This must have been the winter of 1970 / 1971 around the time of UK decimalisation. Sweet sixteen, in the snow outside my parent's house in Maidstone, wearing my first leather jacket (still got it) and Dad's old RAF boots. My first ever car was this 1960 Berkeley T60. In those days you could drive a 3-wheeler on a bike license at age 16 and even (kind-of) get away with driving it alone as a learner by sticking a kitchen stool on the passenger seat so you couldn't take a passenger. (We had some fold-up kitchen stools at the time...wink, wink).
The range of Berkeley cars was a collaboration between designer Lawrie Bond and Berkeley Coachworks who were one of the largest manufacturers of caravans in Europe. It was an ideal project for Berkeley, who had developed considerable skills in the use of Glass Reinforced Plastic(GRP), and were looking for something to fill the gaps in the seasonal caravan market. What they wanted to build was "a car good enough to win World 750cc races... but cheap, safe, easily repairable and pretty'. The collaboration lasted only four years between 1956 and 1960 during which time around 4100 cars were made, of which 1600 were T60's
When I was sixteen, in 1970, there were still quite a few around - two of my friends had one. I can clearly remember first seeing this one at a petrol station on my way home from work and asking the owner if he wanted to sell it. He did - and £100 soon changed hands. Now, for an apprentice earning around £6 a week, £100 was a lot of wedge, but I was starting to earn a few quid with my first working band, 'HYDE' so I guess I must have sold something and somehow manage to scrape it up.
Most T60's - mine included, had an Excelsior, 328cc, two-stroke twin engine, a four speed box with reverse and an electric starter. Some had the 500cc triple engine and the four-wheeled B95 version had a 700cc Royal Enfield twin engine. The electric starter was very cool compared to the starting procedure of Villiers-engined Bond 3 wheelers. Their uncool owners had to open the bonnet, swing a leg inside and kick-start the engine. !!!
The bottom picture below shows the sporty dash and standard wood-rim steering wheel. There's also my first real bike - an AJS 250 and my little Brother's 'Chopper' in front.
The offside headlamp cover is missing in the first picture because I'd just collected the car from 'Mech-Spray' in Rochester who had repaired the offside front wing after I pulled out of Maidstone's 'Square Hill' junction, without looking, into the path of a Transit. Duhhh! The first and last time I ever did that!! I was just a few months into my apprenticeship and knew little about glassfibre but that's how it was - we all learned very fast - a year later I'd have done it all myself. I can also recall struggling to get the car through an MoT because of worn king-pin bushes. With limited funds and knowledge, the best I could do at the time was to take-up the wear with some brass shim-stock. A few months later I'd have had the skills to turn-up some new bushes in the Training School's machine shop and replace them properly. The single, trailing shoe, handbrake on the rear wheel was also an MoT challenge but my experience with bikes and some help from my Dad soon had it converted to 'Leading Shoe'.
Apart from maintenance and bolting the heavy Chrome Jaguar to the bonnet, I never really did much to it. I had a few short months of fun, but as soon as I passed the Car Driving Test on my 17th Birthday, it was sold to buy a Thames 15cwt van to lug around my band gear.
Roll on over forty years and a friend told me that he had a Berkeley T60 unfinished project for sale. It was all in pieces but he had mounted a Honda CX500 engine in a modified Mini front subframe and conceived a mounting plan for the body, drive shafts, prop shaft and rear wheel. Nostalgia got the better of me and once again, I was the owner of a Berkeley T60. Soon after the purchase, however, work priorities changed and the project was stored for several years. But not before I bought and commissioned the trimming of a pair of very appropriate little bucket seats in sumptuous black connolly leather.
Buried beneath a pile of P4 parts and stored furniture is the body shell.
..... and here's the front subframe and engine - trapped amidst all sorts of stored stuff.
I'd better get digging then.