While Malcolm Bricklin is perhaps most widely recognized in automotive circles for bringing Subaru (and the Yugo) to the U.S., the insatiable entrepreneur has actually started more than 30 companies, including the eponymous car brand Bricklin.
Like many of his ventures, Bricklin’s car brand didn’t last long, but from 1974 to 1975 it managed to churn out a striking sports car with gullwing doors, a lightweight composite body, and V-8 power.
The car is the Bricklin SV-1, and comedian Jeff Dunham happens to own one. It’s featured in the latest episode of Jay Leno’s web series, “Jay Leno’s Garage.”
Dunham’s example is a 1975 model, which means it features a Ford V-8 instead of the original AMC V-8 used the previous model year. The Ford V-8, the popular Windsor, generates approximately 175 hp in this application and is paired with a 3-speed automatic. Drive is to the rear wheels only.
Unusually for a sports car, the SV-1 was marketed for its safety, in addition to its performance. The SV in the name actually stands for “safety vehicle,” and the car has features like an integrated roll cage. Some of the body panels, including the front and rear fascias, were also designed to absorb the energy of low-speed impacts, helping to prevent dents.
As told in the video, many of the car’s available colors also have the word safety in their names, such as Safety Red, as featured on Dunham’s car. In an effort to save costs, the cars weren’t actually painted. Instead, the color was impregnated in the acrylic resin used for the body. However, quality issues quickly emerged, like the resin blistering at high temperatures.
Various other quality issues, together with a rising price meant the SV-1 was never a top seller. Production, which took place at a purpose-built plant in Saint John, in Canada’s New Brunswick, is thought to have totaled less than 3,000 units.