Monday 20th May 2019,
Inopian

Berkeley Sports Cars Ltd. (1956-1960): Sad Story of an Innovative Little Car

Berkeley Caravans of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire was owned by Charles Painter. Berkeley was one of the foremost makers of caravans in the 1950’s. Painter had pioneered the use of fibre-glass (GRP) in his manufacturing processes. Business was good except for one problem.

Caravan sales were seasonal and therefore created a hiatus in the production year. Enter Lawrie Bond, the designer behind the Bond Minicar. Bond and Painter decided to build a mini sportscar, made of GRP and using a motorcycle engine. Painter had an ambition to race and Bond had the design to do it and so work began.

It would be a very successful, if short lived collaboration. Surprisingly the Americans loved the Berkeley and customer feed-back was instrumental in getting more power into the little car. The Berkeley had race and rally successes, Pat Moss rallied one quite successfully and brother Stirling did a few laps at Goodwood and proclaimed that it was impossible to get the car to break away in a corner and that he went through those corners without lifting his right foot!

Unfortunately, in 1960 the banks got cold feet with the level of the overdraft and withdrew their credit support. Berkeley was forced to close it`s doors. When the liquidation was complete it emerged that Berkeley Cars was, in fact, quite solvent. The bank just didn`t understand the extended cash-flow necessary for a car-maker.

A sad end to an innovative little car. A total of 4100 units were sold during the Berkeley`s short life. There are several owners clubs world-wide and despite the fact that the Berkeley has been out of production for 50 years, they continue to thrive and survive.

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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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