Jolly by name and jolly by nature, right? When these enchanting creations were first crafted in the 1960s, they were Fiat 500s converted by Carrozzeria Ghia to turn the practical runabout into a fun beach car. Much of the body was scythed away, the interior kitted out with wicker seats, and a tent-like canopy positioned on top. The perfect car for cruising the dunes, and it wasn’t an uncommon sight in period to see moneyed types parking these Jollys on the decks of their yachts.
The car we have here is a Jolly recreation, starting life as a 500 Berlina and recently being expertly converted to authentic Jolly specification. And as you can see from the photos (particularly the underside), it looks much like a brand-new car and it’s hardly been used since the restoration.
Previously living in San Marino, it’s been in the UK since 2020 in the tenure of the same owner who’s kept it parked in dry storage. It’s an eminently usable thing that’s ready to enjoy – on our test drive, the engine fired willingly into life on the first turn of the key and all eyes were on us as we cruised down to the nearest beach (well, the Putney riviera at least…) A beautifully finished car that’s been built for the sole purpose of having fun, this wonderful little machine is a proper smile generator – we lost count of the number of people who told us they loved the car. Wouldn’t it be nice to bring a little of this everyday happiness into your life?
The History and Paperwork
San Marino certificato storico documentation
2021 – invoice for £387 – general check-over, new brake pipes, attention to screen washers, king pins greased, new number plate brackets
2021 – invoice for £140 – wheel bearing
Extremely tidy condition
There isn’t a lot of interior, is there? That’s the point, it’s a simple no-frills machine with a lightweight footprint that makes it perfect for beach work. What we do find in the cabin, however, is all in lovely condition. The wicker seats are tastefully finished and in excellent condition; they’re surprisingly comfortable and supportive too, and lap belts have been fitted. The dash features a simple instrument cluster which is in correct working order, and the cabin’s all tidy and unmarked with new carpets fitted.
Beautifully finished conversion
This car really does look terrific – there’s an endearing simplicity to the design, topped off by a wonderful slice of weirdness thanks to the canopy roof and the cut-out sides. The bodywork is in lovely condition throughout, extremely straight and clean underneath, and all of the chromework is gleaming.
The roof is very tidy, and securely held in place with Velcro fasteners. The light lenses are all good, and the correct badging is present. The steel wheels are showing just a little surface corrosion around the rims; a simple and inexpensive tidy up and repaint of the wheels would have it all looking spot-on.
The engine was rebuilt as part of the restoration, and everything appears to be in fine fettle today. The engine starts easily and settles into the characteristic buzzy idle so familiar to 500 enthusiasts; it pulls well through the gears, and the gearbox itself is as precise as a 500 transmission ought to be. The brake pipes have recently been replaced, with the brakes pulling the car up firmly as they should, and it rides well on its supple suspension. We can also vouch for the fact that as well as being a pleasant car to cruise through city streets in, it can also tackle slippery beaches with aplomb and has enough torque to haul itself up a steep slipway without drama!
What a wonderful car this is. Evoking the spirit of the beach cars of the 1960s (and, indeed, the plutocrat yacht cars), it’s a simple and characterful little thing with a unique personality all of its own. As we drove around in the car we received positive comments and compliments from schoolkids, truck drivers, mums with prams and elderly couples – it’s a car whose sunny demeanour appeals to all generations and walks of life. In addition to that, it’s beautifully presented throughout, impressively solid and tidy, and extremely enjoyable to drive. A true joy machine.
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1972 Fiat 500 Jolly Lhd
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