The Fiat Spiaggina, or Jolly, was a 1960s hit – and its quirky beach car style is as cool as ever, says Simon de Burton...
The must-have car for driving around the chicest resorts of Europe and America during the swinging sixties was not a Ferrari, a Maserati, a Rolls-Royce or an Aston Martin – but the humble Fiat. The model in question was called a Spiaggina, or Jolly, the former standing for “beach car” and referencing the fact that this coach-built special, based on the 600D, had neither doors nor roof. Its upholstery, meanwhile, was made from sand- and sea-friendly wicker that laughed in the face of wet towels, damp bikinis and spilt champagne.
John Wayne, Grace Kelly, Lyndon Johnson, Aristotle Onassis and, of course, style-conscious Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli were all fans of the original conversions by coachbuilder Ghia. Despite its diminutive size and lack of sophistication, the Jolly became a status symbol because it demonstrated both the ability of its wealthy owner to afford an expensive play car (they cost roughly twice as much as a standard model) and the fact that he or she was sufficiently confident to be seen in a vehicle similar to the one driven by Noddy, the Toyland taxi driver of children’s literature.
And it’s because everything and nothing has changed during the intervening decades that Italian style guru (and grandson of Agnelli) Lapo Elkann has decided to mark this year’s 60th anniversary of the Fiat 500 with a 21st-century take on the Spiaggina that his car-customising business, Garage Italia, has conceived in conjunction with the celebrated design and engineering house Pininfarina.
Based on the current 500, the new Spiaggina has no roof, a speedboat-style windscreen, whitewall tyres and a bench front seat – behind which is a flat, cork-lined platform that conceals a nifty built-in shower. The concept vehicle is finished in a two-tone combination of “blue volare” and “perla white” to evoke the sun-drenched Riviera lifestyle but, since each subsequent example will be made to order (and priced accordingly) buyers will be able to specify any combination of finishes they please. Fiat has also produced its own, more conservative anniversary special in the form of the 500 Spiaggina ’58 convertible in blue volare with a beige soft top and retro-look wheels. Just 1,958 will be built.
Meanwhile, Hertz Italy has been working together with Garage Italia to offer its customers the opportunity to hire a customised Fiat 500 Jolly Spiaggina Icon-e, an all-electric version. Also based on a vintage Fiat 500 and adapted to become a playful, eco-friendly convertible, the custom-built Spiaggina Icon-e features a rear-wheel drive electric retro-fitted motor, hand-woven seats in natural rope, and heritage bodywork, with matching rims completing the high-end finish. Perfect if you want the most stylish wheels in Forte Dei Marmi, but are not quite ready to commit to buying your own!
Fiat 500 Spiaggina Specifications
Engine: 1.2 litre
Top speed: 162km/h
Fuel economy: 5.1l per 100km
Price: Garage Italia, POA; ’58, from £18,000