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Top 10 Beach Cars

The top 10 beach cars.. or if you prefer, ten cars that help to make a successful vacation. In chronological order, we have:

Fiat 600 Jolly 1958 - 1969

The Ghia-bodied 600 cost double the price of the standard Fiat saloon and it was designed for the Jet Set to carry on the back of their yachts, which did not assist the Jolly’s survival rate,  and then drive from the beach to the casino. In the 1960s, this was the off-duty transport of such luminaries as Princess Grace of Monaco, Yul Brynner and Laurence Harvey.

B1

Austin Mini Beach Car 1961 - 1962

AKA the Riviera Buggy. Longbridge’s experimental department made 15 Beach Cars that were intended to appeal to those socialites and ladies and gentlemen of leisure who might otherwise have considered buying a 600 Jolly. Possibly the rarest factory-built Mini – and certainly one of the most charming.

B10

Austin/Morris Mini Moke 1964 – 1968 (UK models)

The car with virtually everything as an optional extra, including a heater, passenger seats and a second windscreen wiper. The Moke was devised as a run-around for the armed forces but by the late 1960s, it was almost automatically associated with Carnaby Street and Swinging London.

B2

Citroën Mehari 1968 - 1988

The music in this commercial is, frankly, quite horrible but the footage does illustrate the appeal of the Mehari. The plastic body was based on the Dyane and power was from Citroën’s flat twin engine. The most desirable version is probably the short-lived (1979 – 1983) 4x4 model but any Mehari – especially in Orange Kirghiz  - is innately ‘with-it’.

B3

Renault 4 Plein Air 1968 – 1970

A car that more than lived up to its name, as Renault’s in-house Sinpar division removed the doors and roof of the brilliant 4 to create a true rival for the Moke and Mehari. Alas, only 600 found a home, including a handful of RHD versions, but the Plein Air is a car of innate glamour, as demonstrated by this footage of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.  

B4 

VW 181/182 1968 - 1983

As with so many of the vehicles here, the 181 was first intended for a serious purpose and over 50,000 served with NATO forces. However, in the USA they were marketed as ‘The Thing’ fun car and a small number of RHD models were sold in the UK during 1975 as ‘The Trekker’. Still one of the most entertaining four-door convertibles ever made.

B5

Renault Rodeo 4 1970 - 1981

The successor to the Plein Air, with the floorpan of the 4 Fourgonette van combined with a GRP body with removable side doors. A rear seat was an optional extra and the Rodeo became as integral to a part of a French seaside holiday as a cooling glass of citron pressé.

B6

Seat 127 Samba 1977 - 1982

Many readers who spent their summer breaks in Spain during the 1980s will remember these SEATs that were converted by the coachbuilder Embela. Some of my childhood was spent in Mallorca and I vividly recall the local Guardia Civil scowling at Sambas full of holidaymakers careering through Santa Ponsa…

B7

Trabant Tramp 1978 – 1990

Not a car automatically associated with sea, sand and Joie-de-Vivre in general, the Tramp was a civilian version of the Kubelwagen that was sold in some Western markets. An intriguing choice of beach car, even if the two-cylinder, two-stroke, air-cooled engine made a discrete arrival a near impossibility.

B8

Talbot Matra Rancho Découvrable 1981 - 1982

Yet another fine car denied to British motorists, with all the rugged macho appeal (if limited off road ability) of the Rancho plus detachable fabric covers over the rear seat and luggage compartment. Matra built only 200 Découvrables and surviving examples may occasioanlly be glimpsed in Greece or Spain.

B9

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