Off The Road For 40 Years: Berkeley SE328

b6

Although Berkeley’s are unusual and relatively rare, I’ve noticed that they seem to come up quite frequently as barn finds. Between their fiberglass bodies that don’t rust and their tiny size, I think they get tucked away in places too small and don’t visibly deteriorate as much as a typical vehicle. This particular SE328 sent in by Barn Finds reader Peter R. was “rescued” in 2014 after having been stored since the early 1960’s. It’s currently in Leawood, Kansas and is listed for sale here on eBay with bidding under $1,000 at the moment and no reserve.

b5

The seller tells us that a spooked calf is responsible for the damage to the front end. Being fiberglass, while it will take a while, it is possible for the home hobbyist to repair the damage. More encouraging is that the original grille is intact, and that all of the unusual wheels and even the hubcaps are present with the car. I’m guessing this picture is from the day the seller brought the car home; it’s a sign that the seller is a British car enthusiast as you can also see a vintage Mini in the driveway.

b1

The SE328 model was introduced in 1957 and was powered by a 328cc Excelsior two-cylinder two-stroke. Berkeleys were front wheel drive, air-cooled and had only a 68″ wheelbase; I’ve actually seen one hung up on the wall to save storage space! This looks relatively complete and even the metal bulkhead looks solid. I know a lot of Berkeleys end up being re-powered by a more modern engine, but as this one is not seized, I’d want to keep it original.

b2

Not a lot in the way of creature comforts here! I hope the windshield frame can be bent back into shape! It looks like the Berkeley USA Yahoo owners group knows about some replacement windshields being made right now, so if you purchase the car I would jump on that opportunity. Hopefully the aluminum is malleable enough for it to be bent back. The entire dash appears to be missing, so there will certainly have to be some fabrication after purchase. How would you like this to be your new pocket-sized sports car?

Like This? Get Our Daily Email

Comments

  1. z1rider

    I’m 6 feet 3 and I imagine that if I had one of these I would have to re-engineer it so I could drive it from the center of the passenger compartment. I would also re-power it with a EX 250 Ninja engine (13K red-line and 6 speed trans) to make it interesting. If that proved to be too slow it would be easy to upgrade to a Yamaha RZ 350 engine and so keep the blue smoke vibe. As a motorcyclist the relatively safety of this moot to me.

    • toolbox

      How about a Kaw 750 Triple? would make the RZ seem tame.

  2. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    I think I mentioned this a while ago…I had a ride in a Berkeley that had a Kawasaki engine in place of the original. It went real well and I thought it was a lot of fun. It was real close quarters, so you had to be friends with the other fellow in the car.

    But the car is so tiny it makes a bugeye Sprite seem normal size. I just don’t think that with all the 18 wheelers and with every other young guy driving a pickup, that I could own and use a Berkeley very much.

  3. erikj

    Good to here of the berkleys coming back on barnfinds. The first one you brought up I bought off ebay Back in 2014 or something . Went underwater with the money spent, but loved that car and what a chickmobile Very unique

  4. 64 bonneville

    Great micro sports car! How about a Kawasaki 1100 from a police bike, and wheelie bars on the back ! I liked these since I saw my first one back in 1957.

    • Brakeservo

      Fwd, no wheelie bars required, unless you stick ’em on the front for those really quick back ups outta the parking space!

  5. Wayne Thomas

    With the ease of sourcing a high HP motorcycle engine, one would be quite rational in exploring the possibility of making one of these RWD with a 1st gen Miata rear suspension. It’s be the American version of a Suzuki Cappuccino – another microcar that some people have swapped the Hayabusa 1300cc engine into.

    So, anyone here know about how realistically possible it is to make a Berkeley RWD?

    • Brakeservo

      All it takes is $$

      • Wayne Thomas

        This is why I used ‘realistic’.

        Anything is possible with $$$$, but does a RWD conversion require an entirely new frame (which means making an entirely new car) or can the floorpan be cut-n-welded to allow a tunnel? Or, will a tunnel make sitting inside the already cramped interior impossible due to the seat mounts not being able to fit or making it only possible for a driver and no passenger.

        Money alone is no substitute for engineering and ergonomics. It may just be that the chassis must remain FWD in order to accommodate driver’s space regardless of passenger wants and that there is no bolt-on RWD chassis and fabricating a RWD chassis from scratch is cost prohibitive for anyone seriously interested in a Berkeley.

    • Matt

      Actually…. The best way to do this conversion is to start with a dwarf race car chassis.
      Rear drive and cycle engine powered. Mine has a GSXR-1100 water cooled motor, but plenty of room for a Hayabusa.
      The body fits just about perfectly once you cut the top of the cage off. Wheel base on the dwarf chassis is 73″ while the Berk is 70″. I added length to the doors and made the seating position better for my 5′ 11″ frame.

      Build thread here:
      https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/1958-berkeley-special/109627/page1/

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.