Back in January, Louis C.K. appeared on Jerry Seinfeld’s webseries “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” which made for an entertaining episode in and of itself, but the real star of the show was the car that Seinfeld selected for the program – a 1959 Fiat Jolly. Braving the New York City streets in a glorified golf cart with no doors and a fabric roof is nerve-racking enough, but when you factor in that less than one-hundred Jolly’s are left in the world, Seinfeld’s car choice seems downright irresponsible.
While it’s hard to determine exactly how many Jolly’s were produced in the late fifties, the car has become quite desirable nowadays, fetching upwards of six figures at recent auctions. So what’s the story behind this bizarre automobile? Well, like many unique designs from the mid-century, the Jolly came to life at the world renowned Carrozzeria Ghia design studio in Turin, Italy. While it still operates today, Ghia’s peak was from 1953-1963 during which time the firm was contracted by Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Chrysler, all of which were drawn to Ghia’s gorgeous lines and contoured creations.
The Jolly, like many of Ghia’s creations, was a hyper-specific job for the studio, but the Jolly is unique in that it ranks up there as one of Ghia’s smallest projects. In 1958, Fiat shipped a number of their 600’s to Ghia to convert into cars that were specifically to be marketed toward Fiat’s higher end clientele. Ghia’s creation, which was named the “Jolly” because it was just so damn jolly, featured wicker seats, an optional fringed roof, and tires that looked like they could’ve been stolen off a golf cart. In fact, the Jolly was meant to act sort of like a golf cart for the everyday lives of rich and famous (Aristotle Onassis was one of the better known Jolly owners.)
Less of a car and more of a toy, the Jolly was the ultimate summertime leisure mobile and was designed to shuttle drivers between their yacht, the golf course, their mansion and back again. That ritzy spirit lives on today as most of those lucky enough to own a Jolly tend to baby them to preserve the elegant exterior. That is unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld, but really what’s one Jolly compared to forty-six Porsches?