The cars we loved.

1974-1976 Bricklin SV-1

1975 Bricklin SV-1

1975 Bricklin SV-1

During the high excesses of the disco era, American cars had become bloated fuel guzzling and under powered while many sports cars had fallen from previous glory. Not happy with the state of automotive affairs, Malcolm Bricklin the millionaire, already responsible for bringing Subaru to America would set about building a sport car with advance safety features that would cater to the growing green movement in America. Or so he hoped.

After securing a deal with the Canadian province New Brunswick, a factory was set up that produced the exotic looking Bricklin SV-1. SV stood for safety vehicle and 1 was the first model of what had hoped to be a long line of cars. The SV-1 today had the unfortunate reputation of being s a flop. In many ways the story of the Bricklin mirrors that of the Delorean, which would come years later. Like the Delorean, the Bricklin was ahead of its time using lightweight fiberglass and acrylic plastic (much like the Fiero would 10 years later).

1974 Bricklin SV-1

1974 Bricklin SV-1

Designed by Herb Grasse, the man behind the 60’s TV show Batmobile, the SV-1 had a shape that predated the Nissan Z31 (300ZX) design of the 80’s with a similar fastback rear and wedge nose. Of the more distinctive features of the SV-1 were its power gull-wing doors. It was the first car to have such. Bright “safety” colors were the only options, as Malcolm Bricklin was serious about the safety aspects of the SV-1.

Mechanically, the SV-1 was rather conventional with a front engine rear wheel drive set up. Live rear axle, front A-arms, coil springs and initially a 165 hp AMC V8 rounded what sounded like a laundry list of available parts from other people’s bins.  Breaks and suspension parts came mostly from AMC’s Hornet. A more powerful 175 hp Ford Windsor 351 V8 improved performance, but its use was justified as a means to avoid potential accidents as opposed to increasing straight line performance. Most reviewers agreed that the SV-1 had no real safety advantage over other cars, but by Bricklin Vehicle Corporation used artsy advertising to in an attempt to convince buyers otherwise.

As a performance car, it was compared often to the Corvette and was priced accordingly at around $10,000. A May 1975 comparison test in done by Road & Track magazine showed that the SV-1 actually held its own against the Corvette, especially in the corners where the SV-1 exhibited very little understeer.  The car tested and the ones actually available suffered from inconsistencies with option packages due to factory problems. In the first year of production only a 4 speed manual was available, then an automatic until finally only a 4 speed auto was the transmission choice.  Problems with engines running hot led to two hood scoops on later cars (still not solving the problem) as opposed to the one before. Bad press conspired to hurt sales as the Bricklin’s reputation was tarnished further by its small dealer network.

High debt and inability to produce enough cars to make a profit led to the company being dissolved and SV-1 with it officially in 1975.  With it’s scattered dealer network dismantled a automotive liquidator in Columbus, Ohio bought the remaining parts and cars that were on the production line and reassembled and sold them as 1976 models.

Being included on many “worst cars of all time lists” might be a little unfair to the Bricklin. It certainly had its share of problems, but what Big Three Car didn’t during the 70’s? The plight of the Bricklin legacy may well change with time. Its forward thinking marketing niche as a safe sports car and it’s rakish, but practical design could have more favor with future collectors who might be clamoring for the few cars that will still be available. The factory only produced 2,854 cars with only 1,000 or so remaining today.

1974 Bricklin SV-1

1974 Bricklin SV-1


4 comments on “1974-1976 Bricklin SV-1

  1. James
    February 3, 2016

    Your historical data and your car specs are flawed

    • autopolis
      February 3, 2016

      Aside from generalizations, you’re welcomed to provide corrections or reputable sources that state otherwise.

  2. Mr. HH
    February 25, 2018

    1974 had both 3 speed torqueflight automatic transmission and 4 speed manual available. 1975 was and FMX 3 speed automatic only. The Ford 351W was used in 1975 because it was EPA exempt and did not need the catalytic converters which would require more design costs for an already struggling company to heat proof the under body of the car. I have had to document this for AACA judging of my 1975 Bricklin SV1. My company also restores Bricklins that is where the transmission information comes from.

  3. Julxrp
    September 19, 2018

    Would like to see an article on the Delorean.. However I think that the Delorean’s story is quite well publicized…

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2010 by in 70's Cars, Bricklin and tagged , , , , , , .


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