Earning the keys to a legend
How a model collection can lead to the real thing.
Opening a drawer we see a little red Ferrari. The paint is still shiny and it has working pop-up headlights. The tiny wheels are slightly worn from many journeys along the carpet. This is Steve Sandalls’ first model car as a young boy, growing up in Crawley. This was the seed sown long ago to eventually grow into a life changing obsession. Today it seems that Steve’s dream has become a reality.
Steve’s current model collection is only a small window into his true love of Ferraris. His house is full of immaculately boxed cars from the early examples right up to the latest editions. A vast collection like this is a way of owning part of the motoring heritage that has infested Steve’s brain. “I’m trawling eBay most nights trying to find the next one”.
We go upstairs. Another room of models is revealed. Steve reckons he has about 900 pieces in total - every road car Ferrari has ever made in various scales and colours. Glass cabinets line the walls, other boxes and cupboards surround them. They are organised into make: Ferrari, Alfa, Lancia and Fiat, followed by scale. It’s safe to say when I had a few 1:18 models I couldn’t get them out the box fast enough. Goodness knows where they are now. “They’re all going up in price because you can’t get them, and if they’re boxed and in good order people want them”.
We go outside. On the drive sits an Alfa 147 and a Giulietta. The garage door goes up and we are greeted by the soft, full red of the Mondial’s nose. It starts first time and eases out the garage. It sits on the drive warming as we chat. We discuss the flat 12 of the Testarossa to the evolution of the 599 line, or Norman Cooke’s FF. Steve showed us where he had the front of his house moved by two bricks to the left so it could fit in the garage. That’s commitment.
Steve’s car is the later 89-93 Mondial 'T'. It was a variant that emerged after Ferrari’s typical method of bringing out a model, mucking it up a bit but then endlessly tweaking it until it’s right. “I think being the last incarnation, they got the T right”. The shape is just a little subtler than the original Mondial 8 - less wedge, less plastic. The engine is also a little beefier. It’s got ABS, power steering, air-con and its windows, mirrors, sunroof and aerial are all electric. Servicing costs aren’t extortionate, especially compared to the likes of a 458. It’s also practical in the sense that it has four seats and a boot. “I’ve promised my boy I’ll pick him up from school in it… I haven’t done that yet. I’m just too scared of the school run mums”.
It’s not all shammy leathers and microfibre cloths though, this car is driven properly. “Someone said to me: use it, keep it in good nick and it will look after you. If it just lock it up and never start it, it will go wrong”. Inside the driving position and gated gear stick reminds you what you’re sitting in. You feel low and focussed on the road - aware of the engine directly behind you. The power steering is the perfect weight to enjoy darting the nose in at speed but without it being too heavy in town. “The quirk is until it’s warm it’s quite difficult to drive, you don’t get second for about 20 mins”.
The party piece of this car has to be the engine. What else… it’s a Ferrari. There’s a proper 3.4 litre V8 in there. Some V8s burble, giving a sharp clear of the throat as they head off, others are raw and aggressive. This one sings. Pulling away you hear the refined vocal chords of the exhaust as the car catapults its chiselled rear lines into the distance. Hearing it go past raises the hairs on the back of your neck.
Sadly the Mondial 8 received bad reviews on its release. With meek performance and looks that didn’t quite match the top dogs, it became Ferrari's ugly duckling. It's a shame because whilst not a 308, the drop top version was in fact the only mid-engined four seater convertible ever built. Niche. Steve explained that even in the brief time he's owned it, it's value has skyrocketed. “It’s possibly going to be the best investment I’ve ever made”. Steve wants to show that the Mondial really is one of Ferrari’s gems.
So to sum up the Mondial: it's is an enigma. It’s a bit like cheese on toast cooked at a Michelin Star restaurant; a product of genius but without the fuss. It's a quick raid of Ferrari’s cupboard for some staple Ferrari bits like that gorgeous engine, or a side vent from a Testarossa. It’s not until you experience it that you become won over by its simplistic charm. There’s no denying that it’s pretty, the ‘T’ variant ensures that. You'd be hard pressed not to drive it most days if you could.
Would I own one? No - I couldn’t trust myself. Visiting Steve has shown that it’s not about just fancying a car like this, it has to complete you. Most wouldn’t be able to give it that same attention it deserves. “It has to go to the right collector”. Steve's model collection is what persuaded the pervious owner to sell him the car. What’s clear is this love of Ferarri has certainly earned him the keys to his first one.
Steve could have bought any Ferrari though, he’s Ferrari mad. But would he swap his Mondial now? “I was expecting to get it and think, this is great but I want a 308. I got it and I have fallen hook, line and sinker in love with it; the way it sounds, the way it feels, and way it looks; I'm absolutely head over heels in love with it”.
Words - Tom Aiton || Photography - Tom Duke