Honda Powered! 1958 Berkeley SE328

OK, who has heard of a Berkeley? No, not the famous California university, a Berkely micro sports car produced by Berkeley Cars Ltd of Biggleswade, England. I certainly hadn’t and thus the reason for taking a look at this Denver, Colorado domiciled 1958 model  SE328. It is available, here on craigslist for $12,500. Thanks to Mark K for this tip!

Berkeley Motorcars was a short-lived enterprise, functioning between 1956 and 1960, and produced about 4,000 examples of tiny, open, two-seaters. The bodies were constructed of Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) and positioned over the top of a tubular frame. The model 328SE, such as our subject car, was offered in 1957 and 1958 and saw a little over 1,200 copies assembled. The 600 lb. SE328 was originally powered by an 18 HP, twin-cylinder 328 CC, air-cooled, two-stroke engine, connected to a three-speed manual gearbox.

The seller states, “rebuild ground up, BODYWORK, FIBERGLASS REINFORCED, PAINT REMOVED, suspension sandblasted checked and painted” followed by, “ADDED STEEL SUBFRAME, ALUMINUM FRAME PARTS, HEADLIGHTS AND COVERS, TAIL LIGHTS“. In spite of its bumblebee vibe, this Berkely shows very well – that matte black effects have a tendency to modernize the entire presentation. It is stated that the windshield is original and boy is it short! Anyone of any height is going to need full-time goggles!

The six images included do not detail either the interior or the engine compartment. We are told that the engine is a two-cylinder Honda 250 CC, driving the front wheels via a manual transmission, and it has only experienced 3,450 miles. Unfortunately, there is no word regarding operating capability.

As for the interior, the listing mentions a new electrical system, steering wheel, mirrors, custom upholstery, seat belts, windscreen, and a convertible top frame – sounds good but there’s no substitute for actual images. Somewhere around 1,300 SE328’s were produced and sold initially for around $1,600 using the exchange rate of the day. So $1,600 got you o-60 MPH in over 30 seconds and a top speed not much beyond that 0-60 dash. Fun? not acceleration-wise but the road manners were supposedly impressive and Berkeley’s made regular appearances in lightweight racing series.

Gone and forgotten? Apparently not as the company has resurfaced as Berkeley Sportscars with a new “Bandit” model planned, 61 years after the fact.  And as a nod to changing times, the new Bandit will have an electric future. Now admittedly, this “news” is almost a year old but hopefully, there will be more to come from this storied mini-car producer. What do you think, will Berkely have a viable future?

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Jim… Surprised you haven’t seen these cars before as BF has had 2 or 3 of these go through your site In the past few years. Only difference is this one is no doubt the best one of the bunch and quite a car with the Honda engine. Nice car and Jay Leno says his is a lot of fun.

    Like 4
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      You’re right, I see that there have been but unfortunately, I don’t always get time to read my colleague’s posts, at least not extensively. The name was familiar but I couldn’t recall a lick about the actual car or its history.

      It’s cool looking but I wonder about its spiritedness with a 250 CC engine.

      JO

      Like 3
      • George

        I don’t know the vintage of the engine, but the current model puts out 39 hp, over twice the 18 hp put out by the original motor.

        Like 2
  2. JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPA Member

    I had a 1959 4 wheeler, mostly complete yet very much a project. I sold the car but still have the front emblem on my hobby room wall. Funny story, the entire time I had it it sat on my front porch. I never had a pizza delivery be late, “It’s the house with the car on the porch”.

    Like 5
  3. Gord
  4. Malcolm Boyes

    Remember its pronounced “Bark-ley”. This looks nice and I wonder what HP it puts out. That is not the stock windshield. The most popular Berks were three wheelers..same as the four to the back of the doors then back into a boattail with one wheel. As these are all front wheel drive it had the same mechanics but could be driven on a motorbike license. I had two Berk T60s as they were called..lovely, very pretty cars but rather fragile. Anyone who buys one should join the Berkeley Enthusiasts Club out of the UK. I think if I was changing motors I might have gone for a nice 500 cc twin.

    Like 1
  5. Lowell Peterson

    These occasionally show up in SoCal. As does most every oddball . Kool to be different here I’d say! Cheers!

  6. Neville

    Perfect candidate for 1100 GSXR engine conversion! Would probably put a Caterham to shame !👍😀🇬🇧

    Like 1
    • Bullethead

      It’s been done… about 15 years ago Tim Suddard (publisher of Grass Roots Motorsports) built the “Berserkly” with a Gixxer.

      Freakish. In a good way.

  7. Martin Horrocks

    I’ve never owned a Berkley but friends have. You’re quite right about the need to join the club, which is very active.

    As a Brit of this vintage, I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the name as “BARK-ly”, including said owners. To do so would have a really faux aristocratic effect and, despite being much feistier than it looks, this car doesn’t need added comedy factor.

    Like 1
  8. Howie Mueler

    Is this track only? Has the hood open but can not see the engine well.

  9. Randy ('59 SE-492 owner)

    Sorry — Berkeleys do not have a tubular frame under them. The FG body sits on an aluminum ‘punt’, with a few aluminum box sections incorporated.

    If the buyer of this wants to put an original windshield back on it I have a nice 328 frame available for sale.

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Thanks for the clarification.

      JO

    • Hubie

      Hi Randy, I’m interested in the frame.

  10. Bullethead

    Ooops, meant to comment on this one… looks pretty nice and the swap is in keeping with the original performance scope, and the price seems OK. I kinda like the bumblebee aesthetic. But either both doors are halfway open in every photo or a fitment issue exists.

    Assuming they’re OK, it’s a shame and reflects poorly on presentation.

  11. losgatos_dale

    I’da swore the last one of these Biggleswade Specials I saw was rear wheel drive…..via one long chain!!

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