BERKELEY CARS were produced between October 1956 and December 1960 by
Berkeley Coachworks at their Hitchin Street, Biggleswade factory in
Designed by Laurie Bond of Minicar fame, the original Berkeley “Sports” introduced in 1956 was a lightweight two-seat sports car powered by a 322cc Anzani two-stroke twin producing 15 bhp. Initial difficulties with supply and performance resulted in a change in January 1957 to the Excelsior Talisman Twin two-stroke of 328cc, with a 20% increase in power to 18bhp.
The car was unique at the time of its launch in that it employed not only a transverse engine and front wheel drive, but a complete fibreglass monocoque hull reinforced locally by lightweight aluminium sections. Endowed with exceptional road holding by virtue of its all independant suspension and low centre of gravity, superb handling and braking, public demand, particularly from America resulted in a search for a more powerful engine. The Excelsior MotorCycle Company supplied the answer in the form of a 492cc three-cylinder version of the Talisman. With over 30 Bhp available to propel 6’12 cwt, performance now matched the looks of the car. The car could now cover the quarter mile in 22.4 seconds.
In an attempt to expand the appeal of the Berkeley a four-seat version,
achieved by lengthening and widening the basic shell, was introduced and
called the Foursome. Although powered by the same 492cc engine that was
proving very popular, the Foursome failed to attract the buyers and only 17 were built.
In terms of out and out performance the Royal Enfield powered B95 and B105
cars, introduced in 1959, were the best yet. Producing over 40 bhp (and 50
bhp for the B 105) and bags of torque, the twin cylinder four strokes could
rocket the Berkeley to over 100 mph if the intrepid driver had the nerve. In
October 1959 the rarest of the production cars were launched - the “Q” cars.
These were Q and QB versions of the B95 and B 105. These larger bodied cars
were commensurate with the 1958 Foursome bodies, The Q models were
occasional four-seaters, the QB models were described as “roomy two-seaters”
with extra luggage capacity.
The Bandit, an altogether more conventional vehicle employing a steel chassis and a Ford Anglia engine but retaining all of Berkeley’s reputation for performance pointed the way for the future. Sadly it came too late to save the firm. Only two prototypes were produced of a car which, given a little time and development, could have assured continuing success for Berkeley cars.
This site was last updated Wednesday, 22 January 2014