Bevan Fleming’s rare Berkeley SE492 sports car which will make an appearance at Leyburn.
Bevan Fleming’s rare Berkeley SE492 sports car which will make an appearance at Leyburn.

Rare model to step out at Leyburn Sprints

IT'S tiny and cute and will appear at the Shannons Show 'n' Shine at the Leyburn Sprints next Sunday - but, no, it isn't The Dart.

Gold Coast car enthusiast Bevan Fleming will debut his most unusual Berkeley sports car at the 18th annual Sprints tomorrow.

Although it won't be competing, the rare red roadster is guaranteed to draw attention amid dozens of glistening cars of all makes and ages vintage at the Show 'n' Shine display. It's even rarer than the tiny Goggomobil Dart that is the symbol of Shannons Insurance advertisements.

Even some veteran Leyburn regulars say they have not heard of Berkeley cars, which were built for just four years in the late 1950s in Bedfordshire, England.

Although the business was short-lived, it built cars that were superior to the usual microcar models of the time.

This Berkeley model SE492 comes with a three-cylinder, two-stroke Excelsior motorcycle engine of 492 cubic centimetres, which produces just 30 horsepower.

But thanks to its extremely light weight - around 300 kg - and efficient streamlining, it's said to be capable of almost 130kmh.

Lightness comes from an advanced-design monocoque fiberglass body, which unusually does not have a separate chassis. It was a concept to which Berkeley beat the highly successful Lotus Elite sports car by a year.

Fleming bought the car from Florida about a year ago and the time since its arrival has been spent preparing for its Leyburn debut and to, eventually, to get it registered for Queensland roads.

"A fellow I knew sent me a list of cars for sale in Florida, including the Berkeley. I liked the look of it and its condition, so I thought I'd give it a go. I'm very pleased with it," Fleming said.

"I'm told it was raced at Le Mans (in France) but I haven't been able to confirm that. I've joined the Berkeley Club in England and they're trying to find out more about the car for me."

Fleming is yet to drive his new pride and joy and may be in for a challenge.

"I'm 6 ft 5 in (almost 2m) and I don't know if I'll fit," he said.

The Berkeley and dozens of other glamorous, exotic or unusual cars will be on display at the Shannons Show 'n' Shine paddock opposite the Sprints starting line on Sunday.

Trophies will be awarded in 15 categories and car owners can enter the competition on the day for the price of the adult event entry ticket, $15.

As well as the Show 'n' Shine, around 200 cars dating representing nine decades will run time-trials against the clock on a 1.1 kilometre track on the town's closed streets. Other off-track highlights will include market stalls and motorsport souvenirs, historical and photographic displays and plenty of country-style food and drink.

Adult spectator tickets to the Sprints will cost $15 on each day or $25 for a weekend pass. Children under 14 will be admitted free.

One adult ticket buyer each day will win a ride in a racing car.

Competition starts at 8am daily.

The Leyburn Sprints is supported through Tourism and Events Queensland's Regional Development Program as part of a growing calendar of events across the state.

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