Vail to Vegas in one hot car
August 6, 2017
As a longtime subscriber, Edwards resident Don Welch was thumbing through his latest edition of Sports Car Market magazine earlier this year when he saw an advertisement for an adventure of a lifetime.
An admitted car buff and one of the organizers of the Vail Automotive Classic, the ad that caught his attention was from the magazine itself. Publisher Keith Martin told his readers that he had purchased a 1974 Bradley GT for his son, who is named Bradley. But Martin had a dilemma — the car was in Miami and he wanted to get it to Monterey, California, for Monterey Car Week. His solution was to reach out to his readers and set up a cross-country relay.
"I thought, 'I have the interest and I have the time,' so I contacted him," Welch said.
Ultimately he was selected as one of nine relay drivers and assigned the Vail to Las Vegas segment.
About that Bradley
Bradley vehicles were manufactured from 1971-81 and headquartered in Minnesota. The kit cars feature fiberglass bodies with a two seat, bat-wing door design. Bradleys were designed to use Volkswagon beetle frames and engines.
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The 1974 Bradley GT that Welch signed up to drive is bright red and emblazoned with a "Sports Car Market" sign. That sign also alerts passersby about what they were looking at and where it was going with the phrase "Bradley GT Miami to Monterey 2017" also highlighted. Needless to say, the vehicle attracted notice.
Welch picked up the car in Vail Village during an official transfer and photo session at the Children's Fountain. From the first time he took the wheel, Welch noted that because there aren't a boatload of Bradleys out there, people were curious about the car, especially when he opened the door to climb in or climb out.
Welch's son Patrick also made the trip to Las Vegas, driving his dad's pickup as a support vehicle. Welch figured there was a lot of lonely highway and spotty cell service along his 650-plus mile route and it would behoove him to have a travel buddy.
After he got behind the wheel, Welch found the Bradley GT had some muscle.
"I think the car only weighs about 1,400 pounds, which is really light," he said.
In contrast, the car's VW engine was designed to propel an all-steel body.
"That's what gave it the extra power," Welch said.
He said the car handled fine on the open road "but it still sounded like a VW."
But there was one extra thing the vehicle was notably lacking.
"It didn't have any air conditioning and there was no windows I could roll down," Welch said.
Those bat-wing doors that make the car look cool don't actually allow any cooling comfort.
Welch said the car's interior really started heating up by the time he reached southern Utah. By the time he hit Las Vegas, the temperature was 112 degrees.
"It was bearable, but when we got to Las Vegas, I couldn't wait to get into an air conditioned building," Welch said. "I consumed a lot of water during that drive."
Welch's scheduled rendezvous point in Vegas was a biker bar called Hogs & Heifers Saloon. He enjoyed his time behind the wheel but he was ready to take a more comfortable ride home.
"The Bradley went right on down the road and it handled well, it was just hotter than heck," Welch said. "I probably lost 2 pounds in sweat on that drive. But it was a lot of fun."
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