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Coachwork by Michelotti
This highly original example of the rare Shellette was reportedly imported new to the US by a friend of designer Phillip Schell. Retained by its first owner and sparingly used for a period of over 40 years, the Fiat had accrued less than 10,000 original miles when discovered in largely original condition by Chris Costanza of New Hampshire in spring 2012.
After purchasing the Shellette, Mr. Costanza undertook some restoration measures on the car, which still benefitted from a paint respray conducted by the original owner in 1991. The mechanicals were freshened for optimal running condition, the well-preserved wicker interior components and wood trim were cleaned and detailed, new Sisal carpets were fitted, and a new blue and white-striped Sunbrella top with Tenax German snaps was installed.
Following the completion of the freshening, the Shellette was exhibited to warm approval at several local concours, including Hemmings’ invitation-only New England Concours d’Elegance in Saratoga Springs, New York. The little Fiat captured the attention of the consignor and he purchased the charming Shellette. Fitted with a Nardi wood-rimmed steering wheel, the original wicker dashboard, and new Coco floor mats, this charming Shellette would make an ideal acquisition for any collector of microcars, beach cars, or vintage, coachbuilt Fiats. It promises to draw delighted interest from enthusiasts of all stripes with its remarkable design and extreme rarity. The Shellette
By 1969, Fiat had thoroughly explored the concept of a yacht-based beach car with the beloved Ghia-bodied Jolly. Eventually designed from both the 500 cc and 600 cc platforms, the rear-engine Jolly featured wicker interior appointments and a canvas-awning top, essentially a high-class motorized beach umbrella complete with picnic gear.
Yacht designer Philip Schell and noted Italian car stylist Giovanni Michelotti truly took the beach car concept to a new level when they combined the Jolly’s basic architecture with the 1960s jet-age aesthetics of a Fiat 850 Spider. It is believed that approximately 80 examples of the resulting Shellette were built, a handful of which were based on a DAF chassis. Both Jacqueline Onassis and the Dutch royal family were known to own such vehicles.
Today, just 10 Shellettes are believed to remain, three of which are in museum collections. Distilling the Jolly’s 1950s beachfront charm with late 1960s styling, the Shellette beautifully testifies to the developing tastes of the Italian Riviera’s chic yacht-going aristocracy.