The Tipo 58 Fiat was first introduced in 1932, very much a car for the mass market and featuring a side valve engine with three speed gearbox and fairly staid two-door saloon bodywork. It was of all-metal construction and available in Saloon, Torpedo or Spyder versions.
The little four-cylinder engine was capable of just over 50 mph and with moderate care fuel consumption in the region of 35-40 mpg was achievable. For the first time the name "Balilla" was given to the car rather than the more usual Fiat usage of Tipo numbers.
However, it was not long before demand required a competition version and this came in the form of the very pretty Balilla Sport, featuring stylish two-seat open bodywork and exquisite finned tail, housing the spare wheel. Originally styled by Ghia, Fiat bought the design and modified it themselves.
Two versions were available: the Coppa d'Oro or Mille Miglia, and the second series Balilla Sports, introduced in 1934, which had a four-speed gearbox and overhead valve engine capable of 46 bhp. The Sport version was consequently given the denomination 508S.
The 1935 pictured here was one of four dozen or so imported into England in that year although this particular car was not actually sold until 1937. It was maintained in perfect condition and used in rallies by the first owner who subsequently sold it in 1962 to a Mr. W. Hodge and he, in fact, sold it two years later in 1964 when it became the property of Lord Montagu.
The car has been on display in the Museum since its purchase and is in running condition although has not been used on the road for some twenty years. It is original with red paintwork and red interior trim and apart from one white faced Fiat oil pressure gauge (which would be correct for a 508 of the period), quite as one would expect from a car that has been in the same ownership for many years.
Being a Sport model it has the four-speed gearbox and overhead valve four-cylinder engine. The body is in generally good condition and original to the car, being a period imitation of the Italian Coppa d'Oro design, made by an unknown London coachbuilder to the order of Fiat (England) Limited.
A very pretty pre-war Italian Sportscar with particular charm.
|Vehicle:||1935 Fiat Balilla 508S Coppa d'Oro|
Proving that small things can have enormous charm, this little Fiat brought nearly double its estimated reserve when it was sold by Christie’s on 19 February 1996 for $26,910.
A completely unknown car in the U.S., the Balillas have their own following in Europe, where they can frequently be seen in low-key historic rallies.
American enthusiasts looking for inexpensive, yet interesting cars that are old enough for year-restrictive events like the California Mille would be well served to consider cars like the Balilla. They represent uniqueness and fun for not very much money.