Read about Italian Automobiles: Ferrari, Maserati, Abarth, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, OSCA, Zagato, Ghia, Pininfarina, F1 Racing and more...

   You found VeloceToday's OLD website.
Please visit VeloceToday's New Website for the latest articles, news and more...

NOTE: You are viewing the OLD VeloceToday website. We are in the process of moving some of the old articles from the OLD site to the NEW site.

Home Cars Racing News People Lifestyle Events


January 3rd, 2007

Story by Pete Vack

This car is for sale!

That’s the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that we don’t really like to feature a car which is currently on the market. That’s sort of like a free, giant size ad, now isn’t it? But when the need to write exceeds the moral limitations of a mere mortal, there are bound to be exceptions. This is one.

The good news is that the car is for sale, and that someone out there is going to end up with this absolutely insane piece of Italian art. And that good news is followed immediately by another bit of bad news--the price is very high, at $150,000.

Unlike the Spider, the Balilla Berlinetta was dominated by ornate shapes and motifs, all of which seemed to go together amazingly well.

So what makes this Fiat so downright desirable and expensive? Hmmm. Try style. Exclusivity. Performance. Heritage. Beauty. Did we say performance? Ok, scratch that but within it’s one liter parameter the car was nevertheless an excellent performer and consistent class winner. In one sense, the Balilla Aerodynamica Coupe is much ado about very little. In another sense it is the quintessential example of pre war Italian design, in miniature and very nearly takes your breath away.

Its main claim to fame, however, may be that the Balilla Mille Miglia Berlinetta is one of the first true Grand Touring cars ever conceived, and most certainly one of the first small displacement GT cars ever built. But the path it took to that achievement was littered with spiders.

One of the colorful Balilla Fiat ads of the era. In this particular version, the sleek woman had on a much shorter dress, until that is, the Vatican saw the ad, and the hemline was lowered immediately and considerably.

The famed Balilla Berlinetta and Spiders hailed from the humblest of origins. The Fiat Balilla 508 was presented at the 1932 Milan Auto Show. It was ahead of it’s time, however, with a 12 volt electrical system, four wheel hydraulic brakes, and a three speed gearbox. The flathead 995 cc engine developed by Bartolomeo Nebbia put out a promising 22 hp out of the box.

Preceding the artful Berlinetta were the two Balillas Spiders, the cycle fendered Corsa, also known as the “Coppa de Oro” and the Sport, which had more streamlined fenders.

Though the stock displacement never changed, the Balilla 995cc engine grew in horsepower and torque throught the years primarily due to the change to an overhead valve head, cam and piston developments.

The Corsa and Sport Spiders were unveiled at the 1933 Milan Auto Show. Not only were the pair immediately successful in the hands of Italy’s gentleman drivers the Ghia styling as executed by Fiat, was more than reminiscent of the then top of the line Alfa Romeo 1750 Gran Sport with their beautiful Zagato and Touring bodies, right down to the boattail and central tail fin.

Ghia not only designed the impressive Balilla Corsa and Sport spiders, but created one of the very first small displacement Grand Touring cars with this 1933 Balilla Belinetta. Putting it in the hands of Siata wizard Giorgio Ambrosini was icing on the cake. It finished third in the heavily contested 1100cc class in the Mille Miglia.

The factory-designed and built Balilla Mille Miglia Berlinetta was not launched until late in 1935, but two interesting Balilla coupes had already made their appearances in the Mille Miglia. Perhaps inspired by the Alfa Romeo Touring coupes which placed well in the 1931 and 1932 events, Ghia designed a streamlined Fiat Balilla coupe for the 1933 Mille Miglia, an event which out of sixty nine starters, twenty five were Balillas. The Ghia Berlinetta was also an advance design, with a severely raked windshield. The 995 cc car had to be classed with the 1100s, yet the team of Giorgio Ambrosini (Mr. Siata) and Dante Menchetti took a third in class behind the much faster MG K3 Magnettes.

Encouraged by this Mario Revelli de Beaumont designed Siata Fiat Berlinetta, Fiat decided to finally build its own version of the Mille Miglia Berlinettas.

In 1935, another type of Berlinetta made itself famous at the Mille Miglia. The dynamic duo of Ambrosini and Nuccio Bertone drove one of two very special 1060 cc supercharged Berlinetta Aerodinamicas, with special body designed by Although they both retired, according to "Otto Vu" author Tony Andriaensens, the Siata Berlin Etta encouraged Fiat to built there own in house product. Hence the Fiat 508S Balilla Berlinetta Aerodinamica aka “Millie Miglia”. According to “La Fiat va alla Mille Miglia” by Cancellieri and Marchiano, “..the Balilla Berlinettas (were) produced by FIAT itself. This solution was introduced (chosen, or preferred) in an attempt (so as) to create a cockpit as much comfortable as possible for endurance racing (literally for races that were to be held over long distances) in events such as the Mille Miglia.”

Our feature car while living in Italy. It has a looonnngg and well documented history.

Although built in much smaller numbers, the Balilla Berlinetta Aerodynmaic is much more expressive than its sister spiders. With it’s stunning looks and seductive styling (one of the major attractions of a coupe was that women were much more inclined to come aboard, being thusly protected from the wind and elements) the Aerodynamica is in another class altogether. By 1935, the Balilla range already was equipped with a four speed transmission and an overhead valve head. The Berlinetta 508CS was equipped with a four speed transmission (with delightful, virtually perfect ratios), an overhead valve engine with a basic 36 hp (tuners would easily achieve 50 hp sans supercharger) and would do 0-50 in 18.6 seconds, and cruise at about 70 mph.

The interior was comfortable enough for one of the Fiat ad's models, complete with short skirt. The ability to travel both fast and clean was a keystone of the success of the Grand Touring car.

But by 1936, the first year a factory built Berlinetta Aerodinamica could have raced legendary 1000 miles around Italy, the Balilla was getting a bit outdated, although Balillas easily won the unsupercharged 1100cc class and were clocking over 78 mph on the straights. 1937 the 1100cc Millecento replaced the Balilla on both the road and track, and with independent front suspension and a new overhead valve engine of 1089 cc totally outclassed the old Balilla. It was an icon which eagerly and successfully carried on the tradition of a small displacement Grand Touring car.

In over seventy years, one of the drawbacks of a small Grand Touring car remains the same; lack of luggage space.

Production numbers are pure guesstimates but the current owner’s thoughts of about 11 could be in the ballpark. The Spiders sold very well, but the Berlinettas were introduced towards the end of the Balilla line, and catered to a very specific clientele. After all, if one wanted to be competitive in class, one had to have a bit more than just a factory car. But by early 1937 the Millecento had made both the Balilla Spiders and the Berlinetta obsolete.

Owner’s History
This 1935 Fiat Balilla Berlinetta Mille Miglia has its FIVA book and registered in the ASI (Automobile Storica Italiano). It has owners book in Italian and English. History: All Italian ownership until 1998. Record of owners back to 1936. It still has Milan, Italy license plate. It has been in the retro Mille Miglia several times and won 1st Place in it’s Class in 1994.

The Fiat has received an invitation from Bill Warner, to show the Fiat in the 12th Annual Amelia Island Concours de Elegance, Amalie Island, Florida on March 9th to 10th 2007.

The car was originally owned by the mayor of Milan and stayed in Italian hands until it was sold at the Christie's Monte Carlo auction in 1998. The next owner from Chicago kept it until we purchased it recently. There were over 2000 sport models produced most with open bodywork, however a small number (my info says 11) were built in the specialty enclosed body. These were known as the MM (for Mille Miglia) berlinetta aerodynamica coupe. With the streamlined body they were capable of higher speeds when raced as several were. Mechanically it is relatively advanced for the mid 1930's with an overhead valve 995cc engine with a Zenith downdraft carb, as well as 4 speed gearbox and 4 wheel hydraulic drum brakes.

As is today, ready to roll, waiting for its new owner. Probably the only one in the U.S., let's hope it stays here!

While no racing history is known of this example, it has participated in many retrospective events such as the Mille Miglia Storica where it was a class winner in 1994. Recently, it has been to several events such as the inaugural Brian Redman's Barnstorming Maine, as well as the 06 Concorso Italiano where Autoweek picked it as its favorite car on the lawn. We believe that it is as much art as it is car, but also eligible for every classic car event out there. It draws a crowd wherever you take it, and nearly everyone who visits our dealership instantly gravitates to it.

Owner: Rocky Santiago
Telephone: 405-843-6117

Past Issues


Ferrari 712 Can Am

Articles on or about OSCA

Articles on or about Maserati

Articles on or about Lancia

Articles on or about Fiat

Fiat Dino, Body

Fiat Dino, Chassis

Serenissima F1

Winningest OSCA

Alfa 164 V10

Ramponi's Delage

OSCA Berlinettas

Maserati 250F Remembered

Lancia Rally Delta and Integrale

Lancia Rally 037 and S4

Alpine Adventures

Bandini, Giaurs, Siatas etc.

Alpine A110

Classic Fiat 500s in Turin

New Fiat 500 hits the streets

New Fiat 500 Intro

Fiat 500 Restoration

Fiat 500 pushed and pulled

Fiat 500 Art

Giulietta Sprint Veloce Part 2

Giulietta Sprint Veloce Part 1

Fortune 500 (Fiat)

Giulietta Racing Part 2

Giulietta Racing P1

Appia Specials

Appia Series 3

Appia Series 2

Appia Restoration

Appia Series 1

Kalikow on the 612K

Articles on Alfa Romeo

Fiat Balilla Berlinetta


New Website Features

  • Search articles and archives

  • Submit your comments to a specific article

  • Email an article to a friend

  • Browse real time classifieds from Hemmings and Ebay

  • Shop at VeloceToday's Store for Books and more

To see these new features in action visit the new website at: