INEXPENSIVE MOTORINGTHE ITALIAN
Impressions of the “Ballila” Fiat, the Italian popular car which in sporting tune has performed well in road races
THE motoring journalist does not generally look forward to a road test of a small family saloon with feelings of lively anticipation. He can find interest in the value-for-money of such vehicles, and appreciate them as remarkably cheap and comfortable motorcars, but these qualities are not likely to provide rich material for his critical instincts.
In the case of the” Ballila ” Fiat, however, two factors aroused the curiosity of the writer as to its performance on the road. The first was that cars of this type, altered as to cylinder-head and rear-axle ratio, have performed consistently well in the Mille Miglia, averaging about 55 m.p.h. for the 1,000 miles of varied road conditions, and secondly it would be interesting to discover how the Italians —a country of motor-racing lovers— motor as a nation. As will be seen from the accompanying photograph, the ” Ballila ” bears a certain resemblance in outward appearance to the 8 h.p. Ford, and in actual fact its selling price in Italy is similar to that of the Ford in England. The rate of exchange and the import duty are against its selling in large quantities in England at present, but that Fiat owners (and therefore enthusiasts) still recognise the quality of the famous Italian
cars can be confirmed by the growing number of ” Baffilas ” seen on our roads to-day.
As on most Italian cars, the first impression of the driver is that the steering control is extraordinarily neat. There is plenty of self-centering action, although not enough to make the steering heavy, and complete accuracy is assured without regard to the road surface. On narrowish country roads the Fiat can be driven along the extreme verge, so often rough and bumpy, without slackening speed.
Admiration of the suspension naturally follows, and for a car of its short wheelbase the ” Ballila ” is outstandingly comfortable. There is never any of that unpleasant pitching which is so tiring to passengers, while at high speed the bumps disappear completely. These two factors, steering and suspension, combine to give the Fiat one of its chief assets, namely the ability to corner at very high speed in comfort and safety. From the driver’s point of view the weight distribution is such that he can feel that excessive speed would cause a controllable skid, not an ” inversion.” As for the passengers, absence of rolling takes away any lurching sensations, so that,they hardly realise that a sharp corner has been rounded a good deal faster than is normal. The brakes are up to Fiat standard,
and that is as good as saying they are extremely powerful, smoothly progressive, and free from any pull either to right or left. The hand brake works on the transmission.
The little side valve engine is not the least important or impressive of the ” Ballila’s ” attributes, although it comes last on our list. It will propel the car at a comfortable cruising speed of from 40 m.p.h. to 50 m.p.h. according to the driver’s inclination. As to maximum, the speedometer showed 65 m.p.h. on several occasions, and we should say that this instrument is not more than 3 or 4 m.p.h. fast. On second gear a maximum of 40 m.p.h. is possible, but 30 m.p.h. is a more usual changing-speed.
Although of extremely compact lines, the ” Ballila ” Fiat saloon can accommodate four people in comfort. The front seats in particular are very well designed, and support the driver in an alert position necessary for complete control.
The price in England of the saloon is £198, while another model we inspected at the showrooms of Messrs. Fiat (England) Ltd., Albermarle Street, London, W.1, who placed the car under review at our disposal, was an open two seater selling at £190. This has a higher backaxle ratio, giving a maximum speed of 70 m.p.h.