Vintage R&T Review: The Bricklin – Great New Car or Con Job?

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The Bricklin was the hot automotive story of 1975. How often does a completely new American car come along? Especially one that pushed all the hot buttons of the times: safety, performance, gull wings, fiberglass body, and very seventies styling. It could be compared to the Tesla Roadster, including the birthing pains both cars had. Well, and of course the DeLorean. But even before the Bricklin could be properly evaluated, it had one very serious deficit: its creator was Malcom Bricklin, a serial huckster who got his start importing Subaru 360s and later the Yugo. In between, really let his rapacious ego loose with the dream that so many have had over the decades: a car with your name on it. The results were predictable. As it was with the DeLorean. And many predicted with the Tesla.

But in 1975, there was a lot of buzz about the Bricklin, and Road and Track tried hard to be as objective about it as possible. 

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There was a lot of skepticism in the buildup to the Bricklin’s actual production, for obvious reasons. The biggest obstacle wa sof course the final development and production facilities. In a preview of what DeLorean would do in Ireland, Bricklin found his sucker in New Brunswick, which provided $4.5 in financing, much of which ended up going to its development.

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Bricklin PR shot

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Not surprisingly, both the intrinsic design as well as the execution of the Bricklin left much to be desired. For a so-called safety car, visibility was terrible. It was heavy, and many of the details had not yet been fleshed out. Even the gull wing doors didn’t work properly. There was no spare tire, as the design just didn’t accommodate one. It was in reality more of a pre-assembled kit car than a genuine production car.

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Bricklin PR shot

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Early versions used an AMC 360 V8 with 220 hp. R&T recommended buyers not get the Chrysler-sourced four speed manual, as its 90lb clutch effort was suitable “only for a masochist or circus strongman”. And the shifter effort was’t much better. And the Bricklin’s crude leaf-spring rear suspension has all the usual shortcomings like severe axle windup and wheel hop. Compared to the Corvette, its obvious competitor, the Bricklin came off like a truck with a fiberglass kit body. And not a fast one at that; its 0-60 time was a modest ten seconds.

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And it took almost 18 seconds to trundle down the quarter mile.

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“Mr. Bricklin is first and foremost a salesman…”  ‘Nuff said.

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I thought the Bricklin was hideous at the time. It even made the aging Corvette look great in comparison.

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There’s a sucker born every minute, and guys like Bricklin were there to cash in in them.