Home » Lost Causes: 1976 Bradley GT vs 1975 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

Lost Causes: 1976 Bradley GT vs 1975 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

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In previous Shitbox Showdowns, we’ve featured some pretty rough cars. I’ve shown you plenty of things that need full restoration, many that didn’t run, but I’ve always tried to stick to cars with at least a modicum of hope left.

Today, not so much. Today’s choices you’d have to be absolutely, utterly, and in all other ways batshit off-the-rails crazy to take on as a project. But if you were able to get either one of them back into respectable condition, you’d be an absolute backyard-mechanic god. So let’s finish up with our sports coupes from yesterday, and then dive in.

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The Camaro takes it. Hell yeah. That’s my choice too. What’s that, Supra fans? Speak up; I can’t hear you over my Mötley Crüe tape.

All right, let’s get into the weeds, literally. Those of you who have complained about there being no good choices in the past, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Today we have two rare but not especially valuable cars, cars that would be cool if they were shiny and running and driving and all that, but are anything but shiny. Or running. Or driving. Grab your best hazmat suit, and let’s dig in.

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1975 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega – $1,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter DOHC inline 4, 4 speed manual, RWD

Location: Glendale, AZ

Odometer reading: 46,922 miles

Runs/drives? Um, no

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This may look like a dilapidated pile of cobweb-covered shit, and it is. But… it’s also number 53 of only 3,508 of its kind. The Cosworth Vega was British lipstick on Chevy’s sharp-looking but fragile pig of a compact car. It’s a vast improvement over the two million other Vegas churned out over the course of the 1970s, a legitimately quick (for 1975) and good-handling little sports coupe.

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At least, when all the parts are assembled in their correct places, it is. This Vega is an absolute disaster, and looks like it has been sitting in this condition for quite a long time. It comes with a spare Cosworth engine, which is sitting where the passenger seat should be. The location of the passenger seat, and the rest of the interior for that matter, is a mystery.

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But since there are two of those revvy little Cosworth engines included, there’s a good chance someone could assemble one good one from what’s here. And because it has been sitting in dry and sunny Arizona, there isn’t much rust to contend with, especially for a Vega. One would be wise to be on the lookout for potentially bitey and venomous creatures while rummaging through this mess, however.

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It’s kind of a shame to see this car sitting in this condition, knowing that it’s not really worth bringing back. But hope springs eternal, and I will be rooting for this little car to find a forever home that isn’t a junkyard. But I’m not holding my breath.

 

1976 Bradley GT – $1,400

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Engine/drivetrain: Flat 4 of unknown displacement, 4 speed manual, RWD

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Location: Snellville, GA

Odometer reading: unknown

Runs/drives? Also no

Rather than being hand-built just off to the side of a normal mass-production line like the Cosworth Vega, this car wasn’t produced in a factory at all. Or at least, it wasn’t assembled in one. Bradley Automotive was one of many companies making VW Beetle-based kit cars in the 1970s. Under the swoopy fiberglass body, this car is a garden-variety Bug, assembled in somebody’s garage.

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The Bradley GT was first introduced in 1970, and was sold in kit form. The body is sized to fit on a stock-wheelbase Beetle floor pan, rather than requiring that the floorpan be shortened like the Meyers Manx and other dune buggies did. This simplified the conversion greatly. The GT has a fiberglass body, like nearly all VW kit cars, and removable clear plastic gullwing doors. When the doors are off, it’s a vaguely dune-buggy-like sports car with a T-bar roof. A tiny shelf of a back seat lets you share the ride with two small friends you don’t like very much.

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This Bradley GT was built in 1975 by the seller’s family, but has apparently been left to rot. Shame, really; that’s a lot of work to let waste away. My hope is that they enjoyed it for many years before it was parked. It now has seized front brakes, and who knows what condition the rest of the mechanicals are in?

Speaking of which, there’s no indication of what powers this car (it would have originally come with a 1600cc VW motor). Air-cooled VW engines are so numerous and come in so many different flavors that it could be almost anything. Chances are it has been hot-rodded to some degree; why build a sporty kit car and leave the 40 horsepower economy car engine in it?

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My favorite design element of the Bradley GT has to be the hidden headlights. They don’t pop up as you might expect; the lights are fixed, and the doors drop down into the nose of the car to expose them. Some GT builders removed these opaque covers and installed fixed clear plastic covers instead, but I like the original setup better, even with the forlorn face this one appears to be making.

Neither one of these cars makes financial sense to restore. But financial sense is not, and never has been, a good reason to fix up an old car. You fix up an old car because you see something in it, some spark of potential, some glimpse of what it once was and could be again. Is there such a spark left in either of these cars? If so, is it the rare factory hot rod, or the home-built exotic?

 

QuizMaker

(image credits: Craigslist sellers – Vega and GT)

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Chris Hoffpauir
Chris Hoffpauir
1 year ago

I agree. It’s totally plausible that you’d be able to construct at least one fully functional engine from two complete specimens. A competent machine shop should be able to get the blocks, heads, and internal parts up to snuff. That is as long as the blocks and heads aren’t cracked, in which case you’d have a couple of pretty cool anchors.

GertVAG
GertVAG
1 year ago

The Bradley with some haggling over the price, beetle parts are plentiful and it would allow me to go full blast with a 1600cc and double Webers, to have as a fun car next to my original bug. But the gullwing doors need to be altered into normal doors and I would probably go the plexiglas route too for the headlamps.

Steveway
Steveway
1 year ago
Reply to  GertVAG

I bought that Bradley and took the “doors” off. The back “glass” was cracked so I removed it too. This is going to be an open air fair weather car for me.

Freddy Bartholomew
Freddy Bartholomew
1 year ago

More than ever, I’m convinced the dollar amount associated with each car represents how much the owner would pay (not enough) you to take the crap off their hands. It must be true for these two. I’m impressed with how disastrous these objects (haven’t been vehicles for many years) are. Would be interested to know whether either of these sell.

Steveway
Steveway
1 year ago

I bought the Bradley.

Chris Hoffpauir
Chris Hoffpauir
1 year ago

You’re basically buying two Cosworth engines and he’s throwing a relatively rust-free Vega body in for free. The fact that the numbers on one of those engines probably match the body makes it a little more interesting if you’re concerned with attempting a Concours-level restoration.

Masterbuilder
Masterbuilder
1 year ago

The Cosworth Twin Cam is a great little engine. We got the detuned one, it is easily buildable to 300+HP.

Gimme the rust free Cosworth all day. I may actually buy it.

Bob Jablonski
Bob Jablonski
1 year ago

Vega will be worth more but harder to fix

Bradley GT is simpler but will never have the cachet of the Cosworth Vega

Bob Jablonski
Bob Jablonski
1 year ago

Worth it just in parts

Justin Short
Justin Short
1 year ago

Bradley, I think I could do the mechanicals in a weekend! Wildly optimistic I’m sure!
Totally batshit off the rails wacko? Yup here I am!

Brooks Fancher
Brooks Fancher
1 year ago

I would go with the Bradley. Even if you could not get the current system up and running, bug engines are cheap and so well understood.

You could also get a performance engine from mofoco, Darryls or GEX. I am sure there are others also.

If push came to shove, you could always find another donor bug and transfer the kit to it.

05LGT
05LGT
1 year ago

Neither of these is a reasonable, easy, cheap or sensible choice. Assuming you care enough to actually make one drivable, the Cosworth is worth driving when you’re done. It’s a shame it’s dead.

05LGT
05LGT
1 year ago
Reply to  05LGT

You might actually make money buying the Vega and shipping it as is to the UK because “COZZIE!!!”

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
1 year ago

That Vega is 100% the best deal of the two.

The Bradley is just a mid-quality body stuck on a bug; nothing very exotic or unusual and not a massive market for them. Plus it looks like all the Bradley bits are pretty well hashed so you have to buy new ones if you restore it and they arent of any real value to sell off if you don’t.

The Vega though… even if both motors are junk and you just end up with a usable fairly solid roller you have a pile of fancy, rare, and desirable parts you can work on selling off. After that the fun swap options with the Vega are limitless…

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 year ago

Both are awful, absolutely awful… I went with the Vega because at least the engine could be a terrible mistake… I mean FUN! yeah fun.. However, I would never buy it: “potentially bitey and venomous creatures” there is no potential there, that thing is 100% full of Black Widow webs thus full of Black Widows, Black Widows are nocturnal, and they are absolutely not in sight, ever, until is almost too late. Think it’s clean? Gonna access that wiring harness? Surprise! Glove box? Surprise! You will need to alternate between a power washer and a flame thrower, maybe a high pressure flame thrower … hard pass on both.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 year ago
Reply to  Black Peter

Don’t forget, it’s in Arizona. Here we have scorpions and rattlesnakes too. And they love all the nifty hiding spaces offered by that junk pile.

unclesam
unclesam
1 year ago

I voted Bradley because of the swoopy fiberglass. Who wouldn’t want to drive that? What I can’t believe no one else has proposed is buying both and then cramming the best bits of the cosworth engines in to the bradley

Ypsituckian
Ypsituckian
1 year ago

For a split-second I thought the Bradley was a “Laser 917”. The Bradley was a snap-together version of a Bricklin. The Laser 917 was the acid-trip version of the Porsche 917 Race car. I would go with the Laser, because you still may be able to make a kit-car out of it, that kinda looks like a VW Beetle, or a Porsche 356.

W124
W124
1 year ago

Cossie Vega for the engines only. Those are darn Cosworths, and maybe the Vega could be built into historic rallycar! At least the interior is readily stripped and the body shouldn’t be too rusty.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 year ago

I voted the Bradley GT, I’ve liked them since I was a kid and as a VW based kit car mechanicals are easy to find and fix and interior trim is whatever you want. As long as the shell is solid it will clean up and worst xase get another donor bug

Drunken Master Paul
Drunken Master Paul
1 year ago

Tough call. That Cosworth name is a huge plus and a huge minus. It’s cool and rare and all, but if you are going to keep it as close to stock/rare at all parts are going to be a bitch and you still won’t get there. The GT is a potential fun little bomb around play toy that isn’t precious and you can do whatever the hell you want with it (lasers! Godzilla scales!), but the potential of the whole thing crumbling to fiberglass dust and suspension rust the first time you pop a surimi fart is pretty high.

If you’re holding my beer hostage (I will find you. And I will drink you) I think I would go with the Vega and let go of the Cosworth side in all but name. Clean up the body, Restofit a crate 350 (they do fit) with custom Cosworth valve covers, get Cosworth seat covers made, and mount those original valve covers on my garage wall. And maybe you could sell off the rest of the original engine parts and pay for the wrenching.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
1 year ago

Vega it is.
But hear me out. You can make one decent engine or fix the best. Sell the rest. Strip and dispose of everything that is inside of the car. Put a cage and period correct racing buckets. Restore the paint just enough to show it is a Cossie. Done.

OR:
Get a Maserati Biturbo engine into the Bradley. Spray paint it pink. Put a siren on the T-bar resembling a nipple. Get the Kardashians to autograph the hood. No, not that hood, the front one. Or both, who cares. Get a Tronald Dump live size dummie on the passenger side with a T-shirt that says “Make the 5th Amendment Great Again”. Put neon lights on the lower parts of the body. Stance the fuck out of it. Park it in front a church. Any church. Set the car on fire. Set your dog on fire. Set yourself on fire. Done.

Chris Hoffpauir
Chris Hoffpauir
1 year ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

You wouldn’t have to set it on fire yourself. Just park it in front of the church and they’ll take care of the rest.

Stacheface
Stacheface
1 year ago

The interior of the Bradley looks soggy and squishy, and probably smells like a damp musty basement, at least the Vega is probably just crusty and dry and would clean up easier, so that’s how I would pick.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 year ago

“The Camaro takes it. Hell yeah. That’s my choice too. What’s that, Supra fans? Speak up; I can’t hear you over my Mötley Crüe tape.”

It’s a ratted out 3rd gen Camaro, Mark. The tape deck doesn’t even work. The reason you can’t hear us is that you are yelling about your rights while the cops shove you into the backseat of a squad car.

Cyko9
Cyko9
1 year ago

The quality of the Bradley concerns me, not that the Vega is a jewel, but sometimes kits aren’t meant to last half a century. As for the 2 engines in the Vega, my luck would be they’re both cracked, so I’m stuck with a rusty Vega to source normal parts for. Maybe I could keep the Cosworth valve covers, unless they’re trash, too.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
1 year ago

Now deceased neighbour of a friend was really into kit cars. Ran a website about them for a while. So I voted Bradley simply to remind myself of his love of the weird kits.

SAABstory
SAABstory
1 year ago

Voted for the Bradley because it seemed the least worst.

Honestly, though, from today’s choices there’s one thing that comes to mind; Tucker has been obviously affected by hanging around David Tracy.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

The Cosworth ( if the thing would let me vote ) because Jay of Lemons said if you bring one there will be no penalty laps no matter what you paid for it. Yes, GM’s execution of it made the Vega crap, but that’s the whole point of Lemons.

Plus, I’m in the Mid-Atlantic: I already know how the Bradley’s inhabitants will try to kill me. The Cosworth’s denizens would provide interesting new ways for me to swell up/die in agony.

Chris Hoffpauir
Chris Hoffpauir
1 year ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Snakes, scorpions, and spiders oh my! The list is probably a bit longer, but those are the top three.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 year ago

Cosworth Vega to me as that might be worth something and would likely be nicer to drive than a Beetle-based kit car. And the extra parts also helped tip things in the Vega’s favour

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