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Jolly Good Fellows - The enduring charm of Riviera beach shuttles

Although Fiat’s ultra-frugal 500 and 600 soon became darlings of the economically minded in post-War Europe, their special-edition offshoots were the preserve of the jet set. Appropriately, we gathered a quartet in the harbour of Monaco…

Many would suggest a covered-headlamp Cal’ Spider or a 300 SL Gullwing to be the most symbolic form of la dolce vita-era transportation. However, unless you minded ferrying your friends from holiday home to harbour one-by-one, you’d need a more practical – but no less trendy – set of wheels. This Italian duo represent the term ‘set’ in its most literal meaning: they have matching paint schemes, wicker seats and a shared charm that no Ferrari or Mercedes could ever hope to replicate. And, between them, they’ll convey you and nine friends from villa to yacht in a single, stylish convoy.

A Monaco resident since it was bought new by the principality’s official importer, this Ghia 500 Jolly can trace its roots back to Gianni Agnelli’s original vision of a land tender that could be unloaded on arrival anywhere in the Med from his 82-foot ketch, Agneta. Its more spacious sibling, the 600 Multipla, has been fitted with wicker seats crafted around the original frames by a basket maker to match its little brother’s. Due to their matching nature, the vendor refuses to sell them separately – and preference will go to a Monaco resident in the hope another chapter can be added to the Jolly’s sole-principality history. The price for both? Some 300,000 euros – but still only a fraction of that Cal’ Spider.

Due to their rarity, perennial topicality and long-held association with the sun-chasing elite, it’s little wonder beach cars have an enduring appeal that translates into ever-increasing demand. RM sold similar Jolly+Multipla job lots for $231,000 in 2014 and $242,000 in 2015, while Gooding sold one of the two Pinin Farina-bodied ‘Eden Roc’ 600 Multiplas last year for $660,000. At RM’s Monaco auction in May, the catalogue includes a Cagiva Moke, a Fiat 500 Mare by Carrozzeria Holiday, and a single-owner HAZ Buggy. Such vehicles graduated from cheeky waterfront runabouts to certified collector classics some time ago – and, right on cue, another delightful pair arrives on location.

Much rarer than their diminutive counterparts were the open variants based on the Forward-Control 600 Multipla, often used by high-end hotels and golf courses as courtesy vehicles. Indeed, this turquoise, Ghia-bodied Multipla Jolly was initially put to work as a shuttle at the Fiat factory; rarer still is the Vignale-bodied Spiaggia, of which only a handful were built. With its delightful tri-tone paintwork, we can think of few more suitable land tenders for a Riva moored up in Port Hercules. Both are currently for sale through another Monte Carlo-based dealer, Monaco Legend Motors.

So, while our benchmark dolce vita Ferrari might have a name that conjures images of sun, sea and abundant style, the moniker given to Fiat’s charming Riviera-pootlers was equally relevant to their character. ‘Jolly’ translates into English as ‘Joker’ – and few vehicles are as successful at generating smiles-on-sight than the jovial shuttle of the jet set.

Photos: Rémi Dargegen for Classic Driver © 2016

The 500 & 600 Mutlipla matching set is currently available for sale in the Classic Driver Market, as are the Jolly Ghia and Vignale Spiaggio variants of the Fiat 600 Multipla. You can also find a selection of Rivas for sale, too.