The Mille Miglia, or 1000 Miles, is one of the most storied endurance races in history. From 1927 through 1957, this race from Brescia to Rome and back put both drivers and manufacturers on the map. This Fiat 508S was based around the popular Fiat Balilla introduced in 1932. With tuning by SIATA Societa Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessori) that included an overhead valve conversion and four-speed manual, this open roofed racer is an opportunity to own Mille Miglia history and benefits from a detailed detailed documentation with a continuous ownership history.
In 1932, Fiat produced their new 508 "Balilla" an innovative, light two and four-door sedans that soon became an ideal starting point for both privateers, organized shops and tuners to modify and race. The basic platform featured four-wheel hydraulic brakes and a 12-volt electrical system, something few manufacturers of the day could boast. The standard production versions offered 22bhp and a wide-ratio 3-speed gearbox giving moderate performance and top speed of nearly 100kph / 65mph.
In one of those rare instances of "Man, Machine, Time, Place and Opportunity" in 1933, four perfect elements came together in the form of FIAT, GHIA, SIATA and the Mille Miglia! A loosely organized partnership between FIAT, Carrozzeria Ghia and SIATA's Giorgio Ambrosini that year saw the limited production of the Sport Spider 508S which was a two-seat roadster based on the Balilla and created by Carrozzeria Ghia for the FIAT factory.
The vehicle came in two versions, one with cycle-fenders and the other with full-flowing fenders, both of which featured a lightened chassis, improved suspension and brakes. The cycle-fender version was called the Coppa d'Oro or "gold cup" and the stream-lined fender version the "Mille Miglia Spyder." Very few of either version were produced but they did well enough in the Mille Miglia and other European rallies, hill climbs and race events that today ownership of an original example is highly prized.
SIATA (Societa Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessori) was founded by veteran racer and engineer, Giorgio Ambrosini in 1926. Ambrosini recognized the real potential of the 508's basic engine and the car's overall potential as a competitive racer. His highly tuned versions in final form produced more than twice the horsepower of the stock version. Clients could be provided versions that produced 36, 43 and even 50bhp from the stock 995cc engines. The main difference with the SIATA set up was by the use of a strengthened crank and heavily revised camshaft, cylinder head, intake and exhaust system. Coupled with the light and lively 508 chassis and four-wheel hydraulic brakes, these new racing Spyders easily dominated the under 1-liter classes at a variety of events, most importantly being the Mille Miglia for which they were named.
This particular example is one of the ultra-rare racing variant of the production 508 Balilla. Known as both the 508S Sprint Siata or "Mille Miglia" Spyder due to their enormous successes in the 1933 and 34 race Seasons. The chassis and engine number sequences are unique to this limited production run of vehicles. This particular example was built in 1933 specifically for the Mille Miglia.
The chassis number is 508S-018687 The "S" in the chassis number indicating that it was and remains one of the few Factory built competition models and that it therefore also has a Tipo 108S "Siata" engine. The original engine and current engine for this car remains 108S-018552. These "Mille Miglia" racing versions have an ultra short ring and pinion gear set (10 x 43 or 4.3:1) and a race-oriented 4-speed gearbox rather than the standard 3 speed unit which most of the cars had back then.
The 508S also sported an ultra-short wheel base of only 2,250mm and a dry weight of just 625kg / 1375lbs!The chassis was also finely tuned with an under-slung front beam axle and quarter-eliptic springs at all four corners. Both the front and rear suspension have adjustable dual action friction shocks that work on both bump and rebound. All of this was and remains extremely sophisticated when both Alfa Romeo and Bugatti were still relying on cable and rod actuated brakes for even their top of the line racers!
Until 2002, this car had only three Italian owners from new! The first family had it until 1966 then Sig. Fausto Spreafico bought and restored it. He sold it to Giuseppe Negri who had it from 1968 until 2002 when it went to Sig. Angelo Strada in Milan. It then joined a prominent Japanese private museum collection from which we purchased the car in July of this year. Unlike most examples that come to market and are offered for sale, this particular example has continuos, known history from new and most importantly retains its original coachwork and drive-train. Original FIA and FIVA documents and previous owners records and information also fully support and document this most rare example.At the time of our purchase and for many years going back to 1966 when this FIAT was finally sold by her original owner, it was incorrectly assumed that the engine number on this FIAT was 067363 as this is prominently stamped on the right-side of the engine.
It was also assumed incorrectly that this car was originally a three speed with standard final drive ratio. Upon arrival at our service, race and restoration facility, this FIAT was carefully and closely inspected. The engine and gearbox were removed and carefully cleaned finally revealing for the first time in many decades that the correct engine number boss is actually stamped "108S-018552" and the engine casting date is January 22, 1933. The previously used engine number so easily seen on the side of the engine "067363" is in fact a SIATA part number stamped on a removable block-off plate that gives access to the engines oil-galleries and valve train (Please see the photo gallery above). The gearbox is an original and correct 508S four-speed unit and the final drive ratio is in fact the correct 4.3:1 508S specific version.
We have also further been able to confirm that the front leaf springs have only six leaves and the rear only seven which gives the car exception handling and cornering ability. At this time, Chassis 508S-018687 does not have any known or confirmed period race history but it is one of the few real examples built and believed to be a period MM veteran and has always been accepted as such. There are possibly six or so other real examples known to exist but few as well documented as this one and none known to be more period correct.
Cars with prestigious racing history never come cheap, and this Fiat is no exception. The offer price for this vehicle puts it in some heady collector territory, where you could snag anything from a Ferrari Daytona to some desirable vintage Maseratis. It will take a special collector to pony up for this racer, one who appreciates the allure and history of the Mille Miglia.