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Cologne Swap? 1980 Blakely Bernardi

This 1980 Blakely Bernardi is a rarely seen kit car that featured a more polished design that some of the other Volkswagen-based contraptions – at least in this author’s opinion. With an overall meatier, more finished appearance, they could also accept V6 or V8 power, a far cry from an air-cooled VW mill. I have to be honest, though – for reasons to be divulged later, all I can think of is swapping in a Cologne V6 for a cheap TVR alternative. Find the Blakely here on eBay for $6,900 OBO.

This Blaklely, sadly, doesn’t have the V6 or V8 engine option installed, and makes do with a four-cylinder derived from a Ford Pinto (or Mercury Bobcat). The good news is you can easily source the 2.8L Ford V6 or small-block V8. Thanks to the engine dropping in behind the front axle, it actually features ideal weight distribution and decent handling with low curb weight.

Unlike the awful Gazelle / SSK replicas, the Blakely just felt more finished inside. That’s a cockpit you actually wouldn’t mind spending time in, and the materials here still seem to be holding up well years after assembly. The seller notes the top is usable as is but should be replaced, and that the driver’s seat needs some upholstery work. Side windows are included.

The color combo is generally a winner, and it looks sharp here. I can see what the seller means in that the top is OK, but not great. Overall, the only way I’d own one of these is with the larger engine installed or one already sitting on a bench waiting to be swapped in – oh, and bring a manual transmission, too. Remember when Josh had a Bantam with the tasty Kent Crossflow?


  1. Coventrycat

    Fun car, small engine or not. Watch some YouTube videos of those that insist on big motors in small, light cars but with no skills to handle it.

    Like 1
  2. AMXBrian

    I’m a fan of these ever since I read the Gary Paulsen book called The Car. The main character in the book painstakingly assembles the car by himself and then drives it on a roadtrip afterwards.

    Like 0
  3. Del

    Cute and solid.

    Price not bad.

    Good summer car for girl friend.

    Especially if the wife does not find out.

    Like 6
    • Dean

      It’s a slushbox..no loosening the shift knob for the grab-n-go :(

      Like 0
  4. Doug

    Too bad it’s an automatic 3 spd…. would be fun with a manual 5 spd, and the 2.8 would add all the HP any sane person would want IF I didn’t have more than enough to do on my project vehicle, along with routine maintenance on extended family vehicles, I’d be happy to have this at about $4000-$4500. That would make it worthwhile to swap in a 5spd & 2.8, along with the other work that it needs.

    Like 0
  5. hatofpork

    Not a bad looking design but if this were mine I’d fit those vertical slit headlights from a ’29-’30 Cord on it as well as some more period-correct tail lights, in addition to a wood steering wheel and instrument panel (or maybe aluminum). I could live with a tuned 2.3 and a 5-speed. Just my 2 cents.

    Like 0

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