Electric cars are now a mainstream reality, along with hybrids and plug-in hybrids. It wasn’t that long ago that electric cars were a fringe interest, and those who wanted one had to either build it themselves or find a specialist manufacturer to build them.
This Bradley GTE Electric was built in limited volumes in 1980, uses a VW Beetle chassis and uses 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 specialty fiberglass company that built a range of Meyers Manx style dune buggies.
- The Bradley GT is a kit car first introduced in 1970 and sold until 1981. The car’s development process is said to have cost just $2,000 USD, largely thanks to the fact that it consisted of a fiberglass body on an unmodified VW Floor Beetle .
- Despite the Bradley GT’s humble beginnings, it attracted several celebrity 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 a story of a fast-paced automotive startup that had over $6,000,000 in revenue just 7 years after it was founded in 1970. It was a company that sold car kits to people who sent $1 for a flyer after seeing an advertisement in the back of a magazine.
Funny enough, when Bradley Automotive first ran ads asking people to send them $1 to get their brochure for the Bradley GT kit car, there was actually no car and no brochures.
These two issues 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 plenty of previous 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 started sending them to all the people who had sent them a dollar.
Perhaps surprisingly the Bradley GT sold quite well, in fact by kit car standards it was a best seller. Celebrity owners included Liberace, Barry Goldwater, Gaylord Perry, Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Dunham.
The car’s appeal was largely due to the sleek looks of the 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 somewhat subdued due to the Beetle’s chassis, but it was more than adequate for summer boulevard cruising.
Some owners reworked their cars to make them faster, different engines were installed, including boring Beetle engines, Corvair engines, and there are rumors that some cars were even given old Porsche engines. One owner went so far as to rebuild his car around a gas turbine engine, creating what was possibly the fastest Bradley ever built.
1975 saw the release of a heavily redesigned car called the Bradley GT II, designed by industrial designer and former American Shelby employee John Chun. The GT II featured gullwing doors and greatly improved fit and finish throughout, development costs said to be over $1,000,000 USD.
By 1977 Bradley Automotive had a six-figure net profit of over $6 million, but there were clouds on the horizon. A significant number of employees left to work for would-be rival Fiberfab, quality control issues began to mount, and by the late 1970s the company had filed for bankruptcy.
That may have been the end of the story for Bradley, but the company still had an impressively interesting car – the Bradley GTE Electric.
The Bradley GTE Electric
In 1980, while still operating under Chapter 11 from the previous bankruptcy, Bradley announced a new model – the Bradley GTE Electric.
It was actually called GTElectric at first, changed to GTE Electric, GTE II and then GTE, but for the sake of simplicity this middle name is now the most common.
The name changes weren’t just limited to the car, due to bad press, Bradley Automotive changed its name to Classic Electric Car Corporation, soon followed by another name change to The Electric Vehicle Corporation (EVC).
The GTE Electric was closely based on the GT II, retaining the same VW Beetle body and chassis/drivetrain, but in place of the original German flat-four you’ll find a General Electric Tracer I direct-drive engine and a GM EV -1 engine controller.
Electricity was provided by a bank of 16 x 6 volt batteries connected in series for a total of 96 volts. Inside the car, the driver could choose either “Boost” or “Cruise” mode, Boost giving the full 96 volts and Cruise providing 48 volts – less power but more range.
According to period advertisements (shown below) the batteries could be fully recharged in 7 to 8 hours at a cost (in the early 1980s) of about 40 cents. There’s no mention of the car’s range, though that was probably a deliberate omission.
The car contained an additional battery, the 17th, but it was a more standard 12 volt car battery that was used to service all of the car’s electrical needs, such as headlights, indicators, brake lights, wipers, etc.
Power from the GE engine wasn’t breathtaking, producing just 15.4 kW or 20.7 hp in 96-volt Boost mode, but the GTE Electric’s low weight resulted in a top speed of 75 mph (120.7 km/h ).
In total, it is believed that just 50 examples of the GTE Electric were built in total, no one knows how many have survived, but it cannot be many – the example we show in this article is the only one we have ever seen for sale.
Clearly a project car, all major components appear to be accounted for, including the electric motor and batteries – although of course they should have been replaced by now, as it’s been 42 years since the car was built.
In the coming years it will be interesting to see if unusual low-volume production electric cars like this start to become desirable as electric cars become more mainstream and general interest in their progenitors grows.
If you would like to read more about the car or make an offer, you can visit the listing here. For sale from Gurnee, Illinois with a Buy It Now price of $4,900 USD.
Images courtesy of AP City Inc.
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Silodrome was founded by Ben in 2010, over the years the site has grown into a global leader in the alternative and vintage automotive industry, with millions of readers worldwide and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.