750 Lbs + 127 HP = Insane 1958 Berkeley SE492

Update 9/10/21 – We have featured this little racer a few times over the years but it has resurfaced once again here on craigslist for $6,000. Thanks go to Otto M for the tip!

From 2/6/19 – Race Physics 101 states that, if you want to go twice as fast, you can either halve the weight or quadruple the horsepower. Every pound eliminated makes a car easier to accelerate, brake, and pitch through corners. This adorable 1958 Berkeley SE492 in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada might not fare well in a dust-up with a Ford Excursion, but, in nearly every category except passenger safety, its 750 lb curb weight yields benefits galore. This one features a more powerful non-original engine and seeks a new owner willing to part with $8500 here on Facebook Marketplace. Thanks to reader Gerry M. for spotting this tiny road-mite.

This is a real car, folks. Questions like “Don’t you get tired of pedaling all the time?” or “Where does the wind-up key go?” will diminish when you wind it up on your favorite two-lane. Few vehicles can inject raw driving sensations into your being as well as this Berkeley. Thinking about it, I recall a pitch-black drive through a Pennsylvania State Forest, on a road I never traveled before or since, in the simplest car I ever owned, a 1984 Dodge Colt GTS Turbo. As I sawed back and forth through switchbacks and elevation changes the one-ton econo-box’s manual steering and brakes delivered visceral information in a way that modern cars have lost completely.

Raced from the onset, Berkeleys utilize a monocoque chassis like Ferrari and others to craft a strong yet lightweight vehicle by leveraging body elements as part of a unified structure. Anyone can make outrageous claims about vehicles, but a hard-top Berkeley driven by Lorenzo Bandini finished first in the 1958 Monza 12 hour race. Thanks to berkeleycarclub.com for some details.

The original three cylinder 492cc engine used three carburetors to produce 30 HP, enough to propel the SE492 to 80 MPH. With nearly four times the power, this 127HP 600cc engine should transform this micro-racer into a pure driving machine. Think of it as Pedal Car-meets-Ariel Atom. While collectors may lament the missing original engine, the three-cylinder’s less-than-stellar reputation and modest output stand as good reasons to press on with this 600 or another (probably motorcycle-sourced) power plant. This sort of project is rarely an impulse-buy, but I can see it being a fun-filled antidote to today’s ultra-isolated processor-reliant performance cars. Are you ready to drop $8,500 to stand with the Berkeley faithful?

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Comments

  1. local_sheriff

    Good God – how come I’m not doing cars like this instead of American fullsizers?!
    Think of all the garage space I could’ve freed up…

    Like 17
    • Cobra Steve

      Not to mention it might fit into the bed of a pick-up truck! Probably fit better than this Ford Taurus did in the Chevy truck….

      Like 12
    • Xrotartguy

      You’re not joking! When I started messing with British and Italian cars, it feed up all kinds of space. Of course, British and Italian cars aren’t the most reliable things so I needed that extra space for parts.

      Like 7
  2. John

    Nice car – could be fun – not worth what he’s asking with what needs to be done! I might be interested, but he’d have to come down a ways!

    Like 1
  3. Jack Quantrill

    Looks like a copy of the Porsche 550 Spyder.

    Like 1
  4. Charlie

    “Caution! Do not exceed 120 mph in third.”

    Like 1
  5. Beatnik Bedouin

    I see that the ad is no longer there…

    I always thought the Berkleys were cool, if unusual, sports cars. If it were mine, I’d probably want to put an original engine back in it and go classic sports car racing.

    Thanks for posting, Todd.

    Like 3
  6. Victor Anderson

    @Jack Quantrill — actually if you see one of these in person it looks more like a micro Cobra than a 550.
    I’ve always liked these little cars – tried to buy one in TX about 15 years ago but never could make a deal on it. My plan was to put a newer motorcycle engine in it. Curious as to what 600cc engine they have that’s going to push out 127hp.
    Seems like it would be quick — 750 pounds with 127hp lol — hell you could probably pay for the car in one summer by cat-scratching corvettes for 50 bucks a pop hahaha

    Like 5
  7. Mitch Ross Member

    Dónde ir doesn’t have the original engine anyway, putting a Hayabusa Engine into it wouldn’t be doing anything to its originality

    Like 3
    • Redwagon

      That’s what I was thinking. A high revving motorcycle engine would be perfect.

  8. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    Words cannot describe how much I would love this car…but I would not fit :-(

  9. Kevin kalman

    I own 10 Berkeleys at the moment and am more of a original kind of guy
    Having driven these way faster than they were planned for this is a death machine
    No other way to state it

    Like 3
  10. david r

    I’ve never heard of a 600cc motor with 127 HP.

    Like 1
    • Doc

      Kawasaki Ninja ZX6R makes exactly 127hp.

      Like 1
  11. Malcolm Boyes

    I owned two T60 Berks…the three wheeler..same as the 4 uo to the back of the doors then to a boattail with one wheel at the back. I loved those. This doesn not look overpriced IMHO as Berks are going up in value. I think a good 500 twin motor would be the way to go in this. The trouble with the original triples was that the centre cylinder was apt to overheat. Mine had the 328 Excelsior motors that were stretched to add that 3rd cylinder. Anyone who buys this should join the very helpiful Berkeley Enthusiasts Club..

    Like 4
    • Derek

      Speaking as an ex-Kawasaki owner, the advice is to put a different grade of plug in the middle cylinder.

      Like 3
  12. Dave Peterson

    The Colt Turbo -circa ’84- would rear up and bite. I was watching inventory at a Couer d’Alene Dodge store when the new owner launched it into the trees across the road just after signing the papers and taking delivery. Probably the only production vehicle since the Berkeley was new to even approach its power to weight. I don’t know anything about these. Were they sold as a kit or a complete car? Ladder frame? With a Cycle engine were they chain drive?

  13. Malcolm Boyes

    All these comparisons to other classics are fair..except the Berks came on the scene in 1956..right when some of these others were appearing and looong before the E Type with is sexy covered lights. I might say it was the Berk that inspired the AC Ace/Cobra and not the other way around. If you see one of these in the flesh its a baby Maserati/Lancia/Jag/AC/ Ferrari..a great design!

    Like 1
  14. Scott Marquis

    Might be $6,000 CA (~$4,725 US), as the ad’s posted in Vancouver BC.

  15. Blackcat

    Is bill of sale only an impediment to importing a car from Canada? If that’s not a show-stopper, next challenge would be finding an original 492 drivetrain. A modern unit could be fun but the only point to owning this (for me) would be to restore it for vintage racing and for that originality counts.

    • Geoff

      It can be imported into the USA with a bill of sale.

  16. Martin

    Grassroots motorsports built one they called the Bezerkly. They could not get it to handle and I think it was dismantled soon after finishing it. And if they can’t make a fast Berkeley I don’t think I want to drive this one.

  17. Kevin Kalman

    I have the most Berkeley parts and ship worldwide every month anyone wanting to restore this should contact me at kkalman@kalmanconstruction.com
    Warning I only ship to members of the Berkeley enthusiast club believe me it’s worth the money to join for the group experience with these special little cars

    Like 1
  18. Geoff

    If interested you can email me at petersonvws@hotmail.com

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