You may be forgiven for not having heard of Bradley Automotive, the company set up by David Bradley Fuller and Gary Courneya, based out of Plymouth Minnesota in the USA. The company concept was to design and build kit cars for the tried and trusted (and very abundant at the time) Volkswagen Beetle chassis.
The company was also an early runner in the electric vehicle market, as Bradley Automotive evolved into the Electric Vehicle Corporation before folding in 1981.
While it could never be said that the Beetle was especially glamorous (and nor was it designed to be), Bradley set out to build something that could turn heads in a very different way. The company gained much appreciated public attention when the king of seventies bling, Liberace, acquired a 1972 Bradley GT with a gold metal flake finish.
The original Bradley GT was a gull-wing 2-seater design that sold over 6,000 units from the late sixties until 1977, with the customer able to choose from a variety of build options.
In 1977, Bradley Automotive upgraded the GT to the GT II, although time has proven that the original GT – although suffering from lesser production values – had the better longevity. This was because, with the limits of a small company and finances, parts were mostly sourced from available large established manufacturers, while later, a modicum of success led to Bradley to create bespoke parts for the GT II. Food for thought for small motor manufacturers dreaming of longevity beyond their own limited existence as a company perhaps.
The look of the GT was pure sportscar, with a rear that borrowed from the classic look of a Corvette (partly to squeeze that engine in of course) and a front that echoed the look of many a modern small sports car; there is quite a similarity (if you squint) to the modern side profile of a Lotus Elise crossed with a beach buggy – and of course, the original beach buggy was also traditionally built onto a Beetle chassis.
The GT had a fibreglass body with optional pop up headlights and of course, those gull-wing doors. Users had a choice of either buying the car in kit form to build themselves, or as a complete car ready-assembled onto a Beetle chassis. A well-built GT with its low weight and an uprated engine could reach speeds of 140mph.
If you hunt around, you can still find GTs available for sale and unlike the Beetle, the bodywork doesn’t suffer from rot – and if you find an original GT ‘mark I’, then parts will be readily available.
It seems that the company’s lifespan may have been foreshortened after renaming to the Electric Vehicle Company and offering the GT II in electric form as well as standard. While the GT II may have been an improvement over the GT on paper, parts, as I’ve said, are now sadly hard to find and the company was plagued with quality problems with the GT II kit itself, as well as financial issues. The company finally closed its doors in 1981.
Images: bright-cars.com, revivaler.com, 95octane.com, thepetrolstop.com
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