Just ask Jay Leno.
Is this Mini beach car really worth $230,000?
Alec Issigonis’ Mini built its reputation on being humble, economical, and fun-loving. A beach-themed Mini with no doors and wicker seats surely sounds like a good time, but there’s nothing approachable about a $230,000 price tag. That’s not a typo—a 1962 Austin Mini beach car sold on Bring a Trailer for that hefty sum late last November.
Outrageous as that sounds, the result wasn’t entirely without precedent; beach cars in general command a serious premium. For starters, rarity is a factor. Austin only built 15 such beach-going Minis, 13 of which were left-hand-drive models earmarked for the U.S. as promotional vehicles meant to generate fanfare around the brand’s introduction into the North American market. A single family has owned this particular car since new, adding some allure to its provenance. The seller’s late father was, back in the early 1960s, a principal at a Michigan-based dealer that handled British cars. He bought the car after its promotional value was presumably exhausted, in August 1965. Following his passing in 1986, his daughter (the seller) took over ownership. The Mini (painted Smoke Grey and riding on 10-inch chrome wheels) was in storage until 2004, after which it got a full freshening that included carburetor work, a new fuel pump, replacement fluids, and tires.
These little open-air delights were essentially hand-built, and the wicker seats (buckets up front and bench in the rear) use steel frames for strengthening. Under the hood lives a familiar, numbers-matching 850-cc inline-four cylinder engine mated to a four-speed transaxle—totally standard for an early-’60s Mini. You won’t be setting any land-speed records in a Mini, let alone one whose aerodynamic efficiency is about on par with an Eggo waffle. That’s not the point, of course—on a clear summer afternoon, you’ll be in no hurry to reach your destination in a car that makes people smile.
If you want one, though, you might hesitate to reach for your checkbook. Prior to Bring a Trailer’s $230,000 sale, Bonhams sold a similar-looking 1962 Austin Mini beach car for $181,500 back in 2014—$196,300 when adjusted for inflation. Given that Mini prices have increased in the last five years, this result isn’t as anomalous as it might initially seem. Still, compared to the standard ’62 Mini—which in absolutely mint #1 (Concours) condition averages $24,800—the beach car is objectively, astonishingly expensive. Even in the realm of high-priced Minis, it’s a major result. A works RAC Rally car sold for $132,000 back in 2007, which is about $197,000 in today’s dollars, and Paul McCartney’s Mini sold for $236,500 last year at a Worldwide’s sale in Auburn, Indiana, setting an all-time Mini record.
The wicker-interior Fiat Jolly represents a similar dynamic. In Concours condition, a 500 Jolly is worth $96,100, while the beefier 600 Jolly in the same mint condition goes for $118,000. Excellent-condition (#2) Jollys are each about half as expensive as the #1-condition cars, but even then they’re exorbitantly priced compared to standard Fiat 500s and 600s. Somehow, the Acapulco-edition VW Thing has escaped the same fate. In top condition, the Thing Acapulco commands an average price of $33,000, which is just a couple grand north of the standard soft-roader.
Size isn’t everything, of course, and this big result for a tiny beach car indicates people are still willing to shell out for rarity and personality.
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