Chassis Num: 74
Engine Num: 190
Sold for $16,500 at 2017 Bonhams
The Berkeley family of micro cars was manufactured from 1956 to 1960 in Great Britain. The Berkeley Company was a manufacturer of travel trailers and possessed a factory full of fiberglass craftsmen. A natural outgrowth of the business, the company began building small and sporty cars with fiberglass bodies. The project was aided by Britons 'Lawrie' Bond, an aircraft engineer who would later produce his own eponymous minicar.
The collaboration between Mr. Bond and Mr. Charles Panter's Berkeley Coachworks resulted in a two-seat, fiberglass-and-aluminum-bodied, front-wheel drive, motorcycle-engined British sports car. They were produced in small numbers in the 1950s and were instantly popular. The company goals were to build an affordable, enjoyable, and small sports car that could also be raced competitively in the under-750cc category. It was soon evident that more power was needed, so Berkeley increased the engine size, topping out at nearly 500cc. The 30-horsepower Berkeley-Excelsior SE492 proved competitive, especially considering its weight of just 700 pounds. Combined with fully independent suspension, a low center of gravity, and front-wheel drive, it was both fast and nimble. Count Johnny Lurani entered a trio of SE492 roadsters, all fitted with specially-designed hard-tops, in the 1958 Monza 12 hours 750 GT category. Future Ferrari driver Lorenzo Bandini drove one of the tiny cars to a class victory.
The 492 was introduced in 1957 at the British Motor Show. It came equipped with a three-cylinder, air-cooled, two-stroke engine that displaced 492cc and made 30 horsepower. They had a four-speed transmission and front-wheel drive configuration. Total production is estimated at 666 examples of this final model before production came to a close in March of 1959.
This particular example, chassis number 74, was acquired by its current caretaker in 2013. It is finished in silver with a dark red vinyl interior. Power is from the 492cc Excelsior motorcycle engine fitted with triple AMAL carburetors. It has been fully restored to as-new condition in 2013.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2017
The SE492 was introduced to the public at a 1957 Motorshow alongside of the SE328. The SE492's were constructed to be either left or right hand drive and most were exported to the US.
The three cylinder 492 cc engine with three carburetors was capable of producing 30 horsepower. Top speed was achieved at 80 mph.
Production was low with around 650 examples of the two seaters being created. The four-seaters was even more rare with 16 examples created.
The original Berkely Manufacturing Company produced cars as early as 1913. The cars were powered by 18 horsepower engines. The company reappeared near the close of the 1950's and was located in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. The designs were created by Laurie Bond while Charles Panter provided the finacial backing. In total there were four models created and production lasted only a few years ending in 1960.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2017