1935 Fiat 508 S Balilla Sport
Why am I an Automotive Masterpiece?
Introduced in 1932, the 508 Balilla became immediately the car which motorized the Italians, thanks to its low purchase cost and easy maintenance of its 4-cylinder 995 cc. engine. The 508 S Balilla Sport competition version was inspired by an original design by Carrozzeria Ghia. The first cars were built based on the Fiat 508 Spyder, suitably modified as "tipo corsa" (type race) and still show the chassis numbers without the letter S. In 1933 Fiat introduced the sporting version 508 S Balilla Sport, characterized by a lighter, very nice and pleasant body, which soon became one of the cars to dream for the younger generation. FIAT purchased the rights by Ghia, manufacturing two versions: the standard version “Coppa d’Oro” had fully enclosed fenders while the “Mille Miglia” used smaller cycle fenders and a lighter chassis. The engine was also uprated to 43 bhp over the version standard 36 bhp. The first model won the Coppa d’Oro del Littorio, which earned it the nickname “Coppa d’Oro”, the second model won the 1933 Mille Miglia in the up to 1100 cc Utility Class. Clothed in stylish open two-seater bodywork with distinctive finned tail, the early "Spider Sport" models came with the same crash gearbox as the other cars, but the engine was fed by a special carburetor, which with its raised compression ratio of 7:1 gave rise to a maximum output listed as 30 hp (22 kW) at 4,000 rpm. Introduced in 1934, the 508CS second series improved on this successful formula, adopting a four-speed synchromesh gearbox and an overhead-valve engine producing 46bhp. The final drive ratio was also altered, and top speed went up to 110 km/h (69 mph). Siata produced at the time accessories and uprated parts, making it probably one of the earliest car tuners.
The Balilla Sport with chassis no. 508S071268 was registered first with Milano plates on April 4, 1935, to the famous racing driver Gigi Villoresi. It was just only ten days later, on April 14, that the car was entered at the Mille Miglia with race number #14. The Villoresi team (Gigi and Mimi) covered the distance among Brescia-Roma-Brescia in 17.15'26" gaining a very good 18th position overall and even a 2nd in class. It was the first of two red arrows for this car. In June, the car went abroad to race in Praga the 1000 Mil Ceskoslovenskych, organized by Autoklub Ceské republiky and inspired by the Italian homonymous race, again with the Villoresi couple who faced several other events of the 1935 season, the best results being a 1st in class at the Internationales Grossglockner Rennen in Lienz and at the Como-Lieto Colle. At the end of 1936 the car was purchased by another racing driver, Adolfo Caspani, who, too, undertook the Mille Miglia with race number #45. But his race in 1937 was less successful: he set a good time up to Rome and was then forced to withdraw. The car was sold to Carlo Croff, of the well-known Milanese entrepreneurial dynasty, specialized in furnishing fabrics, curtains and carpets and then passed on to his heirs. From 1947 to 1991, a series of passionate owners followed, always traced. After being restored, from 1991 the car becomes a property of Count Giuseppe Cavagna di Gualdana, entrepreneur and former president of Confagricoltura Pavia and vice president of Confagricoltura Lombardia. The count takes the Balilla to three re-enactments of the Mille Miglia, from 1992 to 1994, always arriving at the end and in honorable positions. The cas has been published on the Mille Miglia’sChassis book, volume III and is now part of a private collection.