Powered by Renault: 1958 Berkeley Roadster

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

Buying an old race car is always such a romantic idea, especially if it’s a car you had seen racing back in the day. That’s the story this seller tells, reminiscing that he spotted this beaten-up 1958 Berkeley Roadster ripping around the course in his youth. He bought the car but then proceeded to let it sit for 30 years, hence why it is now for sale here on eBay with just over a day left and bidding under $1K. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Larry D. for spotting it.

Now, that being said, memories are one thing; reality, quite another. This Berkeley is battered, with a fiberglass body that looks as if it’s seen more use lately as a punching bag than a course carver, perhaps standing in as the seller’s auxiliary work bench. The seller notes its racing history is genuine, as evidenced by the roll bar and the exaggerated caster on the front suspension. A gentleman by the name of Herb Smith from South Carolina is said to be the original builder. Anyone remember him from their SCCA days?

The engine is another oddity, as it once took up space under the hood of a Renault Dauphine. The thing with Berkeleys is that there was no rhyme or reason to what the owners would eventually do. It was a simple car that was easy to disassemble and put back together again. Hence why today some projects exist that have been retrofitted with motorcycle engines to create a legitimate screamer, given how light they were out of the box. Since this roadster was used extensively for racing, I wouldn’t doubt this motor was a cheap and popular upgrade back in the day.

As you can see, the nose is very banged up. The seller said the engine did run well many years ago, but we’re well past that point now. The body will need extensive restoration; the engine, likely a full rebuild. And we haven’t talked about the suspension yet. To the seller’s credit, he is being realistic about the need to set a reasonable cost of entry for this project if he wants to get the quick sale he claims to need before relocating. The Berkeley is great alternative to a Miata if the modern stuff doesn’t flip your switch, but there’s a long road to recovery with this one.

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  1. Wayne

    This is a joke, right?

  2. Bill

    You’d have to be out of your mind to get involved with this thing.

  3. Francisco

    Alternative to a Miata? What? Maybe a Miata that crashed and burned.

  4. Mr. Bond

    That is either a very small motor or one huge generator!

  5. Howard A Member

    I think, Herb found out, due to the underestimated poor handling, this car hit the wall in turn #3,( and was subsequently rear-ended) and that was that.

  6. phil

    No……Just no

  7. B

    It has a sad…

  8. sir mike

    Why do people do things like this??? Let it ”rot” for 30yrs…

  9. gbvette62

    It amazes me how many Berkeley’s there are around! This one’s pretty sorry, but it’s still interesting that they pop up for sale so often. I don’t know how many were made, but an awful lot of them seem to have survived….though some survived better than others!

    Back around 68-69, a high school buddy of mine had one, that we were setting up to autocross. As things go when you’re in high school, other more interesting things came along (mainly a Mustang better suited to autocross with, and girls), and the Berkeley was forgotten. His father eventually sold or scrapped it.

  10. 86 Vette Convertible

    Stick a fork in it, it’s done.

  11. Joe Nose

    Put it back in the barn it was found in, give it another 30 years and there won’t be enough to identify.

  12. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    No problem…..nothing that a good Berkeley body, chassis, and running gear couldn’t fix. Plus a proper lightweight bike engine…say, a 4-cyl Kawasaki.

    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      …Dolphin, Berks are fiberglass monocoque with a few pieces of alloy sheetmetal..
      ……NO chassis……….


  13. rustylink

    like stuffing a turd into a larger turd..

  14. Beeman on Nevis

    Another one for the ferry to Cuba me thinks….

  15. Ken

    What a tragic looking mess. Have wanted one and know several people with decent ones had for not a lot more than current bid on this. Really close to us but more project than I have time for.

  16. Healeymonster

    YES!!! Toss out the French boat anchor, refit a Hayabusa motor in it. Rebush the rotted suspension, Give it a set of discs to make it stop, stitch that front end back together Frankenstein style with tie straps and leave the body ugly as sin. Rat Racer made to scare children, tree huggers and the elderly!
    Be happy I didn’t say LS swap!!

  17. peter

    Plenty of parts still available for that engine as it was used on several Renaults in 600, 750 & 850 cc forms using wet cylinder liners. It was even used on a small tractor. For racing, the drawback would be the three bearing crank. 850cc output is 30bhp. You can compress the valve springs with your fingers. I drove an R4 for about 100,000 miles with one of those engines and the engine was already worn out when I bought the car for $5 (Australian – about $3 US). I only spent another $15 to get it onto the road.

  18. Al Thompson

    I bought one of these new and drove it from Huntington Beach, California, to El Paso, Texas, where one of its three cylinders gave out. The outside temp was 16 degrees F and I was cold as hell as there was no heater. I left it there and called for a ride the rest of the way to Dallas. I later retrieved it and sold it cheap. It was a piece of crap. I should have bought another 4-CV, a dependable, fun, little car.


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