Classic Car Catalogue

Alba Regia and Balaton



In 1955, the Hungarian Ministry of Metallurgy and Machine Industry commissioned three engineers: Ernő Rubik, Pál Kerekes, and Géza Bengyel to start the work on microcars at Székesfehérvári Motorjavító Vállalat (“Székesfehérvár Engine Repair Company”). Székesfehérvár is a city near Budapest. This company had previously focused on airplane repair work. When the airplane business declined in the late 1940s, new activities were sought. They were good with aluminum, so all kinds of goods made from aluminum counted: from parabolic antennas through cheese tubes to microcars. One of their engineers, József Horváth, had already played with the idea of building a car, so he brought his plans to the factory. József Zappel, another engineer, also fancied the idea of a bubble car, and he also did some drawings.
The thorough study of two foreign cars the Messerschmitt and the Goggomobil, along with their own ideas, led to two unusual microcars in 1955: Horváth’s Alba Regia, named after Székesfehérvár’s designation in Ancient Rome and Zappel’s Balaton, named after Hungary’s best-known lake.
Both cars had aluminum bodies, airplane tail wheels, and 250-cc Pannonia motorbike engines.
Géza Bengyel, who worked as a consultant there, was previously employed in the Csepel motorbike factory, where he had designed a unique sheet-framed bike with a torsion suspension. This layout was transferred to the Alba Regia. On the Balaton the suspension arms were held by rubber tags. The doors of the two-plus-two Regia opened conventionally. The roof of the Balaton could be pushed backwards with a handle to get access to the cabin, just like in an airplane. The engines were put in the rear of the cars. The idea of the gearbox was taken from the Isetta, the reverse gear from the Messerschmitt. For this, they added another flywheel to the engine.