Greg Zyla: 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 also founding Subaru of America distributorship -- not the design of the car.
Bricklin was an American millionaire who ventured to Canada to build his dream car. Dubbed the Bricklin SV-1 (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 for a staggering $4.6-million.
The Bricklin SV1, however, was Grasse’s best remembered work, however, as he was the director of design for Mr. Bricklin. At the time, the gull wing door Bricklin was quite the 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...or almost all the money.
And because of money, or lack thereof, Bricklin was forced into receivership. Specifically, because of funding concerns the Bricklin factory in New Brunswick, Canada, built just 2854 Bricklins. When the final book closed, Bricklin owed the Canadian government $23 million.
Still, although the Bricklin doesn’t garner top dollar at the auctions, the effort is surely worthy of praise and those who toady 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 V-8.
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 safety 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.
Thanks for your question, and if you see a Bricklin, you are viewing a very rare car.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader questions on collector cars at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.