you ever feel like the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?"

    I remember how dad would describe the heirarchy of cars: Ferrari, always on top. Rolls Royce and Bentley just under, with Lamborghini and Aston Martin just behind. Then Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes, Maserati, Lotus. BMW, Alfa and Audi to follow. As a child, I asked Dad why he didn't own a Ferrari or a Lamborghini if they were so good. "We can't afford that, son," he'd say every time, and I was smart enough to know that we weren't going to suddenly make a bunch of additional money. So Ferrari became the unobtainable.

    In that regard, I didn't have high expectations for inclusion, or a lot of patience from owners when I asked what were going to be, unavoidably, very rudimentary and oft-asked questions from someone who never believed it would be worth his time to even think of Ferrari ownership. These cars might as well have been the space shuttle. I would never own one, so what did it matter how well they drove or how safe they were?

    But now that it looks like I might actually have the chance to own and drive one fairly soon, I have to start paying attention. And I sincerely appreciate all the kind feedback and patience, and the hospitality I have received here. I don't post much because I need to be reading, not writing. This car will probably take the garage slot housing my '87 XJ6 eventually. I will care for it as best I can but will still need help and guidance. The closest Ferrari dealership, assuming Atlanta has one, is five hours away. Not a lot of Ferrari shops in small Alabama towns. I've teed this up with my favorite local shop already, and I watched all the color leave their faces when I did, but they didn't say no. Now I've just got to figure out how much car I want versus how much restoration I can tolerate.

    Again, thank you all.

    Jess
     
    GordonC, paulchua, moysiuan and 2 others like this.

Share This Page