This is one of two examples of the 1958 Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano ever made. It was originally owned by Gianni Agnelli, one of the 20th Century’s great industrialists, the other car was owned by Aristotle Onassis.
The 1958 Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano has been widely credited with kicking off the beach car craze in the late 1950s and into the 1960s. These cars are typically very simple with minimal bodywork, no fixed roof or sides, and small engines. They were used for transporting their wealthy owners from their villas down to the beach or lake edge during the summer months.
Fast Facts – The 1958 Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano
- The 1958 Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano was developed at the direct behest of Gianni Agnelli. He was the richest man in modern Italian history, the principal shareholder of Fiat, the owner of Juventus F.C., and he controlled an estimated 4.4% of Italy’s GDP, plus 3.1% of its industrial workforce.
- The Spiaggina Boano was designed by stylist Mario Boano who at that time worked for Carrozzeria Ghia. The car was based on the Fiat Nuova 500 platform, but featured an all-new body and interior specifically designed for ferrying Agnelli and his guests around the Villa Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France.
- The car is powered by the Fiat 479cc inline twin-cylinder engine, this was an air-cooled motor with overhead valves that was capable of 15 bhp at 4,000 rpm. It was mounted in the rear of the car and power was sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission.
- Of the two Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boanos that were made this car is the only known survivor, it’s the car that belonged to Agnelli himself, and it’s now coming up for sale with a price guide starting at $295,000 USD.
Building The First Beach Car
Gianni Agnelli himself is credited with developing the concept of the beach car, he commissioned Carrozzeria Ghia’s Mario Boano to design the Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano to his own specification, based on Fiat Nuova 500 underpinnings.
Just two cars would be made, Agnelli gifted the second to his longtime friend and fellow industrialist Onassis – this second car has now been lost to history, and the original Agnelli car (shown in this article) is thus the only known survivor.
Agnelli would use his Spiaggina Boano extensively in the summers at his property the Villa Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France. The car would transport guests and family members around the villa’s grounds and into the nearby town or down to the beach when required.
The car was featured in Vogue magazine in-period, and it’s believed to have been this feature that triggered a wave of interest in beach cars. Soon after this the limited edition Fiat 600 Jolly would enter production, offering a similar driving experience to the Spiaggina Boano – it was also designed at Ghia and based on the Fiat 500 platform.
Later many other beach cars would follow, including the Citroën Méhari, Mini Moke, Volkswagen Thing, and the Renault Rodeo. Some of these cars were originally designed with military use in mind, including the Moke and Thing, but were later frequently repurposed by their owners as beach cars.
Agnelli’s Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano
As noted above this Fiat 500 Spiaggina Boano was Agnelli’s own personal car, it’s the one that was featured in the pages of Vogue magazine, inspiring the creation of an entirely new automotive genre.
The car is finished in a two-tone paint scheme of a cream top and a navy blue bottom, with a wooden strip around the belt line. It has no doors or roof, though it does have a full windscreen and a single central rear vision mirror.
The front seats are both simple woven affairs and it has a more plush rear bench seat with arm rests for additional guests. It rides on small steel wheels with chrome hubcaps, and it’s shod with classic white wall tires.
Power is provided by the drivetrain of the Fiat Nuova 500 consisting of the same rear-mounted Fiat 479cc inline twin-cylinder engine, an air-cooled motor with two overhead valves per cylinder that was capable of 15 bhp at 4,000 rpm.
This small but sufficient power output was sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission and the car rode on independent front and rear suspension, with four wheel drum brakes taking care of stopping duties.
The front trunk contains the fuel tank, the battery, a tool roll, and a spare wheel which is held in place with rubber straps. There is minimal additional space for luggage, but in all fairness, that was never the design purpose of this car.
As the only surviving example of the Spiaggina this car holds significant historic value. Agnelli is said to have gifted it to his personal driver Bernadino Aiassa in 1973, who later sold it to Mario Rossi.
The car was recently rediscovered in remarkably original condition by a well-known Turin-based collector and it’s been kept in unrestored condition. It was shown at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in 2018 where is garnered much interest.
The car is now due to roll across the auction block with RM Sotheby’s in Paris on the 31st of January with a price guide of €270,000 – €290,000 or approximately $295,000 – $315,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images: Vecchio; Federico – RMS
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