1958 Berkeley 328
From the The Automobile Magazine 'Oily Rag' Reserve Collection; recently mechanically refreshed; one of only 1,422 made
Berkeley sports cars were manufactured between 1956 and 1960 at the Berkeley Coach Works factory in Biggleswade, which at the time was one of the largest caravan manufacturers in Europe.
It was an ideal project for Berkeley who had developed considerable skills in the use of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) and were looking for something to fill the gap in the very seasonal caravan market. Their first model was an open two-seater sports built around a fibreglass monocoque which was powered by an Anzani two-stroke twin and called the 322 to reflect the cubic capacity of the engine.
From 1957, they introduced a more powerful 18bhp 328cc model. It’s easy to mock its rather feeble power output, but as the flyweight sports car weighed in at just 274kg, it boasted a power-to-weight ratio of 65bhp/tonne! Motor magazine tested one in 1957 and achieved a top speed of 62.1mph and a 0-50 time of 30.6 seconds – both perfectly respectable figures at the time.
The 3-speed column shifter made way for a four-speed floor-mounted stick change after chassis 476. A De Luxe model was also in the price list, boasting flashy chrome wheel trims, twin carburettors and a rev counter. A surprising success in the American market where it cost a not insubstantial $1200, it also found some success in competition, Pat Moss competing in the Liège-Brescia-Liège Rally in the class for cars under 500cc and Count Giovanni Lurani running a team of three later, larger-engined 492cc models in the 750cc GT class at the 1958 Monza 12 Hour Race, one coming home in first place!
With growing prosperity and the advent of cheap foreign package holidays, the caravan market sadly collapsed towards the end of the Fifties and Berkeley's poor cash flow forced the company into liquidation in December 1960, by which time some 1,422 328s had been sold.
First registered in January 1958, this Berkeley 328SE has an Excelsior two-stroke engine with twin Amal carbs mated to a 4-speed Albion floor-change gearbox. It was acquired for the Oily Rag Collection in August 2013, as recounted in a report in The Automobile magazine at the time: "Many Berkeleys have, at some point, been the subject of complex and costly restoration work or, at the very least, large amounts of bodgery. Our interest, therefore, was piqued when we spotted what appeared to be a completely original Berkeley for sale in Wiltshire.
"On inspection, the car proved even better than we had hoped. There were no signs that it had ever been apart; the fragile bonded superstructure had somehow withstood 55 years of use with no ill effects. It was even wearing its original paint and distinctive dome-shaped wheel trims, not fitted to lesser models."
Various invoices attest to recommissioning work carried out over the next few years and we are told that the car has recently been mechanically refreshed by a well known Berkeley Club member.
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email [email protected]
Reg No: XNX827
Chassis Number: B/867
Engine Number: 9262
Engine Size: 328
Docs: V5C; invoices; hand book; maintenance manuals; parts catalogue; Brooklands book; period road tests; technical literature etc
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