Monday, April 23, 2012

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1981 Bradley GT II Electric

After some three years, we finally see our first electric car. They're hardly a new invention - some of the earliest cars were powered by electricity. The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are only the newest arrivals on the market, and perhaps the first to take the electric car mainstream. Thirty years ago, the electric car was typically something you built from a donor vehicle in your back yard with a bunch of batteries stuffed in places they didn't belong.

This is a Bradley GT II Electric, the final evolution of the Bradley GT kit car. The Bradley was a curious concoction, a fiberglass sports car body on the chassis of a VW Beetle. Like many kit cars of the 1970s, the Bradley GT could be assembled at home, but the company also offered factory-built cars which had a higher level of quality than the average Joe wrenching in his back yard. The GT II had a revised body shape that made it look less cartoonish, but maintained the DeLorean-style gullwing doors and pop-up headlamps. Late GT IIs (1980-81) were factory-built with electric power. I don't know how many were ultimately constructed, but I've only seen three of them in recent memory and two of those live at the same house.
Today, talk of so-called "range anxiety" is used to sway people between buying the Volt or the Leaf, because pure electrics typically have less range than cars with a gas engine. Considering the price of a new electric car, though, even with all the government tax incentives and such, it's hard to argue the economic benefits of paying a premium for a new car with minimal luggage space and the inability to drive very far between charges. The owner of these two Bradleys probably picked them both up for much less than the cost of one Nissan Leaf, and uses them both as commute vehicles. Take one to work one day and charge the other to use the next. If you have the space, why not?

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