This month marks the 60th anniversary of the Berkeley Bandit, the last car designed and engineered by British brand Berkeley and built at Berkeley Coachworks, near Biggleswade, in 1960.
Sixty years since the Old Warden aerodrome doors closed, they’re open again thanks to former aviation and automotive industrial designer Martin Rees and motorsport engineer Simon Scleater.
Proud to reveal the rebirth of the British brand out of its original location, today marks the launch of the modern Berkeley Bandit, a lightweight, high performance sportscar available in April 2021.
Berkeley originated at the Old Warden airfield in the 1940s, manufacturing vehicles using recycled aircraft components, and, given the new founders’ combined experience in the aerospace and automotive world, Berkeley Sportscars will continue to re-establish links between both.
Known for its clever design and innovative engineering, the original Berkeley cars were a great success, both as enjoyable road cars but also for competitive road racing.
The pioneering Berkeley SA322 was the first composite production car, which, launched at the London Motorshow, was driven by Sir Stirling Moss at Goodwood in September 1956.
The Berkeley Bandit was the last car to be produced by Berkeley and only two cars were ever launched to market; Martin Rees and Simon Scleater are the modern-day Lawrie Bond and Charles Panter, the original collaborators behind Berkeley, and are keen to continue the spirit of the brand but add a modern twist underpinned by sustainable technology.
Martin, who, just as Lawrie Bond, first found his love for engineering excellence in aviation, partnered with Simon, who built his career at cutting-edge race team RML and Lotus Motorsport, to bring Berkeley Cars and Berkeley Coachworks back to life.
Strategically located in the very same Old Warden aerodrome facility where the Berkeley story first began, the new Berkeley Coachworks team will use innovative technology to shape the face of the current e-mobility market.
Having come up with a design for a composite chassis using plant based materials, flax to replace carbon fibre and sticky tree resins to replace the chemical resins, Berkeley’s “bio-chassis” design allows it to be used for a range of different powertrain options around its mid-engine layout whether for liquid fuelled engines, hydrogen fuel cell, or battery electric drive in either two or four wheel drive.
This chassis will form the basis of the Berkeley car range and is centric to Berkeley Coachwork’s boutique customer approach, offering clients the option to design their own unique features to suit their desired powertrain and style options.
Focussing on the future of the automotive industry and its responsibility in shaping our society’s car culture and impact on the planet, Berkeley was re-born in celebration of British Engineering excellence, combining new and innovative technology without having to forgo iconic, quintessential British classic car styling.
Alongside a limited number of modern IC options, the new Berkeley Bandit will also be available as a fully electric car, the first of its kind: A new electric sports car that is accessible, sleek and iconic in design.
The new Bandit, designed by young Lithuanian designer Vladas Trakselis, epitomises the elegance and sportiness of the original Bandit and will be available both as a Coupe and Roadster.
Martin Rees, CEO of Berkeley Industries and Berkeley Sportscars: “At this time when norms are challenged by both pandemic and climate change, we need to create vehicle solutions that are in tune with the concerns of the public and address these with quality design and engineering solutions.
“I believe that forging links between aviation and automotive thinking along with top class engineering talent will bring new solutions beyond the current mainstream.
“The Berkeley Enthusiasts Club have been great guardians of the Berkeley heritage for over 50 years and have made an enormous contribution in keeping the remaining original Berkeley cars in the public’s eye.
“Restoring the Berkeley brand with fresh products drawing from a heritage of ground breaking innovation celebrates the spirit of the brand but takes some serious steps to break the mould of traditional car manufacturing towards a green, high performance future.”
Simon Scleater, MD of Berkeley Coachworks: “The Berkeley brand’s values of innovation and new technology really resonated with us. They built the first production car to use a composite chassis, and their use of two-stroke motorbike powertrains was way ahead of its time, so much so that their use was reinvented some 40 years later when Radical rediscovered their benefits with the launch of a racing car.
Our continuing investment into forward-thinking technology matches the desire and purpose of the original Berkeley Coachworks brand and we aim to deliver a fresh, forward-thinking and purposeful approach to iconic sportscar design and the unique driving experience the Berkeley Bandit delivers.”
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