Launched at the 25th Geneva Salon in March 1955, the Fiat 600 was designed by Dante Giacosa. This successor to the Fiat 500 “Topolino” (“Mickey Mouse”) mini-car was hailed as “an intriguing car with a future…[showing] how a rearrangement of the basic components can often result in a considerable saving of space.”
With a water-cooled, rear-mounted, inline 633-cc 4-cylinder engine and all-around independent suspension, the 600 could carry four adults at over 65 miles per hour and sold for the equivalent of $944. It proved a huge success: at the beginning of the ’60s production topped a million units and had reached 2.6 million by the time the model finally ceased production in 1970. Alongside the standard sedans and the forward control six-seated Giariniera-a precursor of the modern minivan-some of Italy’s finest coachbuilders used the sturdy little platform of the Fiat 600 as the basis for a fascinating variety of custom coachwork.
Perhaps the most popular of these was the Ghia Jolly. With wicker seats and the option of a fringed top to shield its occupants from the Mediterranean sun, the Jolly was adored by wealthy playboys like Fiat chief Gianni Agnelli, who carried Jollys on the decks of their luxury yachts like a kind of shore-going dinghy.
Though the total number of Jollys built is not known, the number must have been small, for the Ghia shops lacked the room for quantity production. This particular Jolly, the property of an English nobleman who has owned it from new, is currently registered in California. It is fitted with a Surrey top and benefits from the 767-cc power unit introduced for the 1960 model year. Described by the vendor as being in stunning condition, this charming little car is finished in cream. Its total recorded milage is just over 21,000 miles and the basket weave seats have pale grey and cream covers.