The 1970–81 Bradley GT is a gullwing on the cheap
Gullwings unite. Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. DeLorean DMC-12. Bricklin SV1. Bradley GT. Bradley GT?
OK, so the Bradley GT isn’t an actual from-the-factory gullwing-door equipped car. Instead, it’s a kit car riding the chassis of a Volkswagen Beetle. But if that doesn’t bug you too much, it’s a great alternative to more expensive gullwings.
“Bradleys are kind of neat, and they actually sold quite a few of them (approximately 6000 from 1970–81), but they’re just one of dozens and dozens of Beetle-based kit cars to come out of the 1960s and ’70s,” says Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton. “Kit cars don’t have a very big audience and people don’t take them all that seriously, but if you want a really wild-looking car for a usually dirt cheap price, stuff like this is a good option.”
One of those good options is currently available on Bring a Trailer, and it has an interesting backstory. So does the company.
Bradley Automotive, based in Plymouth, Minnesota, produced the GT, Scorpion, and GT II kit cars in various stages of completion. Bradley’s creators—fiberglass designer David Bradley Fuller and salesman Gary Courneya—became partners in the late 1960s when they opened Gary’s Bug Shop, a fabrication kit business that catered to the dune buggy market. The Bug Shop sold various models with the Bradley name—the Bradley T Roadster, Bradley Bandit, and Bradley Baron—and eventually, logically, became Bradley Automotive. The GT became Bradley’s first kit car in 1970.
By 1977, the company had netted $6 million in sales, but when Fuller left Bradley to start another business, members of the sales staff also began to depart (not to work for Fuller but for one of Bradley’s competitors). Courneya sought an injunction and claimed a $300,000 loss in October 1978 alone, but the damage had been done. Bradley filed for bankruptcy and operated under Chapter 11 protection until April 1980. After two name changes and a shift to electric cars, the company folded in 1981, drowning in an estimated debt of $2,500,000.
Bradley kit bodies were all fiberglass, two-seat gullwing cars. The original GT borrowed many components from production automobiles and are still in plentiful supply. There is also helpful information out there for those who are interested.
The Bradley GT currently listed on Bring a Trailer was purchased by Sports Car Market publisher Keith Martin, who took it on a road trip from Florida to California to attend the 2017 Monterey Car Week. Magazine subscribers were given a chance to drive the car along the way, and SCM documented the journey. The car carries maroon paint and has tan-and-black interior, Nerf Bar bumpers, 1600-cc flat-four engine, four-speed manual transaxle, torsion bar suspension, vinyl bucket seats, a Hurst shifter, and a fire extinguisher within reach of the driver.
According to the BaT listing, $6500 was spent on a new clutch and service to the heater, brakes, and suspension. It has Sports Car Market logos on the sides. In addition, “The front valance has a crack, and the exterior shows chips and cracks along with pitting and peeling on the trim pieces. During the road trip across America, the removable vinyl window was added to the rear and vents were installed in the gullwing door windows for improved cabin airflow.” [Newton says that although “this one is apparently sorted out mechanically, it looks pretty rough underneath.”]
Fifteen months ago, an arguably nicer kit car with a Porsche connection, a 1968 APAL Horizon GT, sold for $34,800 on BaT.
But if you’re looking for a gullwing on the cheap, the Bradley GT might be your bird.