The “Berkeley” From “Berkeley” Is Not A UK “Berkeley” – It’s VW Based And USA All The Way!

Hi Gang…

I’ve had too much coffee this morning – but the title is right on target.

Most people think of a fiberglass sports car called a “Berkeley” as a stylish car from over the Pond in the UK.  Well this one is from the USA – not the UK – and thanks to the efforts of good fiberglass friend Jim Fox from California – a Berkeley owner that has one of the UK versions – we have our story today.

I first met Jim Fox via our Forgotten Fiberglass website back in early 2010 and we corresponded about his interest in fiberglass sports cars and especially Berkeley’s (UK).  He promised that he would bring his car to “Fiberglass Day” at the Petersen Automotive Museum in June 2010.   It was there that I had a chance to meet Jim in person and see his beautifully restored car.

But Jim wanted to show me something special about Berkeleys – how “upwardly mobile” these cars were.  That’s usually a term I’ve heard applied to hard-working, industrious young men and women in industry – not to cars.  So I was curious to see what he meant.  See the two pictures below.

Now I know what Jim meant!  And I certainly won’t forget 🙂

Recently, Jim sent in copies of a brochure of a car I’ve heard about, but where research so far revealed scant information.  It was called the Berkeley and was built in ’57.  The brochure was sized at 8 and ½ x 11 inches and folded in half.  Let’s check out what the brochure has to say.  And remember to use your mouse and click on any image here at Forgotten Fiberglass to make it appear larger on your computer screen.

Front Cover:

The O.C.M. “Berkeley” Volkswagen

  • Built-It-Yourself Kits

As Low As $495

  • A True Sports Car With Four Seats
  • Take The Family Along
  • Custom Upholstery
  • Custom Colors
  • Custom Accessories

The O.C. Manufacturing Company
2567 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California

Inside (opened at full 8 and ½ by 11 inches):

The O.C.M. “Berkely” Volkswagen Is Built With Fiberglass Laminated Resin – The Wonder Material.

  • Do you know that you can jump with both feet on a “Berkeley” body panel without damage?
  • You can lift the car by the edge of the fender!
  • A trifling amount of labor and material will repair damage resulting from a severe crash!
  • Normal traffic and parking mishaps will only scratch the paint – no more dents and dings!
  • Fiberglass laminated resin, as manufactured by the O.C.M. Company is many times stronger, many times lighter than steel!

It Cannot Rust!  It Cannot Deteriorate!

  • Why, then, do most cars still have steel bodies?  For one reason only – fiberglass laminated resin is not easily mass-produced.  It is best fabricated by hand, which produces superlative results.

There is no equal in strength and durability to the carefully molded, hand-made O.C.M. “Berkeley” fiberglass body.

Rear Cover:

A Car To Suit Your Tastes!

  • Weight Saving!
  • Complete Cars Weights Only 1300 Pounds!

Volkswagen Owners!

  • Convert your car with the O.C.M. “Berkeley” body in one weekend
  • Body picks up existing chassis mounts

Encyclopedia of American Cars: 1946 to 1959
James H. Moloney and George H. Dammann

One of my favorite books on little known cars was written by James Moloney and George Damman and published by Crestline Publishing in ’80.  The title of the book was “Encyclopedia of American Cars: 1946 to 1959

At the very back of this book is a section dedicated to cars that were little-known or short-lived – and what a wonderful section it is.  This section was written by George Damman, and he worked with folks across the industry to compile this list of cars and their known history.

One of the cars he reviewed was the Berkeley Sports Car from California.  Let’s look at what George had to say about this car:

I'm Fortunate That George Dammann Lives Nearby In Sarasota, Florida. George And I Recently Got Together At The Sarasota Car Museum To Discuss His Book And The History Of His Publishing Company Back Then - Crestline Publishing. George Dammann And Perry Zavitz Were The First Authors To Review, In Detail, The Cacophony of Car Manufacturers That Were Short-Lived In The Postwar Era.

Having no relationship at all with the British Berkeley sports car, the American vehicle bearing the name Berkeley came out of the shops of the O.C. Manufacturing Company of Berkeley, California in 1957.  Another drop-on fiberglass body, the Berkeley was a rather attractive little roadster designed exclusively for the Volkswagen chassis.

Unlike most drop-ons, the Berkeley was a 4 passenger model known as a boulevard-type sports car, rather than the traditional 2 passenger type.  The company planned to market the body in kit for only $495, but for reasons unknown, dropped the project fairly early in the game.  Apparently only a handful of Berkeleys ever rolled out of Berkeley. 

Summary:

We’re still on the lookout for more information about the Berkeley VW based sports car and the folks who produced it.  Thanks to the eagle eyes of Jim Fox, we have a great leg-up on the history of this car with a copy of the Berkeley brochure.

Great job Jim!!!

No doubt there was an article or two about the car back around ’57.  Perhaps one of you fiber-fanatics out there might be able to track down a copy.  In fact, Tony St. Clair – automotive historian and vintage automobile magazine enthusiast might already know the hidden whereabouts of that article.  Ever seen the Berkeley in print Tony?  The gang at Forgotten Fiberglass would love to know 🙂

And of course the ultimate question is….where is the Berkeley Sports Car now?  It hasn’t been seen since ’57.   So… you fiber guys on the West Coast….start with the Bay Area – go forth and find this fiber fantastic car.  What fun it would be to see the car after so many years.

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Geoff

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Comments

The “Berkeley” From “Berkeley” Is Not A UK “Berkeley” – It’s VW Based And USA All The Way! — 6 Comments

  1. I seem to recall that the early BERKELEY was a 3 wheeler – rather like the BOND

    My parents had a BERKELEY AMBASADOR caravan (trailer) permentley located on a holiday park

    • Although Laurie Bond was the brains behind the Berkeley cars they were thankfully nothing like the Bond cars. The three wheelers actually came after the four wheelers to meet a demand from motorcyclists who could drive them on a motorcycle license, they had the single wheel at the rear with a very pretty front end like the four wheeled version. They were made at the Berkeley caravan factory in Biggleswade.

  2. There were severe problems with the fibreglass bodies on some of the Berkeleys sent to the US and had to be sent back to Britian.

  3. I had a 3 wheel Berkeley in the UK in about ’61, a 2 cylinder 2 stroke Excelcior motorcycle engine and 4 speed box with chain drive to a little dif. I made aluminium channel window frames with perspex sliding windows to replace the flap windows. Always drove WOT and could get about 68 MPH with my girl friend in the left seat, regularly raced BMW Isettas and Hienkels and Messershmit bubble cars (excuse spelling ) around the country roads anytime we encountered one, cornered like it was on rails as long as i kept the power on, even in the snow. Spun out couple times when i had to get off power coming out of a turn due to pedestrians wandering in the road, then had to endure a bollocking from them about being a mad man …My Uncle regularly told me that one day i would lift the bonnet and see a lump of melted aluminium instead of an engine. He NEVER drove his Morris 1000 over 60….usually kept it under 40..
    Parallel parked it nose in and lifted the back end around, that always got a smile from passers by..
    Friend had a 4 wheel job that had a 700cc Royal Enfield motorcycle engine, it would top 100MPH and was VERY scary, the crank broke one day when he was hammering it and then got off the power. Good memories of my mad youth.

  4. Hi, was that Berkley by any chance in Manchester um ? One with a 750 Royal Enfield engine used to bomb around between Manchester and Stockport. !!
    Just seems too much of a coincidence – It sounded awesome as it went past.

    Oh them were to the days !!!!

  5. I have a 1958 328 original running motor and complete car for sale in the US. I have had the car for 8 years and have been working to restore it.I would consider selling.

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