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Thread: 19751976 Bricklin SVI

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    19751976 Bricklin SVI

    Before he helped midwife the Yugo disaster in 1985, auto industry wheeler-dealer and importer Malcolm Bricklin tried his hand at building a car of his own. It’s a tough call which idea was worse—the Bricklin SV1 “safety car” or the mid-1980s Yugo GV.

    Like the later DeLorean—which shared some of its exterior styling cues, including most notably the upward-swinging gull-wing doors—the SV1 coupe was supposed to be ahead of its time, a “car of the future.” And in many respects, it was: Malcolm Bricklin incorporated energy-absorbing urethane bumpers and a tubular steel “safety cage” frame to protect the car’s occupants years before these things became commonplace features on mass-market cars. The body itself was a color-impregnated, dent-resistant plastic material, very much like a modern Saturn. The colors—in the buyer’s choice of Safety Red, Safety Green, Safety White, Safety Orange, or even Safety Subtan—were intended to make the car more visible to other drivers. Light scratches could be buffed out, and when the car’s shine began to fade, all it took was a bit of polishing compound to bring it back. Repainting was never necessary.

    In theory, it all sounded great. Many of the SV1’s innovations—such as the plastic body panels—would be adopted by mainline automakers in the years to follow. But the SV1 was basically a kit car cobbled together using mish-mashed leftovers acquired from Ford and American Motors Corporation. Lack of money and technical and engineering resources were evident in the way the car was put together . It had the look and feel of a teenage hot rod project built in the backyard with a Sears tool kit and an air compressor. And though nominally a “sports car,” the SV1 was heavy and slow. The 175-horsepower Ford V-8 engine used in almost all Bricklins (a few of the early cars had a much better 220-horsepower AMC-built 360 V-8) struggled under the load of nearly two tons of color-impregnated dead weight, the vehicular equivalent of Anna Nicole Smith.

    The SV1, like the DeLorean, was also pricey: almost $10,000 for a car with performance inferior to that of a $5,000 car and which didn’t offer the build quality of a $3,000 car (in mid-1970s dollars). Bricklin’s endeavor collapsed quickly and Malcolm Bricklin himself went on to other things, including a collaboration with Fiat that went about as well as the Titanic’s maiden voyage (sans Leonardo DiCaprio), only to be followed-up in later years by the Yugo debacle.

    If a Nuremberg-style tribunal is ever held for car designers and just plain bad ideas, Bricklin will surely find himself in the docks to answer for his crimes.

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    Last edited by Eric; 08-22-2009 at 07:49 AM.

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