Microcar Project: 1958 Berkeley SE328

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Run by Charles Panter and located in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England, Berkeley Caravans was making glass-reinforced plastic (fiberglass) travel trailers in the 1950s. Having developed an alacrity with GRP but also suffering from the seasonality of trailer sales, Berkeley was in need of a new line of endeavor. Lawrie Bond came ’round right about that time, encouraging Panter’s notion of a car that could race in the 750 cc class. Bond had designed lightweight cars since about the mid-1940s. He and Panter came up with the Berkeley Sports, running a 322 cc Anzani motorcycle engine. Introduced in 1956, it caught the eye of Stirling Moss who drove one at Goodwood that year. The next iteration of the car was the SE328, utilizing the air-cooled Excelsior Twin 328 cc two-stroke. Looking like a baby Cobra, the Berkeley went racing: Pat Moss drove one in the Liège-Brescia-Liège road rally and later cars raced at Monza. Now here on craigslist is a 1958 Berkeley SE328 with an asking price of $10,000. This car is located in Mission Viejo, California. Our thanks for the tip goes to Tony Primo!

The seller has tossed the incorrect Suzuki engine that the car came with and purchased a correct 328 cc Excelsior Twin. These engines were lifted from Excelsior’s Talisman motorcycle. This car comes with its original Amal carburetor as well as a set of aftermarket carbs. The motor needs to be installed and mated to the three-speed Albion gearbox. This is a chain-drive car – a weak point. I belong to the Berkeley Car Club and have read many a sad story in our newsletters about chains failing on mountaintops. Carry a spare! The differential has been altered and now will not fit, so that needs remediation. The brake drums have been turned. Berkeley drivers have 18 bhp on tap and that’s enough to sling the car up to about 65 mph, thanks to the feather-weight fiberglass body.

The interior is spartan as only specialist ’40s and ’50s fiberglass cars can be. The Crosley, LaDawri, Bond microcar – most offered just the basics. If this car were fresh from the factory, it would be carrying its spare in a cradle under the dash on the passenger’s side of the cockpit. Many Berks have long ago lost their weather equipment, but this one is complete. The seating arrangement is not perfectly comfortable, but it’ll do.

The original wheels are split rims with five studs, and they are very hard to find. The seller says the car has no damage to its undercarriage and that the body is in good condition. This is a great start on an unusual microcar, but given the tip-top price that the market has shown us for these – about $25k – there’s not much headroom to pay anyone to put it together.

Auctions Ending Soon

Comments

  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Slick little car. The silver rattle can top for the steering wheel is an interesting touch.

    Like 5
    • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

      Bobhess-
      “The silver rattle can top for the steering wheel” was mandatory safety equipment in lieu of shoulder harnesses on these if driven in any FIA event, per Bernie Ecclestone..

      Well, he would’ve if he’d thought of it first! 😁

      It should be of no surprise that you belong to the Berkeley Car Club Michelle but even yet we learn just how SERIOUS a hardcore gearhead you are! Bravo, again.

      Like 4
      • Michelle RandAuthor

        Or… I am a nut! Here’s my Berk, at the spa – aka my restoration guy. Not sure how to upload a photo in the comments section hopefully this works.

        Like 6
      • Jesse Jesse MortensenStaff

        Here’s the photo Michelle. Sweet!

        Like 7
  2. bobhess bobhessMember

    You are in good company Michelle. Jay Leno has a couple of these, one with a modified engine that really cooks.

    Like 3
  3. scott m

    I like the handle on the side- race it on the track, carry-on for the plane ride home!

    Like 2
  4. Barry Ervin

    About 55 years ago I watched one of these (same color even) compete in a gymkhana/autocross event in a shopping center parking lot. It was doing really well until the 2-stroke engine backfired and the car caught fire and burned to the ground. As I recall, it had the 492cc Excelsior 3-cylinder engine. I’ve never seen another one since.

    Like 1
  5. Bob M

    I work in a company in Dallas that offers parts and literature, including parts made on site. I have seen several in the shop over the years

    Like 3
  6. Frank Barrett

    Years ago there was a Front Drive Museum in Brighton, Colorado, and the proprietor vintage-raced one of these.

    Like 1
  7. Jim LibertyMember

    I’ll give you $7500 for it. I restore vintage cars here in Orange County, and watched these race at Watkins Glen. Jim Liberty, Liberty Motorsports.

    Like 2
  8. Peter Roberts

    Back in the 1960s I had a T 60 with the 3 cylinder engine. I think I paid £20 for it. Didn’t like the engine so sold it to a mate. Bought a Triumph T110 and fitted the engine from that with twin cars. It was absolutely frightening and would touch the ton no problem.

    Like 0
  9. Jim LibertyMember

    I’m restoring a 1969 Berk now. It has a hard top and a 3-cyl Excelsior motor. ………….Jim.

    Like 0

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