The expense of restoring these cars can be surprisingly high even if you
get the local basket-weaving class to refurbish your seats for free


Few cars that Fiat produced had the "cuteness" of the Jolly. With coachwork by Ghia, the Fiat Jolly 500 was introduced in 1957, and had no real practical use, except for that of pure enjoyment. Many wealthy playboys, such as Fiat chief Gianni Agnelli, would load these cars on their yachts and use them as beach cars when they went on vacation. Weighing in at a mere 1,050 pounds, the Jolly could actually accomplish speeds of 59 mph, while achieving gas mileage of 52 mpg, thus acting as an ideal shore dingy.
The Fiat Jolly 500 offered here is a fine example of a rare rust-free car that has benefited from a thorough and comprehensive restoration. This example was purchased new in California, and we understand the car was primarily used within the confines of a private golf community for several years. It is in top mechanical shape, with a recent engine rebuild. Finished in a delightful salmon exterior paint, this Jolly 500 fits the expected mold perfectly.
Whether on the beaches and boardwalks in the South of France, the rolling hills and cypress forests of the Monterey Peninsula, or even dangling off the back of one's yacht, few cars offer the versatility and comfort that this fully restored wicker demon does. Needless to say, this fantastic Fiat is virtually unmatched in its restoration and will offer its next owner years of comfort and serenity in even the most busy of environments.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1961 Fiat Jolly 500
Years Produced:1957-61
Original List Price:$1,760
SCM Valuation:$20,000-$25,000
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:left side of firewall
Engine Number Location:left side of crankcase support
Club Info:Fiat Jolly Register, 3012 Ardsley Dr., Orlando, FL 32804
Alternatives:1964-93 Mini Moke, 1968-77 Citroen Mehari
Investment Grade:D

This 1961 Fiat Jolly 500 sold for $29,700 at RM’s Amelia Island sale, held March 12, 2005.
Twenty-five years ago almost no one in the U.S. knew what a Fiat Jolly was, yet in recent years these goofy machines have become a staple at high-end collector car auctions, whether crossing the block or ferrying their owners about the venue. The reason for this rise in popularity is easy to see, as Jollys are undeniably adorable, have great usefulness in low-speed environments, and act as an amusing complement to a collection of six-figure Italian cars.
They’re also a nice way to spend the change left over from your million-dollar line of credit after you’ve already bought what you really came for at an auction.
The Jolly is a variant on Fiat’s Nuova 500, which was introduced in 1955 as the replacement for the legendary 500 Topolino. The performance of the Nuova’s 13-hp, air-cooled two-cylinder engine compared quite favorably with the Topolino four-cylinder’s 17 horses. Nevertheless, by the mid-’50s the Italian public was demanding more from even the most basic transportation, and sales were slow.
Fiat responded with a more potent 15-hp motor that had a higher compression ratio and a modified camshaft and carburetor. Further
development pushed horsepower to 17.5 in 1960, while “Sport” versions of the 500 made all of 21.5 hp.
The Spiaggina (Italian for “little beach”) was introduced in 1957 and became more popularly known as the Jolly. A favorite of the Riviera crowd, it was indeed perfect to store on an upper deck of a yacht, and its open bodywork, wicker seats and optional surrey top made for cool and comfortable cruising.
The Jolly 500 was listed as a catalog model here in the U.S. from 1959-61, but no one knows how many were actually delivered stateside. Today, the best use for a Jolly is parked at your beachfront cottage or as an alternative to the customized golf carts that proliferate in the gated communities of the Sunbelt. (Miniature electric Hummer, anyone?)
The Fiat’s top speed of 59 mph is merely academic, as by that time its fringed top would certainly begin to act as a parasail. Despite the catalog’s suggestion that this Jolly 500 would be at home in the hilly terrain of the Monterey Peninsula, I would not want to try driving it over the Laureles Grade.
For that task, you might want to seek out the higher performance
(remember, everything is relative) Jolly that was built on the four-cylinder Fiat 600 platform. That model might also be more useful if your friends are somewhat fuller figured, or if you actually intend to pilot your Jolly on the road and you live anywhere other than Kansas or Nebraska.
If you’re shopping for Jollys, buying one that’s already restored is the only way to go, as the expense of restoring these cars can be surprisingly high relative to their overall value. This holds true even if you get the old ladies at the local community center basket-weaving class to refurbish your seats for free.
Beware that the quality and level of detail of restorations vary wildly. Some are done quite well, right down to refinishing the inevitably sun-faded dashboard instrument. (It’s a singular unit.) Other cars tend to be quickly tarted-up for auction success, preying upon the hope that bidding on a Jolly will be an impulsive act committed from the bidder’s bar, as it often is. It’s not likely that you’ll find any examples restored to “Pebble Beach” standards, but the judges at most Fiat meets aren’t quite as picky as those in, say, the Ferrari club. Remember, this is the same marque that encompasses X1/9 owners
Rust can obviously be an issue with Jollys. While none have covered too many miles, most, if not all, have spent the majority of their lives in close proximity to saltwater. As such, it’s important to look underneath the shiny paint and check out the undercarriage and suspension mounting points. It would not do to have your engine fall out while motoring over to luncheon at the golf club.
Compared to a car that actually has some practical, road-going use, Jolly 500 prices are downright silly. Since a Jolly sold at the Christie’s Pebble Beach sale in 1999 for a still unrepeatable $39k, these cute little runabouts have been trading hands at auction in the low- to mid-$20k range.
While the $29k paid here was a bit more than that, I don’t think the price is indicative of anything other than a couple of bidders with money to burn really wanting this fun and unusual toy. No harm done.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction

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