Keith’s Blog: SCM’s Bradley GT Finds a New Home

The next chapter in the life of the Bradley GT has started.

It sold last week on Bring A Trailer for $4,000. There were over 12,000 views of the auction. If we had charged just $1 for each view, think how far ahead we would be.

Our good friends at the Avant-Garde Collection, Matt Crandall and Josh Bryan, created the posting, and I must say the Bradley has never looked so good.

The new owner is Mark Brachmann, from Vancouver, WA. He came over with his parents on Friday to get the car. I could see the sparks of excitement flying from Mark’s eyes as he took possession of what is probably the most-traveled and best- documented Bradley on the planet.

In the end, the saga of the SCM Bradley was about a return to basics. While we get really excited over $50 million Ferraris and $30 million Duesenbergs, in the end most of drive more modestly priced vehicles. The more imperfect the vehicle, the more we come to love it, as it needs us to make it into a functioning machine again.

The Bradley GT was a triumph of enthusiast perseverance over horribly flawed design and execution. It was an example of those days 40 years ago when we would set out in an old car, and simply keep fixing it while we were on the road — because we had no other options. 

Here is Mark’s story of his drive home from Portland to Vancouver, in rush hour, with sunset approaching, and no lights to be found: 

Dear Keith,

It was so amazing to be able to take ownership of the mythical SCM Bradley GT yesterday.  The car made it back to my garage in one piece (as far as I can tell) and is now safely tucked in, awaiting fresh Washington registration.

As much as your regular readers would probably like to read that I’m a long-time SCM subscriber who bid on the car because I had followed the story from the start and wanted to own a piece of SCM history, the truth is actually quite far from that.  While I have previously owned and driven classic cars (only a handful of which could be labeled as sports cars), I had only a passing knowledge of SCM until I had already won the auction.

As a daily BaT email viewer, the Bradley caught my eye as something that looked exotic and incredibly cool on the day that it debuted.  When I brought up the listing that morning, I was surprised that the car was located in Portland, which is local for me.

The story behind it was super interesting, and I figured that, coming from a major collector and having a lot of large parts recently replaced, the bidding would be out of my price range early on in the week.

I’m just under 40, so I don’t remember a time when there were many Bradleys on the road and wasn’t very familiar with their reputation other than knowing what “kit car” means.  As I settled into work that day, thoughts of the auction faded from my mind and I continued to check the daily listings as they showed up over the following days.

On the final day of the auction, the photo once again caught my eye in the email blast showing that it was closing that day.  As I often do with BaT cars that pique my interest, I checked the listing just to see where the bidding was going to land.  When I saw that it was just over $3,500, I thought to myself, “This should be interesting to watch in the final few minutes.  There’s no way that it will sell that cheap.” I tapped on the Watch button and once again settled into work for the day.

When the text came in that the auction would be closing in 30 minutes, I opened up the page and was surprised to see that not much had changed since the morning.  As time counted down and things still hadn’t moved much, I anticipated a frenzy of bids in the last few minutes.

How could something this unique and cool go for so cheap?

It was at the two-minute mark that I decided to throw my hat in the ring.  “As long as it stays under $5,000, I’ll see how far people are willing to go,” I thought.  I then pulled the trigger on my VERY FIRST BaT bid after being a member for just over a year.  I outbid the last guy by only a couple hundred bucks, and I expected to be bested by him or someone else in short order.  Those next two minutes were a mixture of excitement and stunned disbelief as the final seconds counted down and the status changed to SOLD with my username as the lucky (?) winner.

My only reaction then was giddy laughter.  What the hell had I just done?  I won an auction for a kit car that I haven’t seen in person and know almost nothing about.  I had sold off my 1969 VW Beetle just a few years earlier to get something more practical (as well as attempt to remove the gas smell from my garage and clothing) and I had now bought what is essentially another one.

I then had that unique moment of clarity that I imagine many BaT auction winners experience.  This is the one when you’ve realized that you now have to explain to your wife that you have just (almost accidentally) spent thousands of dollars on a very cool, but completely impractical car. In my case, it was one that multitudes of “normal” people would label as “over-the-top bat$h!t ridiculous.”

I took the scolding that I deserved and, after I showed her the photos, she (predictably) swore that she would never be seen in it.  All in all, she’s taking it in stride, knowing that I’ve been looking for a new toy for a while.

At the time of pickup, while cantilevering my 6’2” frame down through the gullwing door and attempting not to mash all three pedals at the same time with my size 14 shoes, the words of the SCM readers that had made the cross-country journey a year before flashed through my head. I was filled with a mixture of elation and fear about the drive home.  I closed the wing to find the top glass sitting directly on top of my head, even when I scrunched down in the seat and cocked my head about 20 degrees to the left.

I imagine that I looked like an inquisitive dog for those first few seconds, attempting to understand the predicament that I had gotten myself into and what all these aftermarket switches might do (I still don’t have a clue what that doorbell button does).

Shifting into what I hoped was reverse, I looked in my rearview and realized that backing an uninsured Bradley GT out of a parking space with a Porsche and a Ferrari showing only as amorphous blobs of color in the rear window of the soft top should be made into an episode of “SCM Fear Factor.”

Once I was out of the parking lot and found my bearings with the pedals, the ride home was uneventful, considering the car I was in.  It was almost rush hour in Portland, so I navigated through some crowded backroads to get on a more-crowded Interstate 5.  There were quite a few looks from other drivers, and a young guy in a tuner BMW gawked while revving his engine as he passed slowly (and illegally) in the carpool lane.

As the sun set and others turned on their lights, I pulled on the light plug that I remembered from my VW days, expecting to see two maroon flaps rise triumphantly out of the nosecone to guide me home.

Not only was there no triumphant rise, but there was no light!  I tried resetting the switch a couple times (that always works!).  Still nada.  As I made my way home over the next 20 minutes while it grew darker, no less than three lovely drivers flashed their brights at me from behind. One Golf driver going so far as to pull in front of me, slow down, and flash his hazards multiple times.

They too eventually gave up as I shrugged behind the Plexiglass and attempted to speed home.

Upon arrival at the house, my clutch foot was cramped and I was almost laying flat in the pan to keep my head away from the roof, but I was exhilarated.  First, because I was alive. Second, because I hadn’t had to use any tools.

As I extricated myself from the car and once more looked upon my flight of fancy/folly from the outside, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride and an obligation to continue the legacy of what is now likely the most well-documented Bradley GT in history.

It’s going to be an interesting ride from here. I will probably double my purchase price in parts as I strive to keep it in good health and looking good enough for the local car shows, but as many others have stated about this particular vehicle — it’s all about the experience.  I have a feeling that only time will tell if this will be the best or worst car that I’ve ever owned (because there is no middle ground with this thing).  Either way, I already know that it’s going to be totally worth it.

 

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.