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						Berkeley Se492 7
Red-Tailed Berkeley SE492

Berkeley SE492 race car for sale

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Craigslist

In the world of excess we live in today, it’s easy to appreciate the products of U.K.-based Berkeley Cars. Berkeley made some of the most charming and sporty microcars ever built, even if only for four short years from 1956 to 1960.

Forget today’s 1,500-plus hp super cars, because honestly, how many of us drive on the autobahn everyday (or ever for that matter)? Sometimes it’s nice to leave all the hype behind and focus on real experiences, something that’s feasible, and you can actually enjoy in the real world. And that’s exactly what the Berkeley aimed to be.

Almost all of Berkeley’s cars were built on the same formula, having fiberglass bodywork, aluminum bulkheads and steel subframes for the suspension systems and drivetrain. But what really set the Berkeley apart was the use of two-stroke motorcycle engines in most models. The engines produced modest horsepower, and had a reputation for seizing from excessive heat, but they we very frugal and mechanically simple.

Models were also poised as featherweight contenders in 500 cc and 750 cc classes, and Lorenzo Bandini finished first in an SE492 in the 1958 Monza 12 Hour event in the 750 cc GT class. Berkeleys also enjoyed considerable popularity in America, as an affordable and fun way to get into racing.

The 1958 Berkeley SE492 seen here on Vancouver Craigslist is without a doubt, the most charming example of the marque I’ve ever seen. The 492 indicates that this car originally had the larger 492 cc, three-cylinder Excelsior motorcycle engine, which produced 30 hp. The internal door hinges and vertical leading door edge distinguishes this car as a late build, equipped with the stronger four-speed box — the VR.

But the most significant aspect of this SE492 is its appearance. It sports a beautiful and well-aged racing livery with the number seven and blood red stripes on the front and rear fenders (or wings in this case). Those stripes, paired with the crude racer windscreen give this little Berkeley a poor-man’s 550 Spyder feel. Regardless, I hope the 492’s next owner preserves the car’s worn paintwork.

There are a couple negative aspects with this Berkeley, let’s call them head scratchers. First off, the car is being sold without its original three-cylinder Excelsior engine, and there’s some sort of 600 cc sport bike engine in its place. Now I like going fast as much as the next guy, but with the charming nostalgic appearance of this Berkeley, I’d love to see a more authentic engine under the hood.

The second difficulty would be the car’s location for our mostly U.S.-based audience, as the car is located in Canada. That means importation could add a bit to the cost of this Berkeley 492, which will already set you back $8,500 CAD, or about $6,500 USD.

Check out the Berkeley here on Vancouver Craigslist.

Also, did you notice the warning label on the dash? “CAUTION; DO NOT EXCEED 120 MPH IN THIRD.” Considering the Berkeley 492 had a top speed of 80 mph, we’re wondering what sort of engine powered this car last. And more importantly, what sort of madman would push the needle to 121 mph in this Shriner-mobile.

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