READER AD: 1958 Berkeley Sports SE 492

At 750 pounds, this 1958 Berkeley Sports SE 492 isn’t a Lotus, but it follows Colin Chapman’s famous quote, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This outstanding project car is a Barn Finds Reader Find and it is located in incredibly beautiful North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and the seller is asking $6,500 USD or $8,500 Canadian. Let’s dig into this sweet little Sports 492.

We’ve gone ’round and ’round on the term “patina” here but, man, I would not do one thing to the exterior of this car. Maybe subtle preservation techniques, whatever they may be (washing/waxing/etc.), but I absolutely love this faded, ghostly look. My favorite number is 7 so, needless to say, I would not touch that #7 on the hood/bonnet, either. Berkeley was a small British manufacturer that had a novel idea: making small, lightweight sports cars with motorcycle engines.

This particular Berkeley will need a full restoration according to the owner. At just over 10-feet in length and 4-feet in width, it won’t take up as much “restoration room” as many other vehicles would in your garage. The creators of the Berkeley wanted something light and powerful enough to take home trophies at World 750 CC races but was also easy to repair, safe, and relatively inexpensive.

I don’t know if I’d even fit into this car but I’d love to try it. The cockpit has a powerboat look to me and you can see that some work will be needed inside, too. Berkeley made quite a few different models throughout a short six-year history, from 1956 to the end of 1960. They even made a three-wheeled vehicle that looked similar to this car but had a single wheel in the rear. That may seem unusual until you know that one of the two main people behind Berkeley was Mr. Bond. Not that Mr. Bond, but Mr. Lawrence “Lawrie” Bond, as in the name behind the famous Bond Minicar.

The Berkeley Sports SE 492 normally used a 492 CC three-cylinder Excelsior motorcycle engine with 30 hp. The seller says that the original engine is long gone but it comes with – are you sitting down? – a 600 CC 127-hp engine! I’m assuming that’s the one shown in the engine bay. With over four times the horsepower, you’ll have to make sure to upgrade the other systems and the structure, but now you’re talkin’ about some power! Hagerty is at $12,800 USD for a #3 good condition car as a general reference. This would be a fun project!

Seller’s Listing: Here on craigslist

  • Asking Price: $6,500 USD
  • Location: North Vancouver, Canada
  • Title Status: Missing

List your car here on Barn Finds for only $50!

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  1. Danger Dan

    Soooooo how do you get it across the border? In a large bag? DD

  2. daniel wright

    Is that an automatic transmission?

    • Andy

      I’d guess not, there are very few automatics in motorcycles and I don’t think any of them are in online water cooled 4’s. Probably a six speed.

  3. Bud

    I see no reason not to put a 572 in it .

  4. James HGF

    Scotty, This SE492 was originally powered by a two-stroke Excelsior 492 cc engine of 30 hp. The Autocar’s 1958 road test garnered an average top speed of 80 mph with a best of 83 mph.

    Berkeley also built the B95 and B105 with the 692 cc Enfield four-stroke engine with a power rating of 40 hp and 50 hp respectively. Top speeds were in the 85 – 90 mph range. Hardly slugs on the road.

    The three wheel car version is the T60 in a couple of flavors with the single wheel in the rear as you know. There’s a typo or an oops in your text with one wheel up front.

    There were also a few Foursome 4 seater versions that suffered from chassis flex. The removable hardtop when in place made it look like a fixed head coupé. The Foursome was a big guy…that is nearly 11 feet long with a 78″ rather than 70″ wheelbase.

    Link to commentary and drive video from an owner who rebuilt a B95 and since it’s British one can here the correct pronunciation of the car’s name:

    Definitely a major project to safely and sanely stuff the Honda engine and gearbox into this SE492. Brakes, suspension, and chassis strengthening required.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks for catching that typo about the T60, James HGF!

    • Johnny B.

      Thanks for the interest knowledge and video of The Berkley. First one I saw and got me to thinking about building a small car.. Very neat and interesting little car. Thank you

    • ken tilly

      @JamesHGF. Thank you for the link James. I have learned more about the Berkeley in the last 5 minutes than I had learned in the past 80 years. The owner points out that it is fitted with a Royal Enfield 700cc engine with a 4 speed crash gearbox that is fine going up through the gears but that he has to double declutch when coming back down through the gears.

    • Martin Horrocks

      In 60 odd years I have never heard any Brit except this guy pronounce the marque as “Barclay” . “Berkeley” is pronounced exactly the same way as the university campus in California.

      Originally a maker of fibreglass caravans, the cars were Berkeley´s attempt to diversify and did OK, good competition record and did not quite bankrupt the company, which dropped the cars to refocus on its core product.

  5. James Member

    If you look up “Fun” in your Funk and Wagnalls it probably has a picture of this car. Unfortunately, if you look up “Widow Maker” it probably has the same picture!

  6. mark

    Until I seen the photo of the existing motor I was going to suggest a Honda 1800cc V-Twin from their VTX series of motorcycles. You can pick those motors up used for about 600 bucks. They are all but bulletproof. They are about 100 HP.

  7. Paolo


  8. hatofpork

    Hairy-chested and bugs-in-the-teeth British Motoring at its lunar apogee!

  9. Somer

    I had a Berkley once. I would pick up the rear bumper and push it around like a wheel barrel. Until 59 they had a 2 cylinder, 2 stroke Excelsior engine. 59 was 3 wheels and 3 cylinders.

  10. tex cloud

    looks more like a water cooled 4 cyl of some type minus carbs etc, looks like coil on plugs of some type Boat motor? ,also thought Royal Enfield went out business years ago I own a 56 328 Berke[ey with 1982 Honda Goldwing 1200 converting to rearwheel drive ofroad 4 wheeler front suspension work finding narrow rear end

  11. Jack Quantrill

    Anyone else see the connection to the Porsche 550 Spyder, appearance wise?

  12. PeterfromOz

    When I saw the heading and read the first few lines my thoughts were, how did they fit a 492 cubic inch V8 into this car and keep it down to 750 pounds? I then realised we were talking about CC and not CI.

  13. Daniel W Wright

    What made me think it was an automatic was the shifter. I guess motorcycle shifters are not in a pattern like a car is.

  14. roamic

    Saw a few converted to race at Bonneville:

  15. erik johnston

    I had a 56 for a short time. I had to hide it for a bit from the wife, not hard since it was so small. She did find it, but thought it was so cute. bought and sold it on barnfinds. never had the time to get much done,but really it had a lot going as far as what could be done to it

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