Last updated Nov 6, 2008
]My first Berkeley
I spotted my first Berkeley in a magazine at a time when had plenty of overtime, too much really, working six days a week from eight am to midnight, driving from Gravesend to Stevenage every day, a trip of about 100 miles each way. The add was for a 1960 T60 Berkeley £1500 only 2000 miles on new engine £5000 in bills genuine reason for sale (caught speeding at 140 mph!). The person selling the car (the owners uncle) hated it with a passion. He even refused to drive it. I had no such reservations, it pushed all the right buttons; Johnspeed 1380 offset bore, stage 3 head , series 2 cooper S drive shafts and 8” disc brakes. Apart from the wiring that looked like 70’s modern art and the go faster stickers everywhere I fell in love.
I decided to take it easy on the way back from Bournemouth to Gravesend and keep to a steady 70. The journey was quite surreal as I passed most cars on the motorway, I thought they must all be slowing down to see this unusual three wheeled car. When I got back I took it to a private bit of road with a straight bit of about a 1/4 of a mile. I had a friend’s 10 year old boy in the scary seat. It was a single lane tarmac road that led to a golf coarse. We set off with a roar, one eye on the Speedo and one on the fence posts that suddenly started flashing by, my passenger laughing like a drain. “That went well but I was expecting to get a little closer to the ton”. So we turned round and tried again with more gusto....BANG all the engine mounts broke the exhaust came apart and we sounded like a spitfire climbing into battle. So I changed all the mounts and put the two extra ones on the bottom and tried again with the same results. I replaced these with solid metal ones that have stood the test of time.
The next trial was to see how fast. Well you have to don’t you. The A2 was quiet so I went for it. Nearly 110 said the Speedo, the other cars seemed almost at a stand still and I seemed to be flying in a different time zone. The penny dropped—the Speedo was lying. Next it was off to the engine tuners to test the Speedo on the rolling road." yes it is a bit out, 42% to be precise!”.
Still in the first week I took it to work, I picked up my passenger and set off for Stevenage. I waited until the A2M to let my passenger get used to the scary seat before giving it some beans. The engine was nearly up to it’s full 7 grand when it became unstable. I pulled over but could not see what was wrong. The rest of the trip had to be at sub 50. At Stevenage the problem became apparent, the profile of the back wheel tyre looked like the neck of the elephant man. The 145 x 12 tyre was not even speed rated and had de-laminated. If I am to survive this car I will have to take it most seriously. At the garage the smallest VR rated tyre they had was a 185 x 50 x 13” so a new wheel had to go on.
On the way home the car had been completely transformed in fact it was the most precise handling that I had ever experienced. Full of confidence I took here up to full larrup. Once again we were in that different time zone gliding past everyone like a passing jet. Just one hand on the wheel yet still able to dart from one lane to the other without the slightest hint of unease. I was a Martian observing a different planet. Time for a reality check at over twice the speed limit not only licence but liberty were at stake, it took just two weeks for the previous owner to loose his licence, that was one record I wasn’t keen to break. Foot hard on the brakes and I pulled in behind a car in the middle lane doing about 70 in a manner that my old Celica could only dream about. I knew I had something very special.
Soon we were on the newly built Dartford bridge, I had crept up to 90 without realising it. I think we were followed by a guardian angel for as we pulled away from the toll booth the back wheel fell off. It was quite scary at 20 crossing four lanes and landing only by chance on the hard shoulder. It would of been fatal if it had happened at any time in the previous 40 minutes.
I managed to find three of the nuts and while my passenger lifted the back of the car I was able to replace the offending wheel. It transpires that the brainless geek at the garage had used an 8” adjustable to secure the nuts as he could not get the wheel brace in under the rear cowling! I vowed from then on never to let anyone else lay a spanner on my car.
At the time I first owned the car the XR3i was supposed to the dogs danglies, an owner of one these cans ridiculed me for implying that it would have to be something else to challenge my three wheeler. Believing the hype and unsure of my driving skills I didn’t want to lose my shirt to a yuppie. I wish now it was more than a sports mans bet, we went head to head, it was like a go cart race mine with an engine and his with peddles. I left him crying in his beer making up excuses. Apparently it had been doing things like that since 1974 when it beat the times of the BL’s works rally team during a promotional friendly extolling the merits of the Metro (though they did beat all the Mini’s). And even up to 2004 it was still showing a clean pair of heals to the Impretzza and modified hot hatches ( that’s all those who challenged me). The performance was somewhere between a 750 Ninja and the 900. (A2M 1998).
I owned this car for 14 years and covered nearly 200,000 miles using it on a daily basis from delivering logs in a trailer to towing a caravan on holiday, until I had a near fatal crash two years ago after hitting some water and then a tree. I am going to have rate this car 10/10. I lost the use of my right arm in the accident but it’s the car I miss most. I now have a new project that involve a basket case Berkeley and a Rover V8.
Body- very small & light fiberglass 3-wheeler
Cd factor- 0.27cd
Engine- 1380 Jonspeed Mini stage 3
100 bhp +
0-60 4 seconds
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