1932 Fiat 508 'Balilla' Berlina
RM | Sotheby's - MONACO 2016 - The Quattroruote Collection
Documents: Italian Libretto
- A historically significant model; the first Italian subcompact automobile
- Extremely early production model
- Thoroughly original condition
- Part of the Collection for over three decades
The first genuine Italian subcompact automobile, the Fiat 508 holds an important place in the country’s automotive history. Developed by a “who’s who” of the country’s best engineers, including Dante Giacosa, it was popularly nicknamed ‘Balilla’ after a military hero of the 18th century who was becoming well known again in this era of Italian nationalism. By the admission of one of its designers, Antonio Fessia, “there was nothing original” in the design, but where the 508 succeeded was in getting so much of itself right the first time. It was comfortable enough for those who desired comfort and economical enough for those who required economy while also being priced attractively at 10,000 lire—versus the 25,000 lire charged for the Fiat 509 built only three years prior.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ‘Balilla’ became an immediate success both in the Italian press and in the salesrooms, with 112,000 being built between 1932 and 1937. It was manufactured not only in Italy, but also in locations as diverse as Germany, France, and even Poland, thus seeing Fiat’s popularity spread across the European continent. The significance of the ‘Balilla’ to the company’s success in the 20th century cannot be overestimated.
The Berlina offered here is a very early production car, built in the inaugural season, and it was acquired by the Quattroruote Collection in 1984 from Paolo Parigi of Milan. Italian registration documents on file record that Mr Parigi had acquired the Fiat in 1976 following a succession of owners in Pavia, Rome, and Torino, dating back to 1952. Few extant examples of the ‘Balilla’ have such continuous known history.
The car appears thoroughly original, including the finish of the paint, the original patterned cloth upholstery, and the finishes of the interior hardware, including the dashboard and its gauges. It is very complete, including the original firewall data tag under the hood, and it retains its original engine. Overall, this Fiat would be an ideal basis for conservation work, to keep in its original state, or as the best possible beginning for a complete restoration. It is an important example of an important car.
Kindly note once sold this lot must return to Italy following the sale to be officially exported. The transportation and post-sale storage of the cars back to Milan (Quattroruote) will be at sellers expense. The cars will be stored at Quattroruote in Milan until this process is complete and the registrations have been cancelled. Buyers can then make arrangements to collect cars directly from Quattroruote once this process is complete. We estimate the process will take approximately 3-4 weeks.