By on October 31, 2019

Today’s Rare Ride comes from one of those little European brands you’ve never heard of. The company was in business for just a few years, and produced tiny cars powered by even tinier engines. Let’s take a look at the Twosome, from 1959.

Berkeley originated via a collaboration between an automotive designer and a company which produced travel trailers (the English call them caravans). Lawrence Bond was the designer, and he approached the owner of Berkeley Coachworks, Charles Panter.

Mr. Bond wanted to build small, lightweight sports cars. The caravan factory seemed an ideal place to bring such an idea, as Berkeley had much experience with building things from fiberglass. The factory had a considerable off-season, as the demand for caravans fell off reliably each year.

Plans were drawn, and Berkeley started production of its small cars that were affordable, easy to fix, and nice to behold. The company’s first model went on sale in 1956.

Berkeley changed its offerings rapidly in its short time on the market. The introductory Sports SA322 was produced from October 1956 through January of 1957. It was immediately replaced by the Sports SE328, which expereinced a long run from January 1957 to April 1958.

Another version, the Sports SE492 was built between October 1957 and March of 1959. SE492 used a three-cylinder motorcycle-sourced engine that was air-cooled, and 492-ccs in displacement. It was two-stroke, transversely mounted, and had three carburetors. That meant 30 horsepower were available in the tiny roadster, which allowed a surely terrifying top speed of 80 miles per hour.

The SE492 was renamed in late 1958 to Twosome, to coincide with the company’s largest roadster offering of all, the Foursome. The Foursome stretched the 70-inch wheelbase of the Twosome to a limousine-like 78 inches, and also increased the car’s width.

Both the Twosome and Foursome were finished in 1959, as Berkeley switched gears to a new Q range, with the B95 and B105. They built 178 examples, and Berkeley was struggling. Caravans weren’t selling circa 1959, and the company had cash flow issues. Incredibly, between late 1959 and December of 1960, the floundering company introduced six new roadsters, one of them being a three-wheeler. They made a few of each version, and then went bust.

Berkeley left its small mark on the motoring world with its five-year run of cars amongst its caravans. The factory was sold to an underwear company after all employees were laid off at Christmas time 1960.

Today’s Rare Ride is in restored condition, and its scale is noted by the steering wheel that’s fully half the width of the passenger area. It’s located in Dubai, and is on offer for $27,000.

[Images: seller]

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20 Comments on “Rare Rides: An Air-cooled Berkeley Twosome From 1959...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Does that side view (2nd picture) remind anyone else of a Miata?

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Program status:
    – Corrosion resistance – Body: Green
    – Roof crush: Red

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Holy cow, I had totally forgotten about these. Thanks for posting. I wonder how it would drive with a modern wet motorcycle engine swapped in?
    PS I bet that would look fabulous with Minilites in the wheel wells.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Should be called toothome

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    Google info is kinda confused with so many models, but one page claimed curb weight 800 pounds and 0-60 in 14 seconds.

    I bet it would be a hoot to drive. If I could fit in it.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    Lane Motor Museum here in Nashville lists a 1959 Berkeley Sports SE328 and a 1962 Berkeley T-60 3-wheeler in their collection.

    https://www.lanemotormuseum.org/collection/alphaindex/b

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m familiar with these, only from reading about them over the decades, like in books about sports cars written back in the ’60s. The thing that always stuck out for me (pardon the pun) was the wheelcovers.

    The article mentions engineer and designer Lawrence Bond, who before this had built a prototype that was the basis for the Bond Minicar series of three-wheelers. Bond Cars was bought by Reliant in 1969.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The speedometer and fuel gauge are from AC (AC Spark Plug).

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “one of them being a three-wheeler”

    I bet there were some threesome jokes about that one…

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      I was going to toss something in here along that vein, but you beat me to it.
      There’s a quip here somewhere, along the lines of Peugeot building a slightly larger version, called the Threesome, or the Scion iQ being the modern version of coupe de trois, or something else, equally half baked.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Back in the 1960s a friend had a T60, which was quite fun, but very secondhand.
    The final B95 and B105 cars used four-stoke 700cc motors, and went very briskly, but the restyling needed to clear the tall engine made them slightly ugly.

  • avatar
    ect

    I will never understand the British fascination with fluid carburetors. I had 2 in my Sprite, and they were excruciatingly difficult to keep balanced.

    If it’s that hard with 2, I can’t imagine doing it with 3. When I think that the original V12 version of the XKE had 4, it makes my head spin.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I can imagine the introductory remarks between the builder and the designer:

    “My name is Bond. Lawrence Bond. I am 007’s oldest brother”

    Sorry…..I couldn’t resist.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I knew a few guys who had these, they were incredibly cheaply made .

    When seen in the flesh they looked like jokes .

    IIRC the drive was by a rubber band .

    A word about the S.U. carbys : like all other carbys, they never, _EVER_ go out of adjustment !.

    Well meaning un knowledgeable people hear popping sounds that are caused by ignition woes and touch the carbys instead causing havoc .

    I’m a vintage British car owner along with old Porsche and dual carby VW’s, _NONE_ have ever needed the carbys touched after they were set up and properly adjusted .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      @Nate

      I almost missed the Carburetor Age ( I had a 1984 Pontiac Parisienne wagon ) but many of my friends had them. My Dad was a huge fan of SUs and regularly said the same thing: Set ’em and forget ’em. His first car was an MG TD so he knew carbs!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Yep. Most problems with SUs not running well are because of wear and tear (throttle shaft bushing air leaks is a big one). The ones with the temperature compensating jet have a few issues of their own too.

      Honestly, after getting SUs running well, with their simple *single* jet, the cold start device (“choke”), and their superior fuel atomization at part throttle operation and throttle response… I never understood the American fascination with intricate multi barrel carburetors, some of them with a primary and secondary jets in each barrel *plus* an idle jet, their need for acceleration pumps…

      That doesn’t sound like a very nice thing to say- there are a lot of excellent mechanics who understand American-style carburetors and are very good at setting them up. Same deal with mechanics who are good at maintaining SUs.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        In the early 1970’s I used to set up and adjust multiple carbys on vehicles for smog testing by ear .

        Then my hearing went and I could no longer “listen to the hiss” , bummer that .

        A properly set up 4 BBL American carby can also be very good and even fairly thrifty on the fuel as long as you keep your foot out of it .

        I recently struggled with a 1979 Dodge D200 9,000GVW 360 V8’s original Carter Thermoquad, I just couldn’t get the idle mixture right neither could anyone else so I swapped it out for a newer 4 BB carby and the truck runs reat again .

        S.U.’s were, when designed, the only true variable venturi carby in the word, meaning altitude and so on had no detrimental effect on how your engine ran .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Lokki

    I just don’t know…. I am sure that these were a blast to drive, but I when I think of one of these and then think of a 1959 Plymouth, the image that pops into my mind is

    “I may be too poor to buy a regular sports car but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a death wish!”

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