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July 21, 2014

Get your Jollies with this Late-Fifties Fiat

1959-Fiat-Jolly-front-viewThere’s much to love about this adorable little car! Called the “Jolly,” and created in the late Fifties and early Sixties off the Fiat 500 and 600, this cute little convertible was originally modified by the Italian design house Ghia to be a luxury vehicle for wealthy Europeans and for export into the United States market.

It’s widely said that the Fiat 500 of 1957 was Italy’s answer to the Volkswagen Beetle. This modified little Fiat beach buggy may have been marketed worldwide as the Jolly, but it was best known in Europe as “La Spiaggina” -- a word loosely translated as something like "beach-ette." According to the MicroCarMuseum, the name “Jolly” also means "joker" in Italian, but also transates to something light, fun, funny and pretty in other languages.

1959-Fiat-Jolly-side-viewMade sun-ready by removing the roof and doors, and adding a simple fringed canvas surrey top and functional wicker seats, it’s easy to see why these brightly painted little cars became the preferred runabout for 1960s jet-setters. They used them like diminutive dune buggies on sandy beaches, or, thanks to their minuscule 72.4-inch wheelbase and light 1279-pound (580 kg) weight, carried them upon the deck of large yachts to take as tenders when moored in exotic ports of call like the beachfront cities and resorts in Italy’s Mediterranean Sea. Aristotle Onassis supposedly owned one, and so, it is rumored, did Yul Brynner. According to Wikipedia, 32 Jolly cars were used as taxis on the island of Catalina off the coast of Los Angeles in the U.S. in the years between 1958 and 1962.

1959-Fiat-Jolly-Ghia-Badge1959-Fiat-Jolly-speedoIt’s said that as many as 400 Fiats were converted into Jolly runabouts, and supposedly fewer than a hundred of them remain, making them an especially rare find today. With an original cost nearly double the Fiat 500 or 600 on which it was based ($1760 compared to $998 for a standard Fiat 500), their value today can vary between $75,000 and $100,000.

This particular pink 1959 Fiat Jolly 500 is an especially fine example. “This adorable car gives ear-to-ear smiles to everyone who drives it,” says its current owner, Michael Zarabi, who recently acquired it when he purchased the Bob Pond Collection as part of a Palm Springs real estate transaction.

1959-Fiat-Jolly-nose-viewIt is powered by Fiat’s 22-horsepower/479 cc overhead-valve twin-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed manual transmission. It is cushioned by independent leaf springs all around, and is stopped via four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. It has been comprehensively restored and goes on the block with Auctions America in Burbank the weekend of July 31st. Its speedometer shows just 3524 miles, and considering how lightly the Jollies were driven, this number is believed to be accurate.

If you want it, it can be yours; just be sure to be sure you've got $100,000 in your checkbook!

 

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