Iconic Beach Cars

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As many return from overseas holidays, stay-cations and City breaks I wanted to send a “wish you were here” digital postcard – also my 300th Aestheticons post – from a wonderful visit to France’s Cote d’Azur, more particularly, the iconic French beach-side town of St Tropez with it’s simply beautiful pastel shaded port.

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Fame was assured for this picturesque coastal town when the 1950’s French actress, Brigitte Bardot, born in 1934 and still a local resident at Baie des Canebiers, featured in the 1956 Roger Vadim directed and ground breaking “And God Created Woman” (“Et Dieu Crea la Femme”). Mdme. Bardot’s impact on the region has been honored by local baker “Senequier” who in 1956 launched the delicious “La Tarte Tropezienne”, a delicate almond cream filled brioche topped with powdered icing sugar and chopped pistachio.

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Shot on location in and around St Tropez the film also provided a springboard for the world renowned beach club/restaurant “Club 55” that was founded from a dilapidated beach shack by the parents of current owner, Patrice de Colmont, who provided food for the cast and crew of filmmakers. Rumored to have recently been offered €30m for his iconic beach club M Colmont is understood to have politely turned down the offer as he preferred not to become one of his clients eating the signature dish of “Panier des Crudites” with anchoiade mayonnaise!

The town’s along this stretch of the Cote D’Azur are each rather distinct and have their own style. The beach is never far from people’s minds as they negotiate, sometimes to the frustration of the locals, the summertime traffic of fellow tourists.

Naturally in this style capital it is vital to get your beach or port transport right. For those not seeking to impress in the vast array of American muscle cars that are to be spotted in many locations, my preference is to celebrate the more quirky and classic vehicles.

Aestheticons readers will already know of my passion for the GRP bodied Citroen Mehari – see our previous post here – Citroën Méhari – A reliable French classic that is patriotically supported and really enjoyed in St Tropez and its surrounding villages.

The Mini Moke, which has the look of a vehicle that was designed for the breeze of the Cote D’Azur, is a very popular ride either to the beach or to park up alongside a visiting boat transporting provisions for a day at sea. For the the right clients it is possible to rent one of these wonderful and iconic cars for your stay. See our previous posts here – Mini Moke Goes Electric .

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Closer to the original Mini, I have seen parked in Grimaldi Village, a beach version with wicker seats and no doors, called the “Austin Mini Beach”. It was very beautiful and, I understand, extremely valuable! See our previous post here celebrating the iconic Mini – Mini – the best selling car in Britain

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The third leaf of this Fleur de Lys of wonderful beach and port transport is the Ghia designed Fiat Jolly based on the equally iconic Fiat 500 – see our previous post here – Fiat 500 – 1957-2017

Seemingly one of the most valuable of these iconic beach cars price points of $100,000 have been mentioned for these basket weave seated, frilled canopied expressions of Italian style.

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Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis is said to have had and loved his Fiat Jolly.

In 2108 this charming little car celebrated its sixtieth anniversary and to coincide the guys at Fiat commissioned Garage Italia to produce a reimagined version of the Jolly, limited to 1958 editions, and called the Fiat Spiaggina.

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Image Credits – used with grateful thanks – Hemmings Car Auctions and Garage Italia/FIAT

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Fiat Barchetta

 

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The other day I was following a Fiat Barchetta and was reminded of what a pretty and glamorous little car this particular Fiat was. It was in metallic grey with an open burgundy roof. It was in fantastic condition, gleaming chrome and clean paint, with its hood down, wind blowing through the driver’s hair it looked very cool.

There is a growing trend amongst classic car magazines to try to predict those cars that will be future collectibles, that unlike regular vehicles will either hold or  increase their value over a period of time. For me the smart thing to do would be buy a low mileage, well maintained Fiat Barchetta, mothball it, as I have a hunch that this car may well become one such vehicle – a classic.

As someone keen on the evolution of trade marks the “Barchetta” is somewhat enigmatic. Simply in Italian “Barchetta” is a way of saying small boat. Giovanni Canestrini the Editor of “La Gazzetta dell Sport” is credited with the origin of the name in the 1940’s. Initially in the name was used by Ferrari, Maserati and the lesser known manufacturer, Moretti, who all produced open top race cars.

In 1948 and 1949 a Ferrari 166MM – based on the earlier competition Barchetta called the 166S of which only 39 were made – won the Mille Miglia, the endurance race set in Northern Italy which ran from 1927 to 1957 – only being halted by War.

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In 1966 Abarth produced the 1000SP Barchetta – a track success. In 1991 Maserati produced seventeen Barchettas for the track. In 2001 Ferrari released their stunning 550 Barchetta Pininfarina to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the stellar – now Mahindra owned – Turinese design house.

Whilst this extensive use of a distinctive name would be manna from Heaven for the trade-mark lawyers I suspect the fact that the majority of the dramatis personae in this particular performance were either owned or co-owned by the Turin giant “Fiat” is probably the simplest answer to the lack of any dispute.

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Using the project name “Tipo B Spider 176” between 1990-94 Fiat’s in house Centro Stile team comprising primarily Andreas Zapatistas, Alessandro Cavazza and Peter Barrett Davis conceived and developed the Fiat Barchetta. With a 1,747 cc DHOC petrol engine it was based on the chassis of Fiat’s Mark 1 Punto.

It was first released in February 1995 and is classically Italian in styling. It draws from both the Fiat 124 – see our earlier posts on this iconic sports car –  Fiat 124 Sport Spider – a re-imagined icon   – and the earlier Ferrari 166MM.

Production ceased in  June 2005 with a final production run of around 57,700 cars.

So, back to my suggestion of an investment in this beautiful Italian sports car. A simple but limited search on the internet shows that low mileage examples – under 100,000 Kms – particularly LHD – currently go from around €3,000 to €5,000.

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Images – with grateful thanks – courtesy of Sylvia Druet, Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler SpA.

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Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

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I am giving serious thought to the expression “Favourite Car” in response to an enquirers question to name mine. Now, I thought I had a long-term and completely harmonious fictional relationship with a 1965 Porsche 911 Targa. See here our previous past Porsche 911 Targa 

No question my pulse quicken and my throat dries a little at the thought of those classic lines, that ticking engine and those long lazy sunny days mastering the hairpins down to La Corniche. Then, as if to upset the harmony of a steady relationship, a perfectly formed little nose nudges you and with winking classic headlights clears its throat and ask you if, perhaps with a little hesitation and possibly some disappointment, whether you have forgotten them.

They remind you of the mid-1970’s classic car magazine collection “On Four Wheels” – which to the best of my recollection ran for about three years and with each edition – after the usual “magazine-crack” two for one introductory offer – became increasingly more expensive. They remind you of this endless summer days with your childhood pal, Mike, when you’d visit car showrooms, argue about the merits of Italian cars versus German or French ones and write to “concessionaires” asking for brochures often to be inundated with coffee table sized promo materials featuring sleek new sleek Lamborghinis and Maseratis. Mike still has his collection of brochures stored in a garage – Ebay anyone?

One such car is Volkswagen’s iconic Karmann Ghia – especially the Cabriolet version. My Godmother has a hard topped version in grey and she was quite cool so that was how this pretty car became locked in my evolving psyche from the mid-sixties.

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The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia – based on the classic and mechanics of a first model Beetle – see our celebration of this amazing car here Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined –  was debuted as a design concept at the 1953 Paris Auto Show. Following launch, it was available in 2+2 coupe versions (from 1955 to 1974) and as a cabriolet (from 1957 to 1974).

The Karmann Ghia was a collaboration that featured the styling genius of Luigi Segre, of the legendary Turin based coach-builder, Carrozzeria Ghia (now owned by Ford), and the hand-shapes panelling  of German coach-builder Karmann – who VW had commissioned to develop the car. A massive success with over 445,000 cars built, the Karmann Ghia was extensively exported, particularly to the US market.

The VW Karmann Ghia Cabriolet was first introduced August 1957.

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The Cabriolet has, along with many cars in the VW range, been featured in a series of classic Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) print media adverts in the 1950s and 60’s; so much so that DDB’s work with Volkswagen, who they have represented since 1959 (opening an office in Germany in 1961) was voted the No. 1 campaign of all time by Advertising Age’s 1999 “The Century of Advertising”.

A classic DD&B poster from the early 1960’s:

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In the early 1970’s, in response to increasing vehicle safety requirements, particularly in the US, the smooth chrome wrap-around bumpers were replaced with energy absorbing bumpers. By the mid 1970’s the model was phased out to be replaced, initially, by the Porsche 914 – never a particular favourite.

STOP PRESS: In the Gooding and Company Scottsdale Auction in January 2018 a 1963 hard topped version of the Karmann Ghia achieve a respectable $37,400 which whilst is not cheap does suggest that this fine German brand is an everyman collectible – see this lovely example and read here the Gooding and Company report Gooding and Company Karmann Ghia

Seen and loved the car – now get the T shirt – please click the AMAZON link under the image 

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VOLKSWAGEN KARMANN GHIA 1970 STENCIL MENS T SHIRT CLASSIC CAR (XXL(50-52), RED)

Read more about the history – here.

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Volkswagen Karmann Ghias and Cabriolets: 1949-1980

Essential mantelpiece material – a die cast model to keep those juices flowing!

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Minichamps 155054031 1:18 Scale “1970 VW Karmann Ghia Convertible Black” Replica Model Toy

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Karmann Ghia Type 14 Logo T-Shirt Oldtimer Car Cars Collector Driver Ralley Osnabrück Coupé Cabriolet 17156 – Grey – XX-Large

If you are lucky enough to find a Karmann Gaia in reasonable condition – and at a reasonable price – grab it! If successful you’ll need the iconic Haynes Manual to tell you just what to do to keep your beautiful car in fab condition.

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VW Beetle and Karmann Ghia (1954-79) Automotive Repair Manual (Haynes Automotive Repair Manuals)

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Images by West Coast Classics, Doyle Dane and Bernbach, Ara Howrani/Howrani Studios and Gooding and Company with grateful thanks