Little cars also tackle the mountains…

As you know Mario doesn’t go that far from home but his ‘little brother’ Nippy a 1967 Subaru 360 has been a bit more adventurous and in 2008 James drove and Jane navigated him on the Leige Brescia Leige Microcar Rally a unique event for small cars.360team

The story really starts in 1958 when in response to the Suez Crisis car manufacturers of the day entered their new sub 500cc models to prove that their performance and economy was a match of their ‘big brothers’. The original event was run over  3 days through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia and Italy. The only stop was in Brescia where the remaining entrants turned round and headed for home. Run over a mix of terrain from the newly opened Autostrada to the dirt roads of the high passes, the event was a test of true endurance and only 13 of the original 30+ entrants finished. One of the cars was driven by Pat Moss and others by top competitors of the day.liege-brescia-liege-2011
14-300x2171138174811c83a32888bmicrocar_1376595cFIAT_500_LiegiBrescia58_01-

Half a century later it was decided to run the event again, although in consideration for the age of the vehicles and the comfort of the competitors the event was over 10 days. Closely following the original 2400 mile route but avoiding the motorways the rally went from Liege-Karlsruhe-Munich-Cortina-Ljubijana-Bolzano-Brescia-Bolzano-Munich-Karlsruhe-Liege and finished 50 years to the day of the original. The event was organised by Malcolm McKay of Classic Rally Press.DSCN1316

We started the event as a three car team of Subaru 360’s, us in Nippy, our friends Victor and Craig in Kato and Terry and Steve in a 360 belonging to Subaru which had recently been recommissioned. We trailered the cars to Liege and the actual event set off on July 10th 2008. The event was a navigational exercise with photo checkpoints, we had to take identical photo’s showing our car to prove we had been there and completed the whole route. DSCN1331

58 cars started the event including Fiat 500, BMW Isetta and 600/700, Berkeley, NSU Prinz, Goggomobile, Vespa, Messerschmitt, Citroen 2cv, Zandapp Janus and Heinkel.DSCN2662DSCN2736

The weather was terrible with teaming rain which was to last for the next 4 days. Our first stop was at Spa where we did some very soggy timed laps of the Kart Circuit. A long drive followed and Jane on her first rally, soon learnt the rally rules – you only stop when you can do everything at once – refuel, eat, drink and pee! DSCN1387

We crossed the Rhine and arrived at the first stop in Karlsruhe. Unfortunately the third Subaru had been having problems all day, they finally arrived at the hotel on a tow truck after Midnight, James set to work and took the engine out but it was a terminal problem and they had to retire. Team Subaru was down to two cars.DSCN1417DSCN1426

Day two was another test on a local kart circuit, followed by a day of tricky navigation to arrive at the BMW museum in Munich.

From Munich we travelled through the Black Forest and into Austria and over the Brenner pass into Italy. At 1375m this was our first real pass and our first opportunity to see how the ‘little’ cars performed – we were pleasantly surprised. We arrived in Cortina at the splendid Hotel Miramonti Majestic Grand, a great setting for the little cars.DSCN1521DSCN1542DSCN1588DSCN1595

We were now high in the Dolomites and day four included several high passes to reach the Slovenian border, some of them driven in heavy hail storms and as many of the hairpins were still traditionally cobble stones it wasn’t the most comfortable journey. The rally spent the night in Ljubljana, a fantastic city.We were allowed to park the cars up in the famous Preseren Square where they attracted a great deal of attention including TV crews covering our arrival.DSCN1725DSCN1757ljubljanaDSCN1773

The next morning we finally had sunny weather as we crossed back into Italy and a lovely lunch stop at a great family museum. Three more passes including Passo di Pordoi 2239m. Many of the field were late into Bolzano and lots of fettling was required. The Isetta didn’t make it until 5am after having to make major repairs in Ljubljana.DSCN1839

Dissappointingly due to all the storms, the Stelvio pass was closed with a landslide but after a deviation we managed to double back and still climb the Gavia from the Southside and get the Passage Control photo at the summit, at 2621m it’s not much lower than the Stelvio 2757m.

DSCN1975DSCN1994DSCN2002DSCN2011DSCN2048DSCN2070

Once back down it was a very pleasant run along the shores of Lago di Iseo and into Brescia. In the town we were welcomed with a civic reception with all the cars in the main square as on the original 1958 event, they even ‘broke the cheese’ where a whole Grande Pandano was opened for us to taste, a great honour.Brescia2DSCN2149DSCN2161

Day 7 started with a trip around the impressive Mille Miglia museum and then set off back to Bolzano, actually managing to stop for lunch on the way. Getting out of Bolzano the next morning wasn’t easy but we were soon climbing the Passo Pennes at 2215m it was one of the best of the rally.DSCN2181DSCN2193DSCN2320DSCN2432

After another night in Munich we had a lovely drive through the German countryside with several stops at motor museums and the impressive Schloss Lichtenstein, this fairytale castle perches on a steep cliff and is a spectacular sight.DSCN2505DSCN2591

The final day saw us back at Karlsruhe kart circuit where we had much better times in the dry, although by the time we’d got back through Spa in the afternoon it was inevitably raining again. We finished back at Liege for the prize giving. We won our class with Victor and Craig second and Jane won the Ladies prize so a very successful evening with a lot of celebrating.DSCN2775DSCN2800DSCN2810DSCN2833DSCN2902

We all had a great time even though we were a bit tired and grumpy at times. The event although quite straightforward for James was a challenge in such little cars and Jane enjoyed her first event and got into the spirit of classic rallying. We all enjoyed it so much that we did it again a year later but that’s for another blog.

The sun has got his hat on… and beach cars come out to play.

The sun is finally shining so time for the long awaited post on Beach Cars.

Beach cars are what were essentially small inexpensive production cars that were heavily modified to produce bespoke and individual vehicles. Used initially by the rich and famous in the 50’s and 60’s, as land tenders to their yachts on the Italian or French Riviera. With cutaway roofs and doors, wickerwork seats and fabric sunshades they were only practical as leisure transport and thus confirmed their owner’s status as someone who could afford a car ‘just for fun’.

Later on more models were developed and some went on to have small production runs. Many were used by expensive hotels and golf clubs as courtesy vehicles. The small numbers produced has resulted in them being as desirable and expensive today.
fiat600jolly3yy8.1674

i128235

Nobody seems to know for sure how the first beach cars came about but this converted Fiat Topolino/Belvedere ‘Mare’, believed to be unique must be a strong contender for the title of ‘first beach car’. Thought to be converted in 1954 when Italian’s could barely afford a bicycle – a fun car to go to the beach in would have been a wild extravagance, only available to a few very wealthy individuals. It is thought that it may have been created by Fiat’s in-house special bodies department, the Carozzeria Speciale and was possibly owned by Fiat Chairman Gianni Agnelli who was certainly wealthy enough and had the influence to have had it made, this also fits in with the development of the beach car in later years.

This car is currently for sale!
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Later in the 50’s, it is known that Gianni Agnelli sent a Fiat 500 to Ghia Carrozzeria, the brief; to cut off the top, remove the doors, and install a folding surrey top and wicker seats. The result was the first Fiat Jolly (Jolly in Italian means Joker).

Agnelli’s car created a lot of attention and soon a limited production run was underway but many were hand made to order and specification. Aristottle Onassis owned three of them, Yul Brenner, John Wayne, Grace Kelly and even Mae West all reportedly owned Jollys and US President Lyndon Johnson used one on his Texas ranch.
jolly-johnson

Further models were produced based on first the 500 and then the 600. Considered a success, the model had a production run from 1958 to 1966. It is believed that more than 400 ‘Jolly’s’ were made but the seaside conditions they were kept in meant that fewer than 100 survive worldwide today and each one is pretty much unique.

The cars’ specification included cut-down sides and windshield, a striped and fringed surrey top, and chromed body-pipework. They were available in pink, coral, white, pale yellow and sky blue. Mechanicals were standard Fiat. An “economical” version was available from 1964 to 1966 featuring normal bumpers with no pipework and solid plastic seats embossed with a fake wicker pattern.
JollyPic

Jolly’s were also made based on the 600 Multipla which had the advantage of another row of seats with the middle row facing backwards1958_Ghia_Fiat_600_Multipla_Jolly_01_1 1958_Ghia_Fiat_600_Multipla_Jolly_02 scan001
1958_Ghia_Fiat_600_Multipla_Jolly_03

In 1956 Pininfarina designed special version based on the Multipla for the Agnelli family to use in their personal home the Villa Leopolda – The special 600 was called the ‘Eden Roc’ or ‘Marine’ after the promontory overlooking Cap d’Antibes on the Cote d’Azur where the villa is situated. The little Fiat was used to shuttle guests around the 20-acre villa and town. In the late ’60s, this car was taken to Turin and used by Fiat President Prof. Valletta for guests to visit the Fiat factory.

The Eden Roc has a beautiful ‘boat like’ wrap around slatted wood seat and is cut lower than many beach cars. A surviving example is owned by the ‘Cord’ family in America and has been displayed at the world’s great Concours competitions. It has been reported that Henry Ford II also owned this model. The first picture is an original Pininfarina press photo which we found at auto jumble many years ago.scan007

fiat005Fiat Multipla Marine 'Eden Rock' by Pininfarina - 1958_01Fiat Multipla Marine 'Eden Rock' by Pininfarina - 1958_02Fiat Multipla Marine 'Eden Rock' by Pininfarina - 1958_04

A similar car has been used as a ViP course car at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. We were lucky enough to see it and sit in it. I believe it is known as the Fiat Torpedo Marina, there seems some confusion as to who made it but Felice Mario Boano may have designed it when he had his own company but then he went on to establish the styling department for Fiat and passed the rights to produce the Torpedo to Carrozzeria Savio. There is one in a Paris Museum and one might have been owned by Prince Ranier, possibly the one still being used in Monaco?
scan0021956 Fiat 600 Torpedo marina (Savio)

This is another version designed by Boano/Carrozzeria Savio1958 Fiat 600 Spiaggina (Savio-Boano)

Fissore designer Giovanni Michelotti came up with a remarkable open-topped Multipla prototype called the “Marinella”. Only a handful of the prototypes were made but at least one remains and was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed a few years ago.
DSCN2412DSCN4235DSCN4236DSCN4238

Fissore designed a very similar vehicle, this 1957 Fiat Marionella 600M was shown at the 1957 Turin Salon a one off and hence one of the rarest beach car built on the Multipla Chassis. The unique roof allowed water skis to be carried above the passengers. The car was in Rome for many years before being restored and sold at auction in 2005 for €57,500.
38558fs_7093327-1-1

Vignale also produced several Beach Cars based on Multiplas. This one a Fiat 600 Marina from 1963, rather uniquely has the rear seats facing sideways with a chrome bar to hold the passengers in.
fiat_600_marina_1

A Vignale design the Fiat 600 Spiagetta (1956)fiat_600_spiagetta_1

Also by Vignale a Fiat Multipla Spiaggia (1956)
fiat_600_spiaggia_1

multipla-jolly

Elio and Emilio Basano were young brothers who started up a small prototype shop in Torino about 1960 In 1962 Pietro Sibona, a master at metal working, left Ghia and became the brothers’ main partner in Carrozzeria Sibona-Basano. In 1964 at the Turin show they exhibited a little beach car based on the Fiat 500 with a moulded plastic body called the Decathlon.decathlon_s

Beach cars continued beyond the 500 and 600. In the late 60’s Giovanni Michelotti in collaboration with yacht designer Phillip Schell went on to design the Fiat Michelotti Shellette Beach Car, based on a Fiat 850 spider with dramatic and areo styling. Only 80 were built, one was used by Jacqueline Onassis on the island of Skorpios. Ten are still known to exist.scan003

1969-Fiat-Michelotti-Shellette-Beach-Car 1969-Fiat-Shellette-Michelotti-profile-top-up.jpg&MaxW=630

Moretti designed their own cars but due to costs went on to produce several special bodies for Fiats. In 1970 they launched the Fiat 500 Moretti Beach Car known as the MIni Maxi, only 90 where produced. The design was quite different and more ‘Jeep’ like. The company went on to produce similar models based on the Fiat 126 and then the Midi Maxi 127 in 1971.
37533253753357 3753362 3753375

800px-Fiat127MorettiMidimaxi1980Luc106

Although the small Fiat’s were perfect and popular for conversion to Beach Cars, other manufacturers vehicles also had the same treatment.

Renault…
The Renault 4CV Resort Special. In 1960, fifty (consecutively numbered) 4CVs were dispatched from the Renault Billancourt factory in France to Ghia in Italy to be built as Resort Specials. There was only the single batch of fifty cars built, with all of the finished vehicles originally being sent to the States for sale. Apparently only eleven of them are now thought to have survived.
Renault.html

DSC00361 DSC00371 DSC00378

The Renault 4 Plein Air is a beach car conversion of a regular Renault 4 R1123 by Sinpar, a Renault subsidiary for special products. Only about 500 R4′s were converted to Plein Airs between 1968 and 1970.
Renault-4-Plein-Air-Bellinda

Sommerautos / Renault Plein Air

Daf…
This beach car was also styled by Giovanni Michelotti and based on a DAF, one was given by the factory to the Dutch Royal family and was used for many years at their Italian Summer Residence.
800px-1966_DAF_Kini

6596677713_bc66ae3f67_z Daf-kini.-Bij-de-geboorte-van-prins-Willem-Alexander-werd-de-auto-aangeboden-aan-de-koninklijke-familie.-Foto-DAF-MuseumBMW…
Designed by Moretti, this BMW 600 has hardly been used and has recently been restored. It is being auctioned at the end of this month with a guide price of €30-40k. On it’s registration documents it is known as a Isetta Moretti Open Car.
3802245

Isetta Moretti 2 IsettaMini…
In Italy a coach builder called ORO built the Mini Mare on a Innocenti Mini base, only a few were made and one was used as a private tender to Ferdinando Innocenti’s private yacht. The cars retained their roof but lost the doors, fitted with wooden surrounds and wickerwork seats, grille, boot lid and bumpers.
Innocenti Mini Mare 1 Innocenti Mini Mare 1 Innocenti Mini Mare 2img4484pyBack in the UK, BMC built a small number of ‘Beach Wagons’, designed by Chief Stylist Dick Burzi around 16 were made for use in luxe hotels around the world. There were two versions, one on the traditional Mini shape and one with a boot based on the elf/hornet. The third picture shows Alec Issigonis in his design.
ado15beach_01 ado15beach_02 ado15beach_05

Sir Alec Issiggonis also designed a more rugged version of the Mini in a ‘jeep’ style but it failed to catch on as a military vehicle as was intended, however in the 60’s the Mini Moke caught on as a Beach Buggy and became a popular cult vehicle being used as beach cars all over the world.
DSCN7753

As was the 2cv based Citroen Mehari
5793421-citroen-mehari-les-45-ans-de-la-voiture-en-plastique

Alfa Romeo
While not strictly fitting the beach car description of a converted small inexpensive car this 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia was converted for Alfa Romeo by Colli into a limousine beach car. Apparently it was used to ferry ViP’s especially the Italian President around the Alfa Romeo factory.
3491111070439100 alfa-romeo-giulietta-torpedo-1341572163

What was good in the past is still good today…
In very recent years manufacturers have come up with a host of modern Beach Cars based on current small production cars such as the new Fiat 500…DSCN7649DSCN7650DSCN7651DSCN7652DSCN7654226611CASTAGNA500Tender2Summer201001f-610x400CASTAGNA500Tender2Summer201004f

Fiat-500-by-Castagna-36a00d83451cbb069e200e554e8be7f8833-800wi

… and the ‘Portofino’ using a Fiorino Combi small van.fiat-fiorino-portofino-motorauthority-002_100207232_mfiat-van-portofino-01

Even more futuristic is the 2013 Toyota ME.WE concept car.Toyota_ME_WE_001 toyota_me.we_concept_1

Or  Swiss car visionary Frank M Rinderknecht’s concept the Rinspeed Bam Boo, a modern beach car paying homage to the Citroen Mehari. Now Frank says he will show his concept at the Geneva Motor Show. “This open-top vehicle awakens the longing for sun, summer, for lightness and easiness, the desire to be at the beach,”cries his press release. “It is a reminiscence of the Seventies, of the south of France and St. Tropez. One expects to find Brigitte Bardot behind the wheel with playboy Gunther Sachs at her side heading towards Tahiti beach.”
000  Bamboo Rin 000 Bamboo back

rinspeed-bamboo-10Note: I’ve really enjoyed putting this post together but it has grown as I’ve been researching it! Information is rather hard to find and the fact that at the time many of the designers were moving between companies and that many of the cars are unique has made it difficult to find out accurate information, especially regarding names, dates and designers. Hopefully most of the info here is correct, if you know differently please let me know!