Electric cars are now a mainstream reality alongside hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Not long ago, electric cars were a side issue and anyone who wanted one had to either build it themselves or find a niche manufacturer to make them.
This Bradley GTE Electric was made in limited numbers back in 1980, is based on a VW Beetle chassis and uses a number of lead acid batteries and a large rear mounted electric motor driving the rear wheels.
Fast Facts – The Bradley GT Electric
- Bradley Automotive was founded in 1970 based on the previous company Gary’s Bug Shop, a specialist fiberglass manufacturer that made a line of Meyers Manx-style dune buggy bodies.
- The Bradley GT is a kit car, first introduced in 1970 and sold until 1981. The car’s development process reportedly cost just $2,000, thanks largely to the fact that it’s constructed from a fiberglass body shell from an unmodified VW Beetle floor pan.
- Despite the Bradley GT’s humble beginnings, it attracted a number of famous owners including Liberace, Barry Goldwater, Gaylord Perry, Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Dunham.
- After a period of financial instability, Bradley Automotive changed its name to The Electric Vehicle Corporation (EVC) Bradley GTE Electric. It was closely based on the GT II kit-car but used batteries and an electric motor instead of a VW Beetle engine.
The story of Bradley Automotive is the story of a fast-moving automotive start-up that made over $6,000,000 in sales just 7 years after its founding in 1970. He sent $1 for a brochure after he ran a back magazine ad had seen.
Funny enough, when Bradley Automotive first ran ads asking people to send them $1 to get their Bradley GT Kit Car brochure, there actually wasn’t a car, and there were no brochures.
Both of these problems were quickly resolved, a fiberglass body with gullwing doors was designed and molds were created. The car was to be based on a VW Beetle chassis, which greatly reduced the R&D required as company co-founder David Bradley Fuller had ample experience building Beetle-based dune buggies.
The Bradley GT
The company’s first car was the Bradley GT, and as soon as they finished printing the brochures, they began mailing them to anyone who sent them a dollar.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Bradley GT sold fairly well, in fact it was a bestseller by kit car standards. Prominent owners have included Liberace, Barry Goldwater, Gaylord Perry, Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Dunham.
The car’s appeal was largely due to its sleek looks as a supercar, the fact that it looked expensive to many, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that it was cheap to build. The GT’s performance was a bit lackluster due to the Beetle underpinnings, but it was more than adequate for summer tabloid cruising.
Some owners have redesigned their cars to make them faster, various engines have been installed including rebored Beetle engines, Corvair engines and there are rumors that some cars even got old Porsche engines. One owner even went so far as to rebuild his car around a gas turbine jet engine, creating what is quite possibly the fastest Bradley ever.
In 1975, a largely restyled car was released called the Bradley GT II, designed by industrial designer and former Shelby American collaborator John Chun. The GT II featured gullwing doors and a vastly improved fit and finish. The development costs are said to be over $1,000,000.
By 1977, Bradley Automotive had six-figure net profits in excess of $6 million, but the clouds were on the horizon. A significant number of employees moved to archrival Fiberfab, quality control problems mounted and by the late 1970s the company had declared bankruptcy.
This could have been the end of the story for Bradley, but the company still had a remarkably interesting car ahead of them – the Bradley GTE Electric.
The Bradley GTE Electric
In 1980, while still operating under Chapter 11 of its previous bankruptcy, Bradley announced a new model – the Bradley GTE Electric.
Actually it was first called GTElectric, then it was changed to GTE Electric, GTE II and then GTE, but for the sake of simplicity this middle name is now the most common one.
The name changes weren’t just limited to the car, due to bad press Bradley Automotive changed its name to the Classic Electric Car Corporation, followed shortly thereafter by another name change to The Electric Vehicle Corporation (EVC).
The GTE Electric was closely based on the GT II, retaining the same body and VW Beetle chassis/running gear, but instead of the original German flat-four you’ll find a General Electric Tracer I direct-drive engine and a GM EV – 1 engine controller.
Power was supplied by a bank of 16 x 6 volt batteries connected in series for a total of 96 volts. In the car, the driver could choose either “Boost” mode or “Cruise” mode, Boost gave him the full 96 volts and Cruise delivered 48 volts – less power but more range.
According to advertisements from the time (see below), the batteries could be recharged in 7 to 8 hours at a cost (early 1980s) of around 40 cents. The car’s range is not mentioned, although this was probably an intentional omission.
The car included an extra battery, the 17th, but it was a more standard 12 volt car battery that was used to power all of the car’s electrical needs, things like headlights, turn signals, brake lights, wipers, etc.
Performance from the GE engine wasn’t stunning, producing just 15.4 kW or 20.7 hp in 96-volt boost mode, but the GTE Electric’s light weight resulted in a claimed top speed of 75 mph (120.7 km/h).
Only 50 examples of the GTE Electric are believed to have been made in total, no one knows how many have survived, but it can’t be many – the example we’re showing in this article is the only one we’ve seen too to sell.
It’s clear that this is a project car, all the important parts appear to be covered, including the electric motor and batteries – although of course they’ll now have to be replaced as it’s been 42 years since the car was built.
In the years to come, it will be interesting to see if unusual small-series EVs like this one become desirable as EVs become more mainstream and general interest in their ancestors grows.
If you want to read more about the car or make an offer, you can visit the listing here. It will be sold in Gurnee, Illinois with a buy it now price of $4,900.
Images courtesy of AP City Inc.
Ben has featured his work on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the Pinterest Official Blog, the eBay Motors Official Blog, BuzzFeed and many others.
Silodrome was founded by Ben in 2010 and over the years has grown into a global leader in the alternative and classic automotive sector, with millions of readers around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.