Mccann's Motors - The Berkeley is Back!

Richard McCann announces the re-birth of our region’s forgotten pioneering sports-car maker.

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Do you remember the Berkeley sports car? No? Congratulations – only I am that much of an ‘anorak’!

Berkeley was a collaboration between designer Lawrie Bond (remember the cheeky Bond Bug?) and local fibreglass expert Charles Panter who was one of the largest manufacturers of caravans in Europe, so an ideal collaboration… and in 1956 no less a driver than the great Stirling Moss tested a Berkeley at Goodwood.

Fuel – and cash – were in short supply back in the ‘50s so the Biggleswade-based company produced small sporty cars with motorcycle-derived engines and innovative front wheel drive.

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The early cars, such as the famous ‘Bandit’, were an immediate success, both here and in the USA, but it all went wrong in 1960 when competition from the newly introduced Mini and Austin-Healey Sprite as well as the virtual collapse of the caravan market saw the company fail after producing a magnificent 4100 cars, many of which are still around and highly prized today.

And now, 60 years after its demise, Berkeley is back thanks to former aviation and automotive designer Martin Rees and motorsport engineer Simon Scleater who have relaunched Berkeley Coachworks at Old Warden Aerodrome, producing a new Bandit Roadster and Bandit GT.

The original pioneering Berkeley was the world’s first composite production car, and the new models are also pioneers - they will be made using plant-based materials and cost between £40,000-£60,000 each.

Buyers will be able to choose between liquid-fuelled engines, a hydrogen cell or full electric. I think they’re gorgeous – how about you?

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