Enduring honor from overseas

Local car enthusiast Kevin Kalman owns a 1959 Berkeley SE 492. If the marque doesn't ring a bell, don't fret. It failed after six years; just 4,000 cars were built.

Kalman knew the pint-sized roadster was uncommon. But he didn't realize quite how scarce until this spring.

The auto buff is a member of the Berkeley Enthusiasts Club, which held its 50-year jubilee last month in England.

"The club had hoped to gather 50 Berkeleys for the 50-year event but only mustered 25. That's how rare they are getting," he said in an e-mail this week.

What's even rarer is an American winning the club's Bernie Pearson Excelsior Endurance Award, yet Kalman can claim that honor for 2014.

"I am amazed to get anything and believe I'm the only winner from outside the U.K, at least for this year," he said.

Recently notifying Kalman that he had won the award, the club's registrar Nigel Halliday explained it was for "your persistence in restoring and driving your Sports - Congratulations."

Kalman doesn't receive the award itself, "which is returnable and kept for a year only," Halliday said. The honoree, however, gets a "keep forever trophy."

According to the Charleston collector, Halliday handles the "spares" side of the club that sources and supplies new and used parts. Morever, Halliday and "a few other guys are the Bible on Berkeleys."

In an e-mail to The Post and Courier this week, Halliday detailed how an English post war "caravan" (trailer) maker Berkeley Coachwork Ltd. of Bedfordshire, manufactured the car. Berkeley Coachwork itself had grown out of a WWII aircraft repair business.

Noted for fiberglass bodywork skills and "keen to spread their business," the venture soon attracted auto designer and racer Lawrie Bond.

He crafted the Berkeley "Sports," launched in 1956, Halliday said. A 322 cc (cubic centimeter) motorcycle engine powered the car, which featured front wheel drive.

Halliday said seven models would be developed over the next four years, with engine sizes moving up to 692cc. The last model was a three-wheeled version for the United Kingdom market -1,800 were built. Berkeley's 2,200 four-wheeled cars were sold in the U.K. and "exported all over the world but particularly to the USA," he said. The factory went into liquidation in December 1960.

According to Halliday, the four wheeled Berkeleys were raced in the U.K., Italy and the U.S.

Berkeley Enthusiasts Club originated in 1964 in England to "assist owners (but) rapidly acquired USA members which it has to this day." Current worldwide membership is about 200.

Halliday said one of the regular awards at the club's annual rally is the endurance trophy. Pearson, the namesake, made and donated the award when he was club historian. He was also one of the officers instrumental is steering the club "into the current classic car movement."

Halliday said, "This is awarded to an owner of a Berkeley fitted with an Excelsior (brand) engine who has had to endure problems with their car or has done many miles driving it on the road and endured and persevered with it.

"Kevin Kalman had done this as we learnt through his postings," Halliday said, adding that the Charleston car aficionado is "the first American member to have won the award."

Bringing VIPs to car world

A Charleston-based auto technology firm said it's unveiled a system that will "ignite" dealer inventory by showcasing used cars' most relevant features online.

PureCars, which bills itself as the car industry's leading provider of "digital merchandising solutions," said in early June it has launched the Value Intelligence Platform.

According to the Lowcountry company, PureCars' system pulls together huge swaths of information, organizes them and ranks the results to showcase a vehicle's most influential highlights.

The technology is designed "to drive more showroom opportunities by igniting a dealer's inventory with the industry's most relevant content," the company notes.

More specifically, the Value Intelligence Platform "educates customers on exactly how much more value a pre-owned vehicle offers" across trim level, ownership, mileage and reconditioning - such as adding new tires or new brakes.

"The Value Intelligence Platform is now the heart of PureCars, representing where we've been and where we're going," said Jeremy Anspach, chief executive officer. "Growth ultimately results from refining what is great and making it better, smarter and more relevant to the state of the industry," he said.

According to PureCars, the new system "optimizes conversion rates" for dealers in terms of how many consumers view an online post and then move forward to visit the dealership or buy a car.

PureCars said its VIP will offer expert and consumer reviews and factory warranty details and will integrate with sites such as Google and auto information company Edmunds.com to "deliver a higher standard of market research designed to educate consumers and simplify the buying process."

According to PureCars, the CEO's vision drives the company's growth as it operates under the "relentless mission of providing more relevant information to improve the car buying experience."

PureCars said it offers exclusive, award-winning technology "that proves value is more than just price." The company also said it's assembled the industry's most extensive data library.

With corporate headquarters at 251 King St. downtown, PureCars has its development center in Atlanta and offices in Milwaukee and Boston.

For more information, visit the company's website at www.purecars.com.