9 dinky ways to get from berth to beach
Fiat Topolino 'Mare'
Could this Fiat Topolino ‘Mare’ be where the beach car began? Certainly in 1954 a vehicle as casual and superfluous as this would only have been commissioned by the most wealthy of customers. Cutaway doors, a fabric awning and wicker seats – it’s an enduring recipe, as you’ll see below.
Isetta 600 Moretti
With its fashionable blue and white canopy, the Turinese coachbuilder Moretti’s elegant beach conversion of BMW’s Isetta 600 is the ideal summer shore shuttle. What’s more, four beachgoers (complete with picnic hamper) can easily enjoy the smile-per-mile motoring thanks to the removal of the original car’s cumbersome front door. After all, no one wants to go to the beach alone.
Fiat 500 Jolly
The Jolly was born of Fiat Boss Agnelli’s desire for a fun and practical land-based tender to accompany his yacht along the Med. Little did he realise that the miniature classic would come to symbolise the dolce vita era, becoming the token vehicle for the rich and famous and inspiring a smorgasbord of spin-offs.
Fiat Michelotti Shellette beach car
Bearing almost no resemblance to the Fiat 850 on which it is based, Michelotti’s Shellette, designed in collaboration with yacht designer Phillip Schnell, perfectly reflects the design trends of the late 1960s. Both quicker and more comfortable than the Jolly cars, why restrict yourself to the beach with this charismatic classic?
Mini Beach Car
Built by British Leyland’s Experimental Department (don’t laugh), the Mini Beach Car, aka the ‘Riviera Buggy’, was Austin’s answer to the Jolly Fiats. Although only around 15 were built, they proved a momentary sensation – even the Queen was lent a car in which to zip around Windsor Castle. More fun than the Rolls, we reckon…
Renault 4 Plein Air
There aren’t many Plein Airs around today, thanks in part to the fact that not many were produced in the first place, but also because lots of the rich kids who bought them took the ‘beach car’ idea too seriously, the salt water claiming a great number of victims as a result. Still, it must have been fun while it lasted.
In comparison to the Plein Air, the Citroën Méhari was a snip. And we can’t think of a better way to transport several friends and their surfboards to the beach. The unpretentious styling and unrivalled practicality was a real hit, and almost 150,000 were produced. Interestingly, the car was so light that the French army used to parachute them behind enemy lines. The dunes shouldn’t be a problem, then.
Fiat 600 Multipla 'Eden Roc'
Why catch the bus to the beach when you and eight others can squeeze into this chic creation? Pininfarina’s 1956 Fiat Multipla ‘Eden Roc’ was designed for use at the Villa Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer, the Agnelli’s personal home. Allegedly, Henry Ford bought one the day it went on sale. We can’t say we’re surprised – the Eden Roc is about as close to a land-based Riva as you’d ever find.
When Prince Willem-Alexander (the current king of Holland) was born, the former Dutch auto manufacturer DAF presented the royal family with a bespoke creation, the Michelotti-designed Kini (Bavarian for King). The quirky styling isn’t to everyone’s tastes but, as a beach car, you couldn’t go far wrong.
Photos: Emanuele Bedetti, Artcurial, Bonhams, Citroën, Renault