JAY RAMEY

Fiat pays homage to Jolly beach car

Two limited edition models mark 60th anniversary of classic 'Spiaggina' beachmobile

Fiat will produce 1,958 copies of the Spiaggina '58 model.
Jay Ramey is an associate editor with Autoweek, an affiliate of Automotive News.

The Fiat "Jolly" Spiaggina turns 60 this month, and to celebrate the small cabriolet's anniversary Fiat is rolling out not one but two special edition models.

Not familiar with this version of the 500?

Just a year after the debut of the original Fiat 500, Carrozzeria Ghia offered a thoroughly reworked beach car known as the "Spiaggina," which means beach buggy. The roofless, doorless runabout with a sunshade canopy and wicker seats was produced from 1958 to 1965 and cost twice as much as an unaltered original.

But it had plenty of character, and it quickly became a luxury item in the "La Dolce Vita" era, serving as a tender for the yachts of the rich and famous on the coasts of Italy and the French Riviera. Famous owners included Yul Brynner, Lyndon Johnson and Aristotle Onassis, and a big chunk of Italy's elite.

The first of the modern pair is the fairly conventionally styled 500C Spiaggina '58, featuring lots of subtle design details but is not an actual open-top re-creation of the classic wicker-seated beachmobile. As a nod to the 1958 original, the Spiaggina '58 will feature two-tone seats, a dash finished in the classic Volare blue color and a steering wheel with the vintage Fiat logo. Just 1,958 examples of this version will be produced, paired exclusively with the 1.2-liter engine.

"The new 'Spiaggina ’58' is our gift to 500 for its birthday and the 60th anniversary of the 'Spiaggina', a real 'time machine' incorporating many reminders of the Dolce Vita era, such as the vintage Fiat logos and wheels, the white belt liner, the choice of convertible format only and the two-tone interior," said Luca Napolitano, head of EMEA Fiat & Abarth brand.

 
Garage Italia's version will feature a built-in shower and storage areas for beach essentials.

The second special-edition tribute model is far closer to the spirit and look of the original, trading the roof of the 500C canvas top for a picnic basket-style roll bar and a retro paint scheme. Fans of the original Jolly will have Garage Italia Customs to thank for the latter model; the Spiaggina by Garage Italia features a rear passenger space with a built-in shower that can also hold all the beach essentials, while the front seats have been swapped out for a tailor-built bench in blue and white Foglizzo leather upholstery featuring a waterproof treatment. Buyers will have the option of an original windshield, or a lowered one.

This model was developed with the help of Pininfarina due to the structural reinforcements needed for a roofless version of the 500, and it will be offered to buyers on a per-order basis.

"I fell in love with the car when I was a boy, and as I grew up I was determined to bring it back to life," said Lapo Elkann, chairman and creative director of Garage Italia. "I am so happy about the model's relaunch, and hope it will convey the dreams and the magical years of the post-war economic boom and the Italian way of enjoying life. Since 2007, year after year, I've always personalized 500s for myself, and the opening of Garage Italia has enabled us to design a multitude of one-off versions, all confirming the versatility and immense contemporary appeal of this vehicle, still one of the world's best-loved brands."

No word yet on whether either version will be offered stateside, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Fiat should have created a true open-top 500 with a roll bar when the current Cinquecento debuted a few years ago.

 

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