Motor cars were over 100 years from becoming an everyday form of transport when a Genovese boy, Giovanni Battista Perasso, threw a stone, or stones, at an Austrian officer of the military occupation and kicked off the Genoese revolt against the Austrians in 1746.
Subsequently Giovanni’s nickname ‘Balilla’ was used for a Milanese Tractor, by the Italian Royal Navy for a class of Submarine, Ansaldo used the name for Italy’s only WW1 fighter aircraft to go into production the 1917 Ansaldo A1 and by FIAT for their 508 range of cars built between 1932 and 1937.
A team working under Tranquillo Zerbi director of FIAT’s Technical Department designed the Balilla to incorporate some of the qualities of high end automobiles, like crank handle operated side window’s, into a vehicle with a modest price.
The original 508 was fitted with a side valve 1 litre / 61 cui 4 cylinder motor that produced 20 hp enough for the Balilla to reach 50 mph.
In 1933 the 508S was fitted with an upgraded motor that produced up to 30hp that was later increased to 36hp with the aid of an overhead valve head.
Production of the Balilla ceased in 1937 and the model was replaced by the FIAT 508C Nuova Balilla 1100.
Balilla’s were built at FIAT’s facility in Lingotto in Italy with six different body styles; Belina 2 door 4 seat saloon / sedan, 2 seat cabriolet Spider, 4 door 4 seat Torpedo of which ironically a special version was built for Italian Military operations in occupied area’s of North Africa, Spider Sport with styling by Ghia, Coupé and Van.
Assembly of some Balilla variants including the Spider Sport was further facilitated at Walter Motors in Czechoslovakia, Centralne Warsztaty Samochodowe in Poland, NSU-Fiat in Germany and Simca-Fiat in France.
Dr Dick Patten’s 1934 Spider Sport bodied Ballila, seen in these photographs at Loton Park, is listed as having a 1089 cc / 66 cui motor which presumably was sourced from a later post 1937 FIAT 508C Nuova Balilla 1100.
Thanks for joining me on this “Genoese Revolt” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I will be looking at a competition Hillman Imp. Don’t forget to come back now.