Fiat “508 Balilla”, 1933, Italy
Fiat called the model 508 “Balilla” to celebrate the fascist regime. It was the name given to Italian little boys who, in Mussolini’s mind, were supposed to demonstrate the same courage of the young Giambattista Perasso, nicknamed Balilla, showed when he rebelled to the French invasion of Genova.
The 508, was introduced at the 1932 Milan Motor Show. Sold at the amazing price of Lire 10.800, it immediately became the car of the collective imaginary: affordable, small but comfortable and a good all-rounder. It was fitted with a 3-speed gearbox and was offered with different types of bodies (2-door sedan, torpedo, spider, van); the first deliveries began on July 15th, 1932.
The 2-door saloon, as the one shown in the museum, had 4 comfortable seats, cloth interior, bright paint, wide doors with manual lowering windows, rubber mats, electric windscreen wiper and a rear view mirror. Offered as options, you could purchase: special cloth, chromed headlights, handles and bumpers. Other extras were available, like back stop light, clock, ashtray, back trunk, a second spare wheel, wire wheels and leather interior.
The Fiat Balilla is known to the public for its appearance in the torpedo version on Roberto Benigni’s movie “Life is Beautiful”
“At the 1932 Milan Motor Show Fiat launched the first popular car, the 508 Balilla. It was a low-priced car (the normal version started at 9.900 Lire), that got a good mileage ( 8 l / 100 km ) and good performance (it could reach 80-85 km/h).
Despite the sport success, the Balilla still was not the 5.000-lire popular car wanted by Mussolini”.
Taken from Storia Sociale dell’Automobile in Italia, Federico Paolini