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Berkeley Company History

Published: 20th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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As an alternative to ‘mainstream’ models, what about a compact sports car built in relatively small numbers, which is guaranteed to draw a crowd wherever you go? Just turned 50, surviving Berkeleys are rare but are revered for their sporty looks (rather like an E-Type Jag in miniature) and commendable performance; they are also great fun to own, and asking prices are affordable. The Biggleswade-based firm of Berkeley built caravans, but in 1956 started to produce economical sports cars (designed by Lawrence Bond). These cars featured aerodynamic glassfibre bodywork (incorporating bonded in ‘chassis’ members). To start with, power was provided by a twin cylinder twostroke engine - either a Anzani or Excelsior unit (with a capacity of just 328cc!!). However, from 1957 a 30 bhp three cylinder, 492cc Excelsior model was available; this car was capable of nearly 85 mph.

In 1959 faster (B95) models were introduced, with a 40bhp, 692cc Royal Enfield engine. Even more rapid was the B105, with a 50bhp power unit. In 1959 the company introduced a novel three wheeled version of its twin-cylinder, 328cc B60 model, with the single wheel at the rear; the three-wheeler version was designated T60. Although in the smallest-engined versions, power output was modest (the 328cc Excelsior twin-cylinder two stroke engine produced just 18bhp), but the cars were light, enabling a top speed of around 60 mph to be reached, and overall fuel consumption of almost 60mpg. A four-speed (plus reverse) gearbox was now used. Pre-dating the Mini by several years, the Berkeleys were transverse- engined, front-wheel drive vehicles, with their short driveshafts incorporating Hardy Spicer universal joints. Handling was more than impressive; the front suspension was by unequal length wishbones. On the three wheelers, a combined spring/damper assembly was employed at the rear end while a fully hydraulic braking system was installed. Berkeleys were available in hard and soft-top forms, and although compact, the cars would comfortably accommodate two adults plus a child (a longer four seater was also offered from 1958); Luggage space was provided within the rear bodywork. Production of Berkeley cars ceased in 1960.

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