Safety Orange Survivor: 1974 Bricklin SV-1

Malcolm Bricklin is a man with an unstoppable curiosity and verve for cars. Now 81, in his late twenties he founded a company to import a very little-known car to the United States from Fuji Heavy Industries—a thing called the Subaru.  The cars he imported were soon panned by critics as “unsafe” cars.  No quitter, Malcolm soon left Subaru of America and set about to build his own production car that was so safe no one could accuse him of a repeat of the Subaru criticism. The Bricklin SV-1 (“Safety Vehicle”) was the result.  This 1974 SV-1, one of 780 built that year, is now for sale here on eBay with a current bid of $6,600, no reserve, the auction ending Friday at 4:18 p.m.

Bricklins were assembled in New Brunswick, Canada, the government there putting up a great deal of capital in the name of job creation to build these cars.  The bodies were not painted—the acrylic and fiberglass was impregnated with the chosen color so scratches could literally be sanded out without repainting. What colors were available?  Safety White, Safety Red, Safety Suntan, Safety Green, and Safety Orange (like this one).  Malcolm was so concerned with safety, the unusual front bumper giving the car a distinctive “tongue’s out” face actually absorbed crash energy many times over the then-required U.S. standard for front impact. Bricklin’s SV-1s had an integrated roll cage with the fuel tank surrounded by stout frame members. A little light Elvis music rockin’ out for you in the background.

This SV-1 with its front-tilting hood is equipped with an AMC 360 c.i. 220 h.p. V-8, new owners having a choice in 1974 of a four-speed stick or, as selected here, a Chrysler automatic trans.  Bricklin switched from the AMC engine in 1975 to a Ford 351 Windsor with only an automatic available. Only 137 opted for the four-speed manual for the model year 1974 – a real rarity of the small-number production. The brakes are front disc and rear drums.  With most of the parts including engines, transmissions, front end suspension, and rear end assemblies coming from the U.S. to build SV-1s, the parts supply chain was a logistical nightmare for the fledgling company. This unretouched and unrestored survivor Bricklin is currently located in Goodyear, AZ.

After his venture in the Bricklin went into receivership and bankruptcy, Malcolm continued his winding automotive life’s journey by marketing the Fiat X 1/9 and 124 Spider in the early 80s, then imported the Zastava Koral hatchback, better known in the States as the Yugo.  Laugh if you want, Bricklin eventually sold his interest in Yugo for a cool $20 million in 1988 ( worth $44.5m in today’s greenbacks) — not a bad day at all.  Model year 1975 was the best year for Bricklin with sales of 2,062 with a few more made from the remaining parts after the company was insolvent, those deemed 1976 models, for a total of 2,854 made and sold.  In this shot, notice the up-warp developing at the rear hatch corners where it meets the body.

Only about 1,873 Bricklins are known to now remain, with an exhaustive log and registry along with more information about Bricklin and his gull-winged Safety Vehicles preserved here.  Looking closely at a page listing all VINs and the locations, find Mesa, AZ.  There you can see the last four digits of our subject car’s VIN (0572) listed there. The interior of our car at auction is shown here, the odometer reading 55,684.  As added safety precautions, you will not see an ashtray or cigarette lighter. That just kinda kills the phone recharge thing; yet, Malcolm rightly would have stood his ground on eliminating the lighter or charging port over safety concerns about using phones while driving.  Malcolm Bricklin made a safer hot rod to drive, you don’t have to paint it, it’s currently not terribly expensive to obtain one and early reviewers had good things to say about its performance, often mentioning Bricklin in the same breath as a Corvette.  It wasn’t a hit, however, and SV-1’s sales didn’t make it to the tipping point to allow further funding for manufacturing more SV-1s or other models. The facts: Bricklins still look timelessly stylish, they still drive, the Safety Orange (along with every other Bricklin of any color) will never suffer from chipping paint or have a future opportunity for patina. All told, it’s hard to call Malcolm Bricklin’s learned lesson in “safe vehicles” a total failure.

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Comments

  1. Keith

    Kit car sold as main stream in the 70s…….Just saying?

    Like 2
  2. Doug F Member

    Drive one, then comment. I own one the same color as the one for sale. A blast to drive. All parts available and a MUCH better car than the 1976 piece of crap Corvette I bought brand new. Just sayin !

    Like 29
    • Mike Tarutis Staff

      Doug–have you experienced the same warping at the corners of the hood and hatch and does the body truly sand out scratches?

      Just a question I couldn’t answer in researching this car but what do you use to wax/shine the car body? Thanks if you happen to look back and catch this reply.

      What is the reaction when you show up at the gas station, market or car cruise?

      Like 5
    • Keith

      A kit car passed off as a real car, ugly junk.

      Like 2
  3. Doug F Member

    Fit and finish were not strong points on this car. My rear hatch is warped on the right side a little. I have not tried to sand or buff the body. I do believe you could if need be. Regular car wax makes it shine nicely.. Car does attract attention when the doors go up Gets a lot of questions. Carry a spare spark module with you if you get one of these cars. Make sure it’s green grommet. Only problem I ever had.

    Like 7
  4. jwzg

    Looks like it’s eating an 8-track cassette.

    Like 5
  5. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Again, it’s great that a Barn Finds reader actually owns what is a fairly rare car. Anything else you can share with us Doug F? I’ve always kind of liked these, I think they look good and seem to have been fairly well thought-out and executed. That 66% of them still remain and are accounted for is actually impressive.

    Like 6
  6. David Bailey

    I always wanted one wwith the AMC 360. I just was afraid I couldn’t get in…OR…Put! The Gullwing Doors! Do the rplacement door kits work?

  7. PairsNPaint

    I always wondered how one would escape in a crash that left the car on it’s roof? Doesn’t seem so “safe” to me.

  8. Doug F Member

    Ok Keith it is ugly but it’s not a kit car.Just sayin !! I like the 351w of the 75s. Most all have been converted to air lift door cylinders which work well unless the bleeder jet in the down solenoid falls out and the doors slam down. Easy fix. The originals used a hydraulic fluid and would blow seals and hoses. Very messy to the interior. It’s like driving a period Corvette. You really can’t see over the front fender. If you want to buy one look hard underneath at all the metal. No rustbuckets !! I have wondered the same about being rolled over. Climb out door windows or rear hatch if you could. No dynamite charges in the door hinges like the newer gull wing Benzs to blow the doors off

    Like 2
    • Ken Rebstock

      Don’t agree with Keith! They are STILL head turning cars!

  9. Paul N

    Is it just me, or do the body lines resemble a DeLorean? Maybe the doors are what’s causing that; but I think DMC looked at one of these and just tweaked a few things

    Like 2
  10. JoeNYWF64

    Sometimes confused with a DeLorean.
    Front bumper drooping – may need bolts tightened, like on ’74 firebird. Or 1 or more may have even fallen out!
    I believe those are 12! mph bumpers.
    Always thought this was too narrow a car.
    Not original steering wheel.
    The ’75 & few ’76s “got by”(how!!??) w/o a cat converter because the floors were not switched to metal to handle the insane heat – the Vette’s floors were changed to metal in ’75, i believe.
    GM mirrors. Is that an HEI conversion?
    Missing MECHANICAL! digital clock radio.
    Less troublesome solid rear axle.
    Not sure if Bricklins have “birdcage” rust issues like corvette.
    http://www.bricklinautosport.com/

  11. James Schwartz

    Doug F,

    Thank you for an actual owner’s perspective. Instead of the uninformed (and frankly “useless”) comments of people like Keith.
    As a HUGE fan of AMC products, which were built in my home state of WI, I’ve always wanted a 1974 model Bricklin. A 4 speed (only available in 74) would be the ideal one to find (there was a ’74 White 4 speed on eBay a while back, but white is BY FAR the least desirable color imo), but they are crazy rare.
    If I end up bidding and buying this one, I’d really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you Doug about your car and to “pick your brain” about all things SV1.

    Jim

    Like 3
    • Doug F Member

      Would be happy to speak with any Bricklin enthusiast.James S. And that was pretty funny Gerard. F. Thanks

      Like 1
  12. Gerard Frederick

    This ¨just saying¨ around here appears to be a sickness, sort of like the ¨you know¨ inserted in every sentence by some dim wits. Just sayin´.

    Like 5
  13. JimB

    Stay away from this. I believe it is a scam. ebay is not an escrow company and if it were, why would anyone sell a car through an escrow company. This is an old ebay and craigslist scam so buyer beware!

    • JoeNYWF64

      If 1 is a fan of these cars & is in the Rochester area, ck out this inventory in person …
      http://www.bricklinautosport.com/autosport-inventory.html
      But with mileages that low, imagine the prices!!

    • Dave Mazz

      JimB;

      I found this site (see below), Escrow.com, that claims it works with eBay to provide security for both buyer and seller by offering an escrow service for big-ticket items like watches (and cars maybe??) Do you think it’s part of the scam you warn
      about? Darn clever of the scammers if it is!!! The eBay posting says the Bricklin was sold…I hope this is what happened.

      “Get the security of Escrow.com for watches sold on eBay
      eBay has partnered with Escrow.com to help facilitate all payments on watches sold for $10,000 or more on eBay. This enhanced offering is designed to drive both Buyer and Seller confidence while providing eBay users with even more security for these high-value transactions.”

  14. Dennis Brooks

    I worked for a few months at the Saint John Bricklin plant..it was a unique experience with most workers being very conscious of doing the best work with great pride.
    My primary job was filing and fitting the front fenders especially at the A post..briefly I installed the decals and only one day was I recruited to install the interior carpets..back then no ventilation was provided nor masks..lol..after 8 hrs I was high as hell..
    Fond memories of the overall experience with Bricklin..

  15. AMCFAN

    I have owned two. Agree. Drive one and spend time with it BEFORE you post. For what its worth. These cars were designed to have American Motors power. The 1974 IS the one to have. I have owned a 1974 AND 1975. Drive both and you will agree.

    The 351 cars are really an after thought when AMC stopped selling engines. Bricklin scrambled while still on the assembly line to adapt the 351 and FMX into the chassis and looking closely the driveline is jutted so far forward that you can use common hand tools to access the bell housing bolts. The weight bias is way off.

    Do your research. Nice cars are out there. Never go by low miles. Tons of those out there. They were parked years ago with major Bricklin only issues. Look for one owned and maintained by an enthusiast or club member. They often come up. Buying an enthusiasts car will often have many upgraded and updated. The mechanicals like air assist doors etc. are great additions. If something fails on the stock doors you cannot just shimmy out of. This is not a car to buy on a whim or online off a dealer. Join the Bricklin club.

    Like 2
    • JoeNYWF64

      Sounds like a 390 or 401 AMC is a good transplant into a ’75 or ’76, especially if the 351 ford is shot.

  16. Doug F Member

    Great advice from the AMCFAN !!

  17. AMCFAN

    Case in point. I reviewed the ad curious of the selling price. ($7700.) When a seller copies and pastes from a Wiki article to describe a vehicle look out.

    The seller advertises the engine size as a 352. Further saying its a Ford. It is in fact a 360 AMC under the hood. It is obvious the seller has NOT a clue on what this car really is combined with the fact most likely has NO previous history.

    This is NOT to car to buy on a whim if you have never owned one. It might be OK. Then again maybe not. $7700 seems fair. Then you have transportation. Likely $2000 + to the East coast then maybe $2500 and up on Bricklin upgrades if this car has none.

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