• Canadian-built equivalent DeLorean DMC-12The Bricklin SV-1 has many parallels to this legendary machine, both in terms of audacity and eventual financial failure.
• The name SV-1 stands for Safety Vehicle, and this classic features a number of safety innovations that were quite advanced for the time.
• Just under 3,000 SV-1s were built over three years, but less than 150 of them came with a four-speed manual transmission, as this example currently does up for auction on the Bring a Trailer website.
Icarus is said to have flown so close to the sun out of pride that his waxen wings melted and he fell to his doom. The same fate seems to befall sports cars with gullwings about once every ten years, whether the wings in question are stainless steel (the DeLorean DMC-12) or acrylic resin (as here). But a phoenix rises from the financial ashes, ready to take center stage at the next auto show its new owner might attend.
And this is the Bricklin SV-1, a rare and more forgotten sports coupe from the 1970s. The company went out of business nearly 50 years ago, but the cars still have a small but eager fan base. This one is currently up for auction at Bring a Trailer, which as Car and driver— is a part Hearst Cars. With five days to go, the bids are just $3,500.
Malcolm Bricklin was a serial car entrepreneur with a throw-from-the-hip attitude and throw-from-the-hip accuracy to match. He brought Subaru to America in 1968, and now you can’t visit a hiking trail without tripping over Crosstrack. But he also founded South, and when was the last time you saw one of them? Did he want to?
Between these two efforts, Bricklin launched the SV-1 with financial assistance from the Canadian government. The plant was built in New Brunswick, a region then in economic depression due to the collapse of the local fishing industry, designed by ArtCenter College graduate Herb Grass, who was involved in the original Dodge Challenger.
The idea behind the SV-1 was to wholeheartedly embrace the new US safety regulations by creating a vehicle fit for today’s roads. And not just any car, but a grand tourer with a V-8 engine, able to keep up with the Chevrolet Corvette. Bricklin’s creation would have been striking in appearance, with gull-wing doors and a sharply angled nose. It will be made of futuristic construction materials and will have built-in bumpers and a crash structure to protect passengers.
Launched in 1974 with a 360-cubic-inch (5.9 liter) V-8 and either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission, supplied by AMC, the SV-1 was a worthy performer. There were problems with overheating, but they were soon solved by upgrading the radiator. A more serious problem was the new factory and inexperienced workforce, cost overruns and problematic quality control. Six years later, almost the same problems would kill the DeLorean DMC-12. They did in Brooklyn at three.
Bricklins can have all kinds of problems, and this example has a few. The radio doesn’t work, the air conditioner doesn’t blow, and the windows stick. That last one is the problem with the heavy gullwing doors, which weigh about 100 pounds each.
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However, this SV-1 has a four-speed manual transmission mated to a 220-hp 5.9-liter AMC V-8. This makes it 10x rarer than your average Bricklin and also much more fun to drive. The provenance is also enhanced by the signatures of Malcolm Bricklin and the late Herb Grass.
With its custom USA-built drivetrain, the Bricklin is a bit stiffer than the DeLorean and easier to keep on the road in terms of mechanical issues. This example also features an upgraded Edelbrock intake manifold and stainless steel exhaust system.
The SV-1 rides much better than you’d expect, and with the upgraded exhaust, this version probably honks like an angry Canada goose: they look cute, but Canadians call these birds cobra chickens for a reason. A sense of humor is required to own, as there’s a good chance you’ll be opening one of those seagull-winged doors with a broom handle at some point. But just think of the stares you get when you pull into your local car meet on a Sunday morning.
There’s a lot to be said for a car that was once a failure but now seems quirky and cool. Best of all, unlike owning a DeLorean DMC-12, you don’t have to put up with people messing around with flux capacitors and going up to 88 mph. Just finish your coffee, open the door, and fly down the road, 93 million miles from the sun, with a V-8 underfoot, and nothing in the world.
The auction will end on Monday, August 22.