Nothing screams summer fun at the beach more than Fiat’s iconic Jolly. It’s Palm Beach and the Hamptons, it’s St-Tropez and Capri, it’s La Dolce Vita all rolled into this swinging ’60s bundle of fun.
Back in the day, Italian coachbuilder Ghia took the teeny Fiat 500 two-door, chopped off the top, replaced it with a stripy, fringed canvas roof, installed funky wicker seats, and sold it as the Fiat Jolly.
It was designed to be the perfect beach runabout and on-land yacht tender for the likes of playboy Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Princess Grace of Monaco, and even Magnificent Seven star Yul Bryner. President Lyndon B. Johnson loved to putter around his Texas ranch in one.
Trouble is, only 650 Jollys were ever produced, and over the years, most simply rusted away. Today, fewer than 100 are reckoned to be in existence. And on the rare occasion one hits the auction block, they bring huge money.
How huge? Back in June last year, a 1958 Jolly sold on the Bring-a-Trailer online auction site for $130,000. A month earlier, RM Sotheby’s sold a 1959 example for $106,400, and in March 2020, RM again sold a 1959 for whopping $151,200.
Looking for a little Jolly fun this summer? There’s a new company called Hampton Jollys, that’s importing restored-from-the-ground-up Fiat Jollys from Italy and selling them out of their base in, naturally, the Hamptons.
“They really are the most fun you can have with just 22-horsepower,” explains Hampton Jollys co-founder Andrew Fopeano. “Park one next to a Lamborghini, and it’s the Jolly people will be photographing.”
Fopeano set-up Hampton Jollys with business partner Tori Luyckx earlier this year, with backing from long-established Greenwich-based exotic car specialist Carriage House Motor Cars.
Each Jolly has been converted by an Italian restorer, who takes a 1950 or ’60s Fiat 500 minicar, strips it to the last nut and bolt, and completely rebuilds it as an exact replica of an original Ghia Jolly.
And the restoration is truly spectacular. Every detail, from the fringed Surrey top, to the cut-down windshield and door openings, to the shiny chrome, is perfect. Then there’s all that wicker, which was a key feature of the original, because it held-up better than cloth to wet bathing suits and the occasional downpour.
In the Hampton Jolly, the seats are wicker, as is the rear-mounted picnic box, the under-dash storage box, and even the wrap on the steering wheel spokes.
And in true Jolly style, there’s a range of colors to satisfy your inner Lily Pulitzer. Everything from coral, to sunshine yellow, to lilac, to Ferrari red, to our favorite, baby blue. Eight in total.
Mechanically, this new Jolly is again, completely restored. And like the original, it features a teeny 499cc two-cylinder producing a heart-pumping 22-horsepower. Top speed is around 50mph, with 0-to-60mph acceleration only downhill with the wind behind.
What’s the appeal? According to Fopeano, it’s all about the grin-inducing styling, the history, the Italian character, and being different than pretty much any other car out there.
The other huge appeal? Instant gratification. Right now, Hampton Jollys has around 20 cars in stock, for immediate delivery, with a choice of all eight colors.
As for pricing, with this level of quality and craftsmanship, they don’t come cheap. Expect to pay somewhere around the $85,000 mark. A brand new, sky-blue Hamptons Jolly just sold at the recent Bonhams’ Greenwich Classic Car Auction for an impressive $89,600.
“It is the ultimate summer beach car. It’s a four-seater, so perfect for family and friends, and just so much fun to drive. And it’s so small, you’ll never have a problem finding a parking space,” adds Fopeano.