Fiat 1500 B Cabriolet Balbo - 1939— A spectacular Fiat 1.500, very probably a one-off car, designed by the coachbuilder Balbo —
- Model A presumably one-off Fiat with a spectacular bodywork by Balbo.
- History A car based on the Fiat 1500B powered by the compact Fiat six-cylinder engine.
- Restauration Our car was extensively restored in the early 90’s and has a nice patina.
- We love Typical early 40s aesthetic with strong US influence, quite similar to other Fiat cars signed by Viotti
- Perfect for… The world’s greatest European and US concourses
Launched in 1935, the Fiat 1500 is a milestone car in Fiat’s history. This modern car with its aerodynamics line was powered by the company’s compact six-cylinder engine. With many different versions launched over the year, the car was also very popular among coachbuilders, particularly Viotti and Balbo. Both produced several convertibles and coupes that are landmark in design’s history. Produced in 1939 by Balbo, the Fiat 1500 B cabriolet from the ANNA LISA Art On Wheels collection, with its distinctive American-influenced aesthetic is most likely a one-off body.
The Fiat 1500, a very modern looking car for its times
Launched on the 9th of November 1935 at the Milan International Motor Show, the Fiat 1500 was a particularly innovative car.
Indeed, its design was the talk of the town with its inclined front grille aimed at reducing the aerodynamic drag of the car. Such an approach was truly innovative in the thirties. Fiat had actually invested in a full-scale wind tunnel and wanted aerodynamics to be one of the key features to be taken into account when designing a new car. The 1500 inaugurated Fiat’s wind tunnel. Such process was also used by Fiat for its 1.100 and 2.800 models.
Maybe such an approach was too radical for the times, because in 1940, Fiat decided to replace the 1500 front grille with a much more conventional yet trendier vertical grille.
Another innovation, invisible this time, was the 1500’s ladder chassis dotted with independent front suspension, another first for the brand. The 1.500 was powered by the 45 hp in-house 1,493cc OHV six-cylinder engine. It was equipped with a four-speed gearbox allowing a top speed of 113 km/h.
A Fiat with a rich career that has seen many variations
Fiat soon decided to complete its offer by adding a cabriolet version to the sedan. Then, shortly before the WW2, in 1939, Fiat launched a new series of cars that were actually barely different from the original 1500. Called the 1500 B, this new version was produced in 9,906 units and benefited from more powerful brakes. Then came the 1500 C version in 1940 with new line and a more imposing and, as we have seen before, much straighter grille. Finally came the 1500 D in 1948, with an engine power increased to 47hp, a new steering and new front suspensions.
A total of 25,650 examples of the 1500 have been produced over the years.
A popular car with coachbuilders
At the time, it was common practice for major manufacturers, especially the Italian ones, to offer bare chassis to independent coachbuilders. The 1.500 was no exception to the rule.
One of the features of the car was a dream for the coachbuilders: the 1500’s engine remained for a long time among the smallest six-cylinder engines in the world, which was a major asset when designing new bodywork.
The ANNA LISA Art On Wheels collection is very proud to include a superb and probably a one-off Fiat 1500 B made by Carrozzeria Italiana di Torino, also known as Balbo in 1939. Alfonso Balbo created his workshop in 1914 and quickly became famous for his hard tops that allowed to visually transform torpedo type bodies into interior driving coupes.
Our Fiat was produced in August 1939, just a few weeks before the outbreak of the WW2. It is characteristic of the Balbo productions of the 1940s, with US aesthetics inspired lines such as its very pronounced grille, its hyper-stylized fenders and the adoption of spats at the rear.
It should be noted that this American influence was very fashionable at the time and our car is actually quite close to some Viotti designs based on Fiat 1500s.
Later on, Balbo produced other Fiat 1500s with special bodywork in both cabriolet and coupé versions, particularly after the war. Balbo shut down in 1954 at a time when the era of independent coachbuilders was gradually giving way to more standardised cars.
Our car had only a handful of Italian owners before being restored at great expense in the early 1990s, like most of the cars in our collection. After years of lying dormant in a dry place, the rediscovery of this car was a rare moment of emotion.
The car now wears a superb patina. It needs to be restarted, which should be an easy task before being driven again, either during rallies or to be presented in the World’s greatest concourses.