1930’s (35?)Racing Fiat Balilla, pictured at the 80th anniversary of the Ards TT in Conway Square, Comber Co Down, Norn Iron.
Based on the Fiat Balilla 508 of the ’30’s. with a 995cc engine and a 3 or 4 speed gearbox giving out well over 30 HP. Over one hundred thousand ‘normal’ 508’s were built in Italy,Poland(Polski-Fiat),France (Simca) and Germany(NSU). This racing version is pretty rare and well appreciated on the occasion.
The ‘Fiat 508 Balilla’ built in the 1930s and contributing greatly to the motorization of the middle classes of the country. Fiat Balilla represented in the eyes of the Italians of that time, an “object of desire.” Its success is attributable to a very courageous decision of the Italian manufacturer to launch this car with a little pomp …. the quality of the work of the designers, who made the car was execellent and suceeded in keeping the running costs low.
Balilla…. Many believe that this name was given because of fascism in Italy. This is not true. Indeed, there are a few people who have written about this strange nickname. The term “Balilla” does not originate during the fascist era, but rather was used during this period……… Balilla "was the nickname of Giovanni Battista Perasso who, in 1746 in Genoa threw a stone against an Austrian officer while rebelling against the Austrian invasion of the region. Balilla at a race
Along with many other vintage classics gathered together to commemorate the Ards TT, first held in 1928. The race was the culmination of much thought and enthusiasm by two men. One was the legendary Harry Ferguson and the other was Wallace McLeod. Wallace was head of the motor engineering school at the Belfast Tech. The men were helped in their dream by the fact that (unlike the rest of the British Isles) the law in Ulster enabled roads to be closed off for motor racing. In 1927 the two men visited a race at Brooklands and persuaded some of the drivers that, if they could find a suitable Ulster road circuit, then they would participate. The venue was found and the six hour race was organised under the auspices of the Royal Automobile Club.
The circuit was in the form of a triangle 13.7 miles in total. The race started at the pits on the Newtownards Road Dundonald , and there still is a little commemorative building at that spot to mark the location. The cars then set off towards Newtownards via Quarry Corner then up and over Bradshaw’s Brae and into Conway Square, Newtownards .
There are still marks on the masonry made by the cars as they clipped the corner into the square, now a pedestrian precinct.
At its peak the Ards TT attracted over a half a million spectators.
The Ards TT race continued very successfully each year until 1936 when one of the competing cars crashed at Newtownards killing eight spectators and injuring 40 others. The Ards TT was never held again
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