Car Collector Corner: Bricklin SV1 Safety Car remembered
Q: Greg, whatever happened to all those Bricklins that were built in the early 1970s? I don't see many advertised these days in the antique car magazines. Thanks, Roger M., Massachusetts.
A: Roger, first and foremost, there were less than 3,000 Bricklins ever built during the car's run from 1974 to 1976, with an estimated 1,200 still around. The car was the brain child of Malcolm Bricklin, noted in auto history for being the first American to import and sell a Subaru and also founded of Subaru of America dealerships. Bricklin sold Subaru franchises until he sold his stake in the company.
After the Subaru sale, Bricklin ventured to Canada to build his dream car. Dubbed the Bricklin SV1 (Safety Vehicle 1), the design came from noted designer Herb Grasse, known for his work on the original Dodge Challenger in 1970 and his input with George Barris' "Batmobile," which just sold at Barrett Jackson's Jan. 20, 2013, auction this past weekend for a staggering $4.6 million.
The Bricklin SV1, however, was Grasse's best remembered work as he headed all design work for Mr. Bricklin. At the time, the gull wing door Bricklin was quite an achievement, and Bricklin and Grasse received much praise for the work. From clay model to actual production, Grasse was the front man and Bricklin had the money and backing to make it happen.
However, it was the money, or lack thereof, that forced Bricklin into receivership. Specifically, because of funding concerns and the inability of the factory to produce enough Bricklins to fill the demand, the Bricklin factory in New Brunswick, Canada only built 2,854 Bricklins. When the final book closed, Bricklin owed the Canadian government $23 million. It was a sad end to an impressive car.
Still, although the Bricklin doesn't garner top dollar at the auctions, the effort is surely worthy of praise and those who today own a Bricklin own a true piece of automotive history. Power came from an AMC 360-V8 in 1974, and thereafter a Ford 351 Windsor V8.
Because the car weighed much more than a Corvette, the Bricklin never lived up to its performance claims. It was, however, a safe car with novel security features like an integrated roll cage and five-mph bumpers and side beams. The bonded acrylic came in five colors in 1974 including white, red, green, orange and suntan. The Bricklin was the only production vehicle at the time to have powered gull-wing doors that opened and closed electrically.
Currently, Bricklin (now age 74) is looking to re-join the car manufacturing business with a line of plug in hybrids after several other attempts to build cars, most recently in China. Don't be surprised to see Bricklin and his new company, Visionary Vehicles, again impact the auto industry.
This time, he might succeed.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions on collector cars at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or at firstname.lastname@example.org).