Just take a moment and look at that group of four people up there: famously flamboyant pianist Liberace, failed GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, noted actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr, and baseball hall-of-famer Gaylord Perry. Really, if you had to pick a more random, mismatched group of famous people, I’m not sure you could. And yet, if you were to get all of these people in a room together (and resurrected, for Barry and Liberace), they’d have at least one thing to talk about. Well, one car to talk about. Care to guess what it is?
Give up? Think about it—what’s the one quality all of these people have in common? Think about Liberace’s ostentation and how it meshes with Goldwater’s anti-Communism and how that relates to Begley’s environmentalism and then consider how all of those things have an affinity with Perry’s controversial use of the spitball?
Now you get it, don’t you? Of course you do.
The car, of course, is the Bradley GT.
Yes, somehow, all of these absurdly different people were all, at one time, the owners of a Volkswagen-based kit car with gullwing doors and a low, swoopy fiberglass body.
From available documentation, it looks like Liberace had an original Bradley GT, finished in gold, with a gold velvet interior, and a candelabra mounted on the body, I guess in lieu of foglamps.
Barry Goldwater bought his ready-built, which is a shame because the idea of picturing Barry Goldwater with greasy hands lowering a fiberglass body onto a Beetle floorpan is too incredible an image to ignore.
Gaylord Perry had a slightly more advanced Bradley GT II, and perhaps proves that Perry’s expertise was limited to baseball, as he says the Bradley “reflects the perfection I’ve always wanted in a sports car.”
I mean, I have a soft spot for Bradleys, but, damn, Gaylord, you have a funny idea of “perfection.”
Ed Begley Jr also had a GT II, but, true to his reputation, his was an electric version. The car kept the standard 1970 VW transaxle, but mated that to a 96 volt DC motor, powered by 16 lead-acid batteries.
The car was said to be capable of 70 mph, and while I can’t find any reports of the range available per charge, the thing did cover over 8000 miles, so it must have been at least somewhat usable.
I’m not sure I can think of a weirder automotive event than a Bradley GT meetup with these four owners. Seeing Liberace and Barry Goldwater swap tips about how to keep from oversteering a Bradley GT on a wet road might be one of the most sublime automotive conversations that should have, but, alas, never happened.
Maybe I should write a one-act play about these four meeting up in their Bradley GTs. That seems like a good idea.